Arts & Events, Entertainment, Lifestyle

Lessons On Living Abroad From A Singaporean In Paris – Vanessa Tai

A Singaporean In Paris is about an aspiring singer’s experiences in the famed City of Love. But apart from charming French ditties, this musical also offers surprising insights into what to expect when you move overseas. 

According to a 2012 report from The Straits Times, the number of Singaporeans living overseas has increased exponentially. There are currently 200,000 Singaporeans living abroad, which is a 27 percent jump from the figures in 2003. If you’ve been toying with the idea of moving overseas – be it for work or studies or love – here are a couple of useful tips to live by.

1. Reality vs Expectations

Linden Furnell and Hossan Leong

Linden Furnell and Hossan Leong

In the opening scene of “A Singaporean In Paris”, Hossan Leong’s character KQ shares with the audience his excitement about moving to Paris. He dreams of seeing the sights, sipping coffee by a sidewalk cafe and biting into a buttery croissant. The reality? Paris is bitterly cold in the winter, his luggage gets lost at the airport, and there’s no sidewalk cafe in sight near his apartment (which, by the way, is on the seventh floor of a building that has no elevator).

But that’s just the way it is when you move to a foreign country, isn’t it? Everything is unfamiliar and takes getting used to. And even if things lived up to your expectations initially, reality will eventually start to sink in. There will be bills to be paid, groceries to be bought, and bureaucratic paperwork to contend with. The best way to deal, as KQ would tell you, is to maintain an upbeat and optimistic spirit. Throughout his one year in Paris, he rolled with the punches, and kept a good sense of humour.

2. Understand the culture

The music from French musical giants such as Charles Aznavour and Serge Gainsbourg is interspersed with KQ’s interactions with the locals. For example, in one scene, he shares how the French practice of kissing hello and goodbye is bewildering to him. In another, he talks about how he cooked fish head curry for his French neighbours, only to have them decline all other dinner invitations from him.

When you interact with people from a different culture, there are bound to be certain missteps, or as the French say, faux pas. That is to be expected and you shouldn’t beat yourself up over it if it happens. Most people will understand when it’s a genuine mistake and be quick to forgive. Of course, it helps to read up on a country’s culture through books and Internet forums before moving there.

3. Make lots of friends

After clinching a job at a local cabaret, KQ develops a genuine friendship with the other people who work there. With his affable and good natured personality, he soon finds himself being the resident “shoulder to cry on”. Through revelatory songs like “He Must Have Been Eighteen” and “For Mama”, he starts to get a glimpse into his friends’ fears, hopes, and dreams. Special mention goes to Peter Ong, whose performance of “What Makes A Man” was equal parts moving and heartbreaking.

material world_sgparis

Having lived overseas during my university years, I can attest to the importance of having a group of close-knit friends around you. It can be lonely living alone, especially during the winter months when most people return home for the holidays, so you’ll need a bunch of friends to keep you from wallowing in self-pity. During my time in Australia, I signed up for local netball leagues and volunteered at local film festivals. I was always kept busy and made plenty of new friends that way. If you’ve just moved overseas and are unsure where to start when it comes to meeting new people, I suggest checking out your local Meetup chapter to find interest groups you can join in.

It’s easy to see why A Singaporean In Paris had a sold-out run in 2010. The vibrancy of the music is matched only by the buoyancy of the cast, who did a good job of keeping the energy levels up throughout the one and a half hours. From the sounds of the audience roaring with laughter and clapping along to the music, it was evident that everybody was kept thoroughly entertained from start to finish. I know I was.

A Singaporean In Paris is now playing till 23 March and tickets are available at Sistic.

Note: The author was invited to review A Singaporean In Paris by Sing’Theatre. All opinions are the author’s own. 

About The Author: Vanessa Tai is a founder of Material World who has previously worked on magazines Simply Her and Cosmopolitan Singapore. Now a freelance writer and a full-time contributor to this website, the 26-year-old dreams of attending every single major music festival before she turns 30. Follow her on Twitter @VannTaiTweets

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