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An Interview with Lauren Rose: Expat, Trailing Spouse, Mental Health & Wellness Speaker


Her Expat life had the pleasure of interviewing Lauren Rose, a fellow expat, trailing spouse and mental health & wellness speaker, to find out what expat life has been like for her.


1. Where are you from (yes may be complicated but what's your nationality?) and how did you

begin your expat lifestyle? As a student, entrepreneur, trailing spouse, professional, retiree, etc?

And tell us about that journey.


I am an American— born in New York, raised in Florida, and moved to San Francisco shortly after

graduating from the University of Florida. My expat life began as a trailing spouse in 2018 when my

husband returned from a business trip in Australia and asked if I was interested in moving to Singapore.

My response, “Yes! Where is Singapore?!”


2. Is living the expat lifestyle or international life something you grew up in? When you began

living as an expat did people in your immediate support you ? Scared for you? Against your

move? 


From a young age, I found the idea of living abroad appealing, I just had no idea how I would make it

happen for myself. By the time we moved abroad, I had already been living 3,000 miles away from my

family in San Francisco, so there wasn’t much resistance to relocating to Singapore since it wouldn’t

really change our relationship all that much— we’d still be a plane ride away and using FaceTime to stay in touch. When I told my sister that I was moving to Singapore, she cried because she was genuinely afraid that I was going to get arrested for breaking a law that I didn’t know existed. For the first year, every time I spoke to my family, they asked me to come home. It hurt to hear them say that, but I know it came from a place of love. Eventually they stopped asking.



3. What cities/countries have you lived as an expat? What were the pros, such as finding

community, housing, neighbourhood, social life, schools, work, engaging in hobbies? What were

the cons or challenges: securing a visa, integrating into a new culture, language barriers, finding

housing, making friends, feeling at home, building a support network?


Singapore:

Pros: living expenses are relatively low, many expats to meet.

Cons: difficult to get work on a dependent visa, it’s either sweltering hot or raining all year round, transient with expats moving and leaving often.


Tokyo:

Pros: strong and welcoming expat community, clean, safe, culture, food.

Cons: language and culture, local people were generally not interested in building friendships (the

exception were those who had lived abroad themselves).


London:

Pros: easy to get work on a dependent visa, language and culture are more familiar.

Cons: dirty, less safe, public transportation is less reliable and more expensive.

 

4. Do you think it's much easier to live as an expat woman now than the previous generation of

women from your family?


My friend’s mother lived in Hong Kong in the early 90’s and I frequently reflect on how much easier I have it than she did. I regularly take moments to appreciate the internet, because without it, I would have had to rely on “snail mail” or pay phones to communicate with my friends and family back home. Now I can just pick up my hand-sized computer from the comfort of my couch, tap the screen and see my mother’s face in a matter of seconds… from around the world! It never ceases to amaze me and this was especially true during the pandemic when everyone had to shift online to communicate, to have groceries and household supplies delivered.



5. How were you able to maintain well-being, happiness, and professional goals as an expat

woman? 

As a mental health professional, I am fortunate to be well practiced with a wide variety of strategies in my mental health toolkit. Though it wasn’t easy at first, (and then compounded by the pandemic) I made it a routine of regularly exercising, practicing mindfulness, and creating artwork— I still keep track on a calendar so that if I am feeling low, I can look back and see when was the last time that I practiced these strategies. I also make it a point to keep in touch with my friends and family back home and around the world: scheduling phone calls, zoom dates, sending snail mail and emails, using social media to actually be social rather than mindlessly scrolling. Professionally, as a trailing spouse, I had the flexibility to work part time as a mental health and wellness speaker for companies in APJ and to spend more time pursuing and developing my artwork.


6. How was your life different from the local women and families?


As a woman in her late 20s/early 30s, the demographic of women that I interacted with had children.

These women were the main caretakers and homemakers and sometimes, they also worked full time. In Singapore, some families hire a domestic worker to take care of the children and house chores. This is less common in Japan where the women in the family take care of the home themselves whether they are employed full time or not.

 

7. What goals were you able to accomplish as an expat that you wouldn't be able to accomplish

in your home country?


If I had never left the US, I don’t think I would have ever pursued my artwork and art practice as seriously as I have been able to while living abroad. Part of it is that I have access to a strong network of expat women and creators who were willing to share their knowledge and experience with a newcomer like myself. The other part of it is that I struggled to find full time work when we moved countries about every 18 months. Without a full time job to fill my time, I am able to apply my energy and focus to creating art and developing my small business. I sold my very first piece of art while living in Japan and even had the pleasure of hosting a booth at holiday market where I got to meet more people in the community and share my art with others.

 

8. As an expat woman what type of privileges (or disadvantages) did you come across?


Financially, I am privileged in that I don’t need to work. We can live very comfortably on a single income (with no children) and any money that I earn is kind of a bonus. My spouse never makes me feel this way, but it’s an awkward space to be in since I was raised with the American mentality to be independent and rely solely on myself. When I do interact with expat women who work full time, either as a trailing spouse or as the main earner in their household, I admire their grit and determination because I experienced how difficult it can be to find a job abroad. Particularly in Singapore, I was job hunting for 9 months before I got an offer. The main feedback that I received was “Well, you’re an expat and you’re probably going to leave soon, so we’re going to hire someone who we know will work with us long term.” They weren’t wrong, but it was frustrating nonetheless.


9. Has your health, wellness, and overall happiness increased as an expat woman?


Yes. Although it is very difficult to live far away from family and friends, missing important life events back home, and having to restart from scratch in every country, I wouldn’t change it for anything. Every day is an adventure! Everything is new— from the brands of food and produce at the grocery store, to the architecture, to the fashion and even the washing machines! Living in Singapore and Japan, I experienced a freedom of safety unlike in the US where I could walk around at night by myself without fear of being harmed. Even in London, the stronger gun laws give me peace of mind that I won’t be shot while I go about my day. This gives me freedom to think about and focus my energy on other things rather than constantly scanning my surroundings for a potential threat.



10. What is your favourite country to live as an expat and why?


Japan. Hands down. The food was absolutely next level. It is a part of the culture to take great care and pride in your job, so things just work from the public transportation to ordering delivery to the ubiquitous vending machines. What particularly shone through during the pandemic was how the Japanese people take care of one another. Mask wearing and social distancing was never put into law, but the vast majority of people abided by these guidelines without complaint. And although there was a language barrier, most Japanese people tried their hardest to help— once I was in a train station, looking at my phone for directions and a Japanese man with his child came over to help even though he didn’t speak English. Between my broken Japanese and pointing at the phone, he was able to send me in the right direction! I haven’t experienced that level of kindness anywhere else in the world.


You can follow Lauren Rose on Instagram: @lrose_studios, Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/laurensandlerrose/, Website: https://www.lrosestudios.com/

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