Written by Christin Gustafson
Over the last three years, Nita Aurora has used AWA as a jumping off point for discovering Singapore and making new friends. She has been an expat for over 10 years, moving between India, Hong Kong, Singapore (six months), the US, the UK, Malaysia and Singapore again before arriving on the little red dot. Nita moved to Sydney, Australia from India soon after marrying. There she worked as a manager in a telecommunications company and raised her daughter. If you’ve attended a DISH lunch or local tour with Nita, you’ll know she has a cheeky sense of humor and a zest for keeping healthy and fit.
The first time I looked for Singapore on a map I had to keep going south until I found it. It was not where I thought it was. When you looked for Singapore on the map did you find it right away?
Yes, after living in Sydney, Singapore has always been a stop-over for us before taking other international connections. Sometimes we would just come for a few days during Christmas/New Year’s break to enjoy the festive time in Singapore when the city is illuminated in lights.
What have you enjoyed more about Singapore than you thought you would?
Singapore packs a punch with a blend of elements that come together in unexpected ways. From old-school buildings alongside modern architectural marvels, to street food served up side by side with internationally acclaimed gourmet fare. The city itself is a delicious hybrid of Chinese, Malaysian, Indonesian, Indian and Western influences. The harmony between various ethnic groups, and other expats is very welcoming. Also, I didn’t realize until we stayed here just how safe Singapore is.
What assumption or belief about Singapore did you have that was wrong?
I did not expect Singapore to have as many natural reserves and bushlands. Discovering places like The Central Catchment Reserve, MacRitchie Reservoir, Bukit Timah Reservoir and exploring different sections of the Botanic Gardens was a pleasant surprise.
What has been your funniest or worst expat mishap while living in Singapore?
Funniest: The funniest moments in Singapore have always been with traditional taxi drivers for me. One taxi driver was telling us the story of an American billionaire who would drive an Uber in the night to learn more about what people were thinking. I asked if he too was a billionaire and what research did he want to do with me? As it turned out he did have some side business and loves chatting and getting to know people but wasn’t exactly a billionaire. We had a good laugh at that.
Worst: Walking across pedestrian crossing zones. The driving habits of some Singaporeans are so bad they won’t stop at the pedestrian crossings. My friend recently had a close encounter and was lucky to escape with only a few bruises. My husband and I have also had some close encounters.
Have you tried something new (a class, a sport, etc) in Singapore? How did it turn out?
Yes, I joined Bikram yoga classes here. The first few days in the heated 40 C/104 F studio was unbearable and I almost felt I would pass out. However, watching others and taking their advice to stick with it, I was soon hooked. I’m currently taking a break from yoga and enjoying Pilates reformers classes.
Have you adopted a habit as an expat in Singapore that you hope to take with you to your next home?
I’ll definitely continue to be involved in social expat clubs to be part of a bigger and wider network of lovely ladies from different countries. Being a member of AWA is a blessing- you never feel alone or new to Singapore and the various activities and events keep me busy. I will also continue with yoga and Pilates.
What did you do to meet people and form friendships as an expat?
Being a member of AWA has been a defining moment- I’m lucky to have met so many lovely women from different parts of the world and a few of us have formed a good bond between us which has extended to forming long-term friendships including our husbands/partners.
What life lesson have you learned during your time as an expat in Singapore?
Learning about other cultures through their eyes as opposed to using the “lens of the country” we come from. Keep an open mind, watch, explore, learn and grow. It’s a blessing and a great opportunity to be an expat– learn and experience new cultures and make new friends.
Do you have any saying or mantras that you tell yourself when you are homesick or experiencing cultural frustrations?
“Waste no time worrying about things I cannot change or about the past and the future – live in the moment, and enjoy what you’ve got.”
What aspect of your personality has been a strength you’ve relied on while an expat?
A strength is that I don’t dwell for long being homesick or missing things I cannot have. Rather, I turn my mind to the joy of discovering new places and people, and above all making new friends and being thankful that I have been given such wonderful opportunities.
How do you treat yourself in Singapore?
While I’m here I try my best to enjoy the wide choice of available well-priced spas. We also try to make the most of using Singapore as a base for short weekend trips around Asia.
What item in your Singapore home-away-from-home makes you feel the most settled?
My Nutribullet!!! I make fruit smoothies and protein shakes once or twice every day.
What do you miss from home that you can’t find in Singapore?
I miss the change of seasons and in particular, winters. The change of season comes with a change of wardrobe; wearing scarves, trench coats and long boots. I must admit the only time we experience winters in Singapore is in “overcooled” Singapore cinemas.
I also miss many things about Sydney: the blue ocean and the sounds of waves crashing, enjoying fish and chips on the beach, taking water taxis on Sydney Harbour, and the lush bloom of jacarandas and jasmine trees during spring.
Is your quality of life different in Singapore than it was before you were an expat? What aspect of it would you like to preserve?
I was working before becoming an expat 10 years ago. As a professional, my social life was somewhat restricted due to long working hours. I couldn’t just get up and go anywhere anytime at the drop of a hat. So now I love the freedom of this expat life and most importantly making so many new wonderful friends through AWA as well as through my group fitness classes.
Did you live in a large city before you came to Singapore? What do you think of living in the city? Do you escape into nature here? Where and how?
Yes, our home is on Sydney Harbour; I’m used to living in “the big smoke” close to cafes, shopping and public transport. Probably the one thing that took some getting used to was the amount of continuous construction activity going on in Singapore. We are fortunate to be living close to the Botanic Gardens, and the walk around Robertson Quay. These places allow a break from the construction noise.