Tell us a little about yourself!
Hi, I’m Michele! I’m a trailing spouse. I’ve spent more than half my life away from my beautiful home, Singapore.
Like many Singaporeans, I moved overseas to study when I was younger and just loved living overseas. I still call Singapore my home, but I spent more than ten years in Taiwan and met my husband there. We’ve lived in 5 different countries as a family – Taiwan, Indonesia, South Korea, the United States and now China. My kids are all Singaporeans and we try to return to Singapore as often as we can.
The Rajic family feeling the Force at Disneyland
What is the most challenging part of raising a family away from home?
The lack of having the physical support of an extended family. Our children have grown up being away from doting grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins. It is hard to maintain the connection when our families are so far apart.
But this has challenged us as parents to always make it a point to be there for our kids! Whether it’s a walk in the park, a recital at school or even a bad fall. No matter how busy our schedules may be, we’ll always drop everything to be there for our kids.
We always do things together as a family to build a strong and healthy family atmosphere for all three children.
How different was your career before and after having children?
Before I had my children, I ran my own PR firm in Taiwan. That ended once I married my husband and joined him on his diplomatic career.
Raising Singaporeans in US embassies all over the world
We are posted to different countries every three to four years. While this has placed some restrictions on what I can do, it has not dampened my spirits nor stopped me from being as productive as I wish. Part of my husband’s job requires us to host parties and activities in every country. Fortunately, I am a social butterfly.
Bringing a whole new meaning to a good work party
I have done and organised multiple volunteer events as well as other jobs within the community, but I think my biggest change has been my activity within the Singaporean Communities overseas. I have become a far more active member and have sought out and joined our Overseas Singaporeans wherever we live.
Of course, running a household is also a job in itself!
How do you ensure your children keep in touch with their Singaporean identity?
At every country we serve in, we register ourselves with the Singapore Embassy. We make it a point to go to every event they organise! We also cook Singaporean dishes at home!
When we are in Singapore, we always enrol them in Camp@Home for Overseas Singaporeans so that they can experience the Singapore we all grew up in. I want my children to be part of the rich tapestry of traditions that our country offers and to be as connected as they can be with their roots.
Raising multicultural children in a diverse household
My eldest son has been blessed to have attended a number of National Day Parades with the Overseas Singaporean Camp@Home and my second child is an SG50 child which we are very proud of.
What’s your secret to raising multilingual and multicultural children?
Our house is a mixture of traditions and cultures and as a family, we have really embraced our diversity. I feel this makes our children much stronger and confident in their identity, which is especially important in our modern globalised world.
Act locally but think globally – this is the ethos that I have instilled in my children. It is not always easy, but I believe my three lovely kids have become well-grounded little individuals.
My husband is Bosnian-American, so he introduces us to his European traditions as well. But he is also well versed in Singlish and the Singaporean culture! He even understands if we’re trying to scold him in Singlish!
When we celebrate Chinese New Year far from home, instead of just wearing red, we try to find traditional Chinese costumes for our kids to wear. And we also have Chinese New Year parties where we introduce our ‘Lo Heis’ to our friends.
Helping the children embrace their Singaporean Chinese roots in small ways
Whenever we’re in Asia, we try to return to Singapore for Chinese New Year when we’re in Asia. I feel that the best place for Chinese New Year holidays is to be back at home in Singapore.
What are some key takeaways you’ve learnt having lived in so many places?
Each country is different, not every country will be like Singapore or the United States. There is always a different pace and culture of doing things. If we remain too rigid in our expectations, then we would continuously hit the wall and be frustrated. The secret is to be like a willow tree. It bends without breaking, moving with the flow.
After accepting this fact, any move is manageable. I should know – I have moved my family of five every three years! The key is to keep some semblance of continuity at home for the children – so lots of family time and activities together. This will allow the kids to handle the transition better.
What do you miss the most about Singapore?
I miss my friends! I miss the sense of community that we have in Singapore.
Of course, I also miss our hawker centres where we can find multiple cuisines from different cultures under one roof. I shared with my husband how community eating is very important in our culture – entire Singaporean families often come together regularly over a meal.
We just moved to Shanghai on August 7 this year. Despite the jetlag, I immediately took my husband to the National Day party that the Rotary Club of Shanghai Merlion organised. To me Singapore my home is never far from my mind.
Can you tell Michele is a really proud Singaporean?
What’s your go-to Singaporean dish and why?
Laksa and chili crab! It’s self-explanatory! One bite and you’ll never forget!
I love these dishes so much, that I have forced myself to master the great art of cooking them. Whenever we have parties in our house, I’ll proudly serve and introduce our guests to these Singaporean favourites.
Sharing the joy of bringing people together over food
If you could share one piece of advice with other families intending to move abroad – what would that be?
Many parents are afraid to take the plunge or to make the move overseas. I understand their hesitation, but I encourage them to just get up and go! The friendships we’ve made and the rich, diverse cultures and traditions we’ve learnt about are priceless.
Do it for the children! I feel the experience of living overseas will help them think outside of the box and embrace new modes of thinking and seeing the world. This can only be a benefit and a great strength. So, don’t worry what tomorrow will bring, it all depends on how we mould it.
But bear in mind that while this seems like an enviable lifestyle, it is not without its price. We’re constantly away from home, our loved ones and our comfort food. Many tears are also shed when we depart a post, but the true friendships and the memories remain. We now have friends in almost every part of the world, friends we hold dear in our hearts and lives.
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