- Miriam Deliva moved from Australia to Singapore with her boyfriend in 2018 for work.
- She landed her dream job in PR, but the demands were overwhelming and her health deteriorated.
- When her savings ran out and her relationship ended, she returned to Melbourne and set up a company.
This essay is based on a conversation with Miriam Deliva, a publicist from Melbourne, Australia. Edited for length and clarity.
When my ex-boyfriend was offered a job in Singapore in 2018, I moved with him to pursue my dream of living outside of Australia. He got an offer in October and we moved in December.
I left my role as global communications and content specialist. First I had a tourist visa and as soon as I arrived I started looking for a PR position. I hustled for six months, networked and worked to get the role.
After getting an opportunity and running an International Women’s Day event for a recruitment firm, I was approached by the firm’s managing director for the role of in-house global communications specialist. I have communications and PR experience and I heard the manager is a great leader. It sounded like a dream job, so I took it.
I struggled to settle in the first year
Australia and Singapore both have great coffee and fitness cultures, and high living and rent costs.
They also differ in many ways. Singapore has higher humidity. People in Australia enjoy small talk, smiles and eye contact in public. Social relationships are different in Singapore. It was more transactional and no one talked to me unless necessary.
I started to miss my friends, family and dog in Australia. I also missed the high quality produce, hiking, nature, wineries, and the accessibility I had with my car.
My ex and I shared expenses including rent, food, transportation and utilities. But in the first year, I used up my savings buying drinks and dinners to connect with new contacts. I underestimated How expensive is singaporeit added stress to my life.
My relationship broke up during the second year we were in Singapore. In hindsight, we should have broken up, but I didn’t want to give up on the relationship so early. We got through it, I stayed and we got engaged in 2020.
I focused on my work to distract myself
I am hardworking and used to long hours, but Asia’s business rush is intense. I didn’t know how long the employers expected me to work. I would come in from 7:30am to 9am and stay until 6 or 7pm and maybe three nights a week to entertain clients. It’s very different from Australia work-life balance.
I was also used to the Western business style, where we set up a meeting with clients and immediately discuss the business. In Asia it is different and requires more socialization. First, it was expected to eat and drink with the client, and it was not uncommon to party until midnight. Maybe after the second or third meeting you will finally discuss your case.
The company I worked for had high expectations, and with a difficult time in my relationship, I was burning the candle at both ends. After drinking too much alcohol and coffee because of work, my stomach became thin and my health problems started to appear.
It all resulted in a panic attack
In May 2022, I was at a burger joint with my ex when someone was squeezing my esophagus and I couldn’t breathe. We went home and I sat in a dark room with no stimulation, taking deep breaths to try to feel normal. I realized something wasn’t right.
About a month later, I ended up in the emergency room because I couldn’t breathe again. I didn’t feel supported, and I cried in the emergency room, thinking, “This can’t be my life. How can I go to this guy’s house and continue working for an employer who doesn’t care about my health?”
The doctor said he believed me gastroesophageal reflux disease. He said I needed to change the way I worked, the way I ate, and I needed to figure out what was causing the stress in my life or it would only get worse.
I started going to expensive therapy for expats in Singapore. After about six therapy sessions, I realized that my relationships were a significant contributor to my stress, as was the lack of boundaries at work—I was never able to fully disengage from work.
I decided to make a change
I ended my relationship in October 2022 and immediately moved into a house with other expats.
I knew I had to go home to regroup and heal. My work understood the extreme stress of my health and separation after the engagement, so they allowed me to work remotely for a few weeks and I returned to Melbourne. But I prepared my resignation when I couldn’t spend Mother’s Day with my mother because I still had a lot of work demands.
Now I feel lighter and happier. I left my dream job, but it wasn’t right for me.
After leaving I feel very strong, confident, happy and fulfilled. I love who I am and how life has unfolded, and I’m glad I took this step away from the life I once knew to create a life I’m proud of.
Now I run my own public relations company
After returning to Australia, I set up my own business. I teach students PR and help clients with their public profiles. It’s nice to have creative freedom.
I can’t promise I’ll be in Melbourne forever because I’m just starting to explore the world and I love being a global citizen. I miss Singapore and its more efficient trains, airports and groceries. I also miss the friends I made there and became family, but I’m glad to be home.