Photo Credit: Photo courtesy of Jamilia Grier
The Black Expat: 'Singapore Is A Place Where Diversity Is Really Celebrated'
Connecticut native Jamilia Grier is a wife and mother of four working in the banking industry. She has traveled extensively throughout the continent of Asia, visiting countries like Malaysia, Japan, India, Thailand, South Korea, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Bangladesh, and Qatar to name a few.
Her first trip abroad was to China as a college junior.
“I was very interested in international economics at the time, and decided to sign up for a summer job teaching English in China,” she told Travel Noire. “I had no idea how much I would enjoy the experience.”
“China was a totally different world from small town Connecticut–new and exciting, filled with new sights, tastes, and ways of thinking. After that summer, I ended up going back to China to teach English again, deferring law school for a year in order to truly explore the country.”
Stemming from those experiences, Jamilia launched a U.S.-China trade startup while in law school. She became fluent in Chinese, and built a large part of her career advising multinational corporations on how to remain compliant while doing business in China.
In 2013, she moved to Singapore.
“While I was based in China, my career was very much China-focused, so when an opportunity came to take on a larger Asia Pacific regional role, I took it.”
Jamilia packed up her entire family and moved to the Southeast Asian island nation. As a mother of four, the safety, security, and cleanliness of the city were major factors influencing her decision to move there.
“Singapore is a safer place to raise my family. It’s probably the safest city I have ever lived in. Crime is very low.”
“I mean you can place your phone on a table in a food court, go order your food, wait for it, and then return to your table to find your phone still sitting there. I also feel very comfortable allowing my two sons to go to the mall or movies without me.”
Jamilia says the availability of affordable live-in help was another reason her family chose Singapore.
“Another benefit to raising kids here is the large market of domestic helpers. We currently employ a live-in helper and without her, I don’t think I could manage with all of my work, family, and personal commitments. She handles grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, and even helps take care of the dog.”
“Of all the countries I’ve traveled to, Singapore is a place where diversity is really celebrated. Because the country is so diverse, I rarely feel a sense of being different as a ‘foreigner’ like I felt in other countries, such as China.”
“As long as you have an open mind and are respectful of other people’s cultural and religious backgrounds, I find that it is quite easy to navigate cultural differences here. There are large influences and populations from all over the world represented in Singapore, so there literally is something for everyone.”
Jamilia is connected to a small yet supportive group of Black expats in Singapore. Through the group, she has even been able to find Black hairdressers to do her hair.
Although she does not have any trips planned for now due to Singapore’s travel restrictions, Jamilia is waiting patiently. She is looking forward to being able to once again visit destinations such as the Maldives and Japan.
Jamilia says traveling benefits her in so many ways, such as serving as a reminder that despite differences in cultures and perspectives, we are all connected in humanity.
“The world and all of its beauty is for us to share and that connects us, too. Whether you love beach destinations, rural areas, authentic small towns, or big cities and bright lights, travel experiences connect us all.”