We've been catching up with the very lovely guru of all things expat here in Singapore, Nici Schueler...
If you’ve been living in Singapore as an expat woman for a few years, then chances are that you’ve not only heard of Seasoned Singapore Expat Women (SSEW) on Facebook, but you’re probably a member too. It’s the place where ladies here in their sunny, adopted home can go to for a daily dose of humour, support, love and advice on everything from homesickness to marital woes, decent eyebrow tamers to travel itineraries. There is literally nothing this 5000 strong community of women does not know! And at the helm of this fount of all knowledge? Life coach turned Queen of SSEW, Nici Schueler…
Hi Nici and thanks for hanging out with us! First off, tell us a little (or a lot!) about you…
I am an Australian born expat wife. In my working life I was a marketing guru, generating a lot of money for multinational brands, working as a copywriter and a Group Account Director at a boutique marketing agency.
After marriage, I fought in a long war. The war of infertility. This is a battle that wounds like no other. It’s agonizing, physically and emotionally hellish and infested with anguish, disappointment and a gripping kind of terror. I fought and I lost; again and again and again. Then eventually… I won. My world, my gift from God, my pearl, my droplet from heaven – my Chloe. There ARE miracles; and I got one for which I am forever blessed.
Following my war, I became a life coach and worked with adults to help them navigate this thing called LIFE.
After arriving in Singapore, I decided that if I could get to children and teach THEM life skills then they would feel empowered to live their life and thrive. I discovered SoulKids and became a mentor delivering their well-crafted self-confidence workshops for children. It was one of the most rewarding things I have ever done.
Then I started SSEW which was way more popular than I’d anticipated. I couldn’t support that and my kids coaching so I stopped coaching and dedicated my time – full time – to SSEW. This then segued into a couple of spin off groups ‘Seasoned Wellness Warriors’ and ‘Seasoned Business Chics’ and the birth of my video show ‘On the Couch with Nici’ all of which keep me consumed!
We know you’re a mum-of-one rather talented little lady: tell us about her, and what kind of mummy you are to her…
Chloe is my favourite person in the whole world. She is the kindest person I know and a delight always. Yes always. Anyone who knows her will attest to that. She is very funny, insightful and a powerhouse of creativity. I can speak about parenting for days as it’s one of my obsessions and I am very opinionated about it. I am a life coach and mentor to children so I am meticulous in my parenting. I am firm but fair. I am a parent first and a friend second. There are clear boundaries and I work on a positive parenting model so we have an incredibly close bond and a LOT of fun. Chloe as a result is honest, kind, compassionate, confident, curious and someone you would want to be friends with. Being a mother is my greatest achievement and blessing.
SSEW is a lifeline for many an expat lady here in SG: what prompted you to start it?
As an avid member of a multitude of social media expat support groups there was a massive gap that I noticed. As a long term expat I needed to be supported, nurtured and cared for but in a different way to newcomers. I felt I spoke a different language. I needed to connect with people who spoke this language which I couldn’t find en masse on Facebook. Most groups help newcomers settle in, adapt to expat life and share information, however, no one was providing support to long term expats.
I found “newbie” questions and topics of discussion redundant and repetitive. A group was needed for Singapore’s seasoned expat citizens: long term expats where conversations would scratch beneath the surface of newcomer expat life and dig deeper into more relevant and challenging topics of discussion.
I was also damaged from years of losing friendships and the only avenues available to find new friends were aimed at newcomers. Most importantly I wanted a judgement free zone – a space where kindness and understanding prevailed. So one day, out of the blue, I decided to create a new community driven group where each of these issues would be addressed. A group where I could turn the Facebook support group arena on its head. So Seasoned Singapore Expat Women (SSEW) was born. In an instant actually. A space where long term expat women can speak the same language, connect, share information, support each other and forge long term friendships in a positive non-judgmental space. It exploded in popularity before my eyes and like a newborn, I could not leave it alone for any great length of time!
Does your previous career as a life coach come into play as SSEW agony aunt/friend/admin on such a busy platform?
Ha! Absolutely. I believe it is ONLY because I am a trained life coach that I am able to manage 5000 women. In addition to moderating the comments and discussions, there is a lot of ‘behind the scenes’ messaging from women in need and going through often traumatic events. I guide as many as I can wherever it’s needed.
What has surprised you most about the success of SSEW?
The sisterhood. The loneliness. The need. The connections. The popularity of my events. It is more of a lifeline to many women than I had anticipated. When I meet members at my events or in shopping centres or restaurants I am floored at the positive comments and accolades. I love that it has become a safe space for many to be able to speak freely and know they will be supported.
What advice do you have for women in Singapore – expat and otherwise – to help navigate life here as a mum?
I would encourage getting a helper! Having domestic duties sorted means you can focus on being present for your kids and happier without those things to juggle. It gives mums more of a chance to really get to know their children without the distraction of chores. Enjoy your children and find out what their passions are as these little beings are constantly changing and it’s important to notice what’s going on. I do think being a mum as an expat here is easier socially than being an empty nester or a single person. It’s easier to form a network here as a mother. I would also advise to get involved in your child’s school and participate in as much as you can.
What have been your fave/stand-out moments on SSEW?
Definitely the avalanche of support I received when sharing the journey of my mother’s terminal illness and death. Also seeing people support Irene when her condo caught fire and Mary when her husband died suddenly and unexpectedly. On a lighter note, seeing the friendships forged at the events never ceases to blow my mind. What a gift.
What questions get asked the most on SSEW?
Unlike newbie questions, I find our topics to be varied. Mostly I’d say it’s about getting PR status and the conflict faced over when (and if) to return home.
When you’re not busy with SSEW (if ever!), what is your idea of perfect ‘me time’?
It’s a 24/7 group so it’s hard to switch off! I am a big massage and foot reflexology fan. That’s my go-to when I have time.
And finally, Tell us five things about yourself that we probably didn’t know…
- I have a genetic transaction – as a result I suffered three miscarriages, two ectopic pregnancies and had two terminations.
- I met my husband at Club Med singles month.
- I worked as a hostess in Japan.
- I am scared of balloons.
- I remove every label from every piece of clothing I own.
Photography: Nici Schueler
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