EXPAT HOMES: Cosy cul-de-sac

By Jamie Nonis / EdgeProp | April 19, 2018 6:12 AM SGT
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You could call the Seiferts professional expats and relocation experts.
Göran and Cecilia Seifert have uprooted and moved across the world nine times over the span of Göran’s 40-year career. And before meeting her husband, Cecilia had already chalked up nine earlier country moves as her father was a diplomat.
“Relocation is hard work and the whole family has to be onboard,” says Cecilia.
The Seiferts arrived in Singapore 22 years ago, as Göran was handpicked to set up Philips’ Asian headquarters here, appointed head of the Philips Corporate Regional Operations for Asia in 1996.
Having lived in so many countries prior, they were deeply impressed with what they saw when they landed in Singapore, in terms of the governance of the country and its safe environment, and chose to put down roots here.
The Seiferts’ first home in Singapore was a charming back and white bungalow in Queen Astrid Park, built in 1920s. “It was a spectacular house with a lovely terrace, surrounded by huge grounds. It wasn’t hyper-modern but it didn’t matter because the house spoke to you,” Cecilia reminisces.
The Seiferts' first home in Singapore
Today, the Seiferts live in a rented four-storey, 5-bedroom house in a cul-de-sac off Swiss Club Road, together with their two children, both in their 30s, and two cats.
“It’s a small, quiet street set in greenery near Bukit Timah. It’s a nice and friendly neighbourhood with owners walking their dogs and even their cats!” says Göran.
The exterior of the Seiferts' current home near Bukit Timah
“What attracted us was its Miami kind of vibe – very bright and airy with big windows,” offers Cecilia.
“Normally, when people retire, they downgrade. But in our case, we have upgraded in terms of surface area. At 6,000 sq ft, it’s a big space, though with less of a garden,” says Göran.
Despite the house’s large square footage, the couple have created a home that’s warm and cosy, personalised with an eclectic collection of furniture pieces, antiques and curios. “Every piece tells a story. We have things from Mexico, Peru, Hong Kong, Thailand, Sweden and Italy – from everywhere we (and my parents) have lived,” says Cecilia.
Cecilia Seifert reads in the study nook of her new home
They are especially fond of a 17th century Peruvian trunk that has the original owner’s name inscribed on the lid. “It recalls all our family relocations in nine countries, and serves us perfectly as a bar!” shares Göran.
The study-cum-library is the Seiferts’ favourite room in the house for working and listening to music, from classical to 1940s-style jazz and modern pop. The walls are adorned with a collection of antique maps and charts from the various countries they have lived, “reminding us of both the old and present wonderful memories,” says Göran. Also in the study are two oversized green armchairs “where all six family members – including our two cats – often snuggle up for quality time banter!” he adds.
The outdoor pool is another well-loved space for the family to congregate. “We have our annual Christmas party around the pool and koi pond, and on the grass. Our annual Easter egg painting competition also takes place around the pool!” says Göran.
What advice do the Seiferts have for new expats relocating here?
“Step out of your own colony. Many expats come here and just socialise with their own kind. If that’s the case, they might just as well stay at home,” Cecilia says candidly. “Embrace the multi-nationalism; make friends with other nationalities, and most importantly, make an effort to integrate into the local community of your host country. Never forget that you are a guest in the country you live, and as such you are also an ambassador of your own country,” she suggests.
For Göran, it’s to be mindful of the local culture and cross-cultural communication – a topic he often guest lectures on at the National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University pro bono. “You just need to open the newspapers and see too many examples of expats misbehaving here. For the expats who come here, you have to understand the local culture and habits, and adapt and evolve with them,” he advises.
A self-professed “failed retiree”, Göran now sits on the board of several listed and non-listed companies (both in Singapore and internationally) in diverse business sectors, and enjoys sharing his wealth of management experience with young minds at the universities, as he feels he learns a lot from them as well.
The Seiferts have no plans to move again.
“After 22 years, this is really our home. We’re happy here,” they chime with a smile.

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