Eugene's Story

"Did you notice your fingers have became fatter?" Jen asked last night while she was massaging my hands.

Every finger joint as well as muscle on my hands still hurt. Each hand felt swollen like a bear's paw each morning. It was easy to massage my hand. Jen managed to produce a 100% efficiency for all the effort she put in massaging my hands for there was no 'wrong spots' to be hit.

"Hmm, is it? I think so," I replied.

"I noticed Eugene and Uncle Lai's fingers are fat too," quipped Jen.
So I am going that route? Uncle Bear-hand?
My mind strayed to the long chats I had with Eugene. The man had a lot of stories to share. He could talk afternoons away as effortlessly I could emptying ice-cream tubs. As an earlier settler who came from the same country as me, it was natural we had many common topics such as Singapore vs Australia comparisons, Singapore politics, national service, settling in Australia, properties, work, food, internet access, fatherhood, you name it.

Each time he would assure me not to worry and things would turn out fine. Things didn't quite work out for him initially and I was in a much better situation than him at this time comparatively. Eugene used to be a Managing Director in some company in Singapore. He used to drive a BMW back there.

He told me why he chose to migrate. Back then about 6 years ago, the Singapore Immigration department refused to grant his wife from China the Singapore Permanent Residency. So he got fed up and left. That was not the main reason, I could sense it. 

The first reaction of my brother-in-law when he heard Jen and I would be leaving for Australia was, "Why go and be 2nd class citizen there?" I didn't say a word. Not because I had nothing to say but . My brother-in-law is doing really well, probably on his way to what Eugene used to be. If I was in his shoes, I swore I would be thinking the same way. That was why I felt there was more to Eugene's story. The real reason why he left, I might never know.

What I knew however was that he had a really tough start in Australia. He found no jobs in his first 6 months and he worked as an offsider as his first job. The job of an offsider is ridiculously tough. Offsiders are part of the mine early exploration team and they work in extremely harsh, remote environments. Unlike the main mining team who had limited access to facilities, the exploration team has next to none. The job is extremely physical. "20 times harder than the army," swore Eugene, a former guardsman in the Singapore Armed Forces. Every Australian man respects offsiders.

Other than coping with the physical demands, injuries, extreme weather conditions, lack of amenities and communication facilities, he endured loneliness and a worrying mind. His wife had a miscarriage while he was away far north. He was not around when there was an attempted break-in to his rented abode back then. Some of his acquaintances spreaded rumors his wife was having an affair. He finally called it quits.

Eugene then found himself a job as a trades assistant near the city, which is what I am doing now in the same company. He stayed in that casual role for 2 years before converting to a permanent position and was transfered to another branch of the company a few suburbs away. During that first 2 years, he managed to secured his first property in Huntingdale, where I am staying at currently. I couldn't understand why he bought such a big place, over 500 sqm of plot size and a house of 300 sqm on it. To me, that was a maintenance nightmare. But I was thankful he did, for he wouldn't have the extra room to rent it to me otherwise, with his two children occupying one room each.

He told me he wanted to introduce another Singaporean, working as a teacher here in Perth, to me. "That guy," Eugene shook his head. "Has a lot to say about Singapore, tsk tsk." 

"More than you?" I asked.

"Yeah, of course. I'm neutral," came his answer.

And I am more "neutral" than Eugene. This teacher guy will be an amusing chap to meet.


  1. You are bold and you are so lucky to have Jen. Very rarely relationship like yours will survive.

  2. @ ellis: ya i think she's a good wife. I have not been a good husband so im trying to be a better man

  3. Bro, Don't forget to introduce me to fellow quitters too :)

  4. I salute Eugene and you on your efforts to make it work.

  5. Haha,there is another from singapore who is a lecturer in curtin. Dun be surprise to see many from sg in esp perth. People are more often to think we are from malaysia cos there are heaps here, probably cos they dun hv it good in malaysia as they are not real malays. When one realise u are from sg, they tend to say: but sg is so good(duh!!) why do u want to leave? They probably think we left as we are doing 'badly' in sg, but boy...have they got it wrong!!!

  6. I nvr felt i am 2nd class citizen ..... in SG yes...for a PR u will feel liek 2nd class but in aust...i feel i am treated fairly


  7. @Sei: The class thing is all in the mind. You're right, it's about where you are treated fairly

  8. @ Patrick: Quitters never win, winners never quit. Thus quitters = losers. We are not losers. Losers don't go the extra mile to achieve what they want. Losers don't have the courage to venture into the unknown.

    We are winners.

    Yes let's intro winners to each other. We'll start with Eugene.

  9. @Jtay: hi bro. I was doing badly in Singapore, and I am not afraid to admit it. I may be a 'loser' back there but at least I am doing something for myself. If I can't make it in Singapore, I'll try to make it elsewhere. That's all.

    I'm the minority. Majority of the migrants from Singapore are well qualified, motivated and capable professionals. That - I understand :)

  10. Bro, I was only using the term in a light hearted way. I definitely do not consider myself and other migrants losers :)

    I think you are already a winner having moved here and doing what you are doing to make it work.

    Perhaps we should just call ourselves "friends". The more the merrier :)

  11. @ Patrick. I think so too. I have no regrets and won't look back. Even if I have to eventually move back for whatever reasons, I will never regret coming here at the first place.

  12. hee hee...What i have learnt...that most SG gals cannot do is >> Move house 6 times in a do it alone.....

    I wun regret if i decided that i hv to move back to SG, cos what i have is not just experenice, but also a totally different mindset in treatin ppl and doing things.

    Skill 101 how to get rid of spiders running in and out of the house...


  13. To clarify my post @ Patrick: Quitters never win, winners never quit. Thus quitters = losers. We are not losers. Losers don't go the extra mile to achieve what they want. Losers don't have the courage to venture into the unknown.

    What I meant to say was: Mr Goh Chok Tong claimed migrants are quitters (losers). My rebuttal is that losers would not have made the effort to achieve their goals, such as venturing into the unknown.


    My English sucks, I know. But to thrash a long-time friend when he is sick and down without clarification? For fuck's sake.

  14. i always get asked by friends when i tell them i want to migrate too. 'Why be a 2nd class citizen?" My answer is always the same. Being a 2nd class citizen means i get an UPGRADE. Here, I'm at best a 4th or 5th class citizen. I wont explain why 4th or 5th class here because people reading might get offended but its how it is and i cant wait to upgrade to 2nd class. :)


  15. Better to be treated as a 2nd Class Citizen than a 3rd Class Citizen in Singapore.

  16. @Ewan and Anonymous: Don't be too sure if you feel better being treated as '2nd class' citizens in Australia than 'whatever class' we are being treated as in Singapore.

    It's easy to be blinded by the unhappiness and anger you faced in Singapore and misinterpret the grass is greener at the other side.

    Let's put it this way, assuming the grass is the same colour, same taste. Just decide WHERE we want to eat it at. that's all.