The Changing Scenes of Migration

When Singaporeans think migration, what do they really think? Is this about getting the fuck out of here, to just about anywhere, or is there more to it? My friend Duchess M is an Australian PR, not yet employed since her move to Perth 2 years ago and she spends approximately a quarter of a year of her time in Singapore over a several flights a year. In comparison, I have been flying back to Singapore to visit my parents at least once a year for about 10-14 days each time and I know Singaporeans, such as Winking Doll and Mr S, who will never return to Singapore in almost any circumstances. So that made me wonder if emotional ties define the level of term "migration".

Migration is loosely regarded as a person or family moving out of their current country of residence to another, assumedly having obtained a permit to work in the new country. Prior to my move to Perth, I used to view the approval of a Permanent Residence application as a clear intention to migrate. I am not so sure now. After all, a Permanent Resident is technically a longer term work visa that needs to be renewed like its counterpart, albeit at a differing set of requirements and duration. Think buying several "single trip" mrt tickets as compared to an "Ezlink" card. Better deal or convenience aside, they basically get you to the same places. That probably addressed my amusement of knowing many Australian PRs who never left Singapore until the validity of their visas are ran down to their last days against meeting people who refused to leave Perth despite what got them there legally in the first place were long expired. I came to realise migration as we commonly know it, lies in the state of mind, not on a piece of document and certainly not the actual physical whereabouts of a person. For all you know, his or her heart never left.

What I expressed could be very much reflected by the attitudes of the Singapore counter staff I had to deal with for my administration needs whenever i return to Singapore. From time to time I would be asked about my employment or residing status (you just have to trust the government agencies to be, erm, interested) I observed how I received a different reaction when I said I migrated to Australia as opposed to I was based or stationed in Australia for work. For the former, I received chilling stares as if I just spit at Mr and Mrs KFC's portraits on the wall behind them in their presence. For the latter, they gave me a pleasant smile as if they meant 'welcome home'. From my perspective, there is no real difference in the terminologies used. If a person is consistently outstationed so much so he spends more time overseas than his country, will you consider him migrated? After all, human migration is simply defined as physical movement by humans from one area to another.

As mentioned earlier, I believe the real way to deem a true migration lies in the state of mind. There is a difference when someone tells me, "I'm going to Singapore," and, "I'm going back to Singapore." Note how someone who spends 20 years in Australia and declared, "I'm returning home for a vacation." Whereas others walk out of the airports of their respective Australian city and thought, "It is great to be home again." I believe most Singaporeans can resonate with this easily. They can sniff out which "Singaporean" standing on the podium staring blankly at the rising of the crescent and five stars will soon return to "motherland." They can pick out who are set to stay and grudgingly accept who they are in eventuality.

If we think about it, it works the same way at the other ends of the shores. How we can be easily read out there just like foreigners cannot escape our eagle eyes in Singapore. What message you give the hosts of your adopted country will shape the manner you will be treated. It isn't about the colours of your papers or even the weight of your purse.


  1. I don't know what job Duchess M do for a living (if she needs to) but strongly suggest she take up short term contract work to keep her experience current. In various professions if your cv is blank or a period of time you get ask please explain. Even though you reasons are valid illness jobless or travel, it is still not far from consider you as a chronically unemployed, ie no current experience

  2. Once you have migrated you change as a person – your country of birth never seems quite the same so it is hard to go back, and you rarely feel completely at home in your new country because the new culture is unfamiliar and you have no childhood bond with it. What you reckon?

  3. Its about where your black vios is.... and don't need to pay $60k COE for!!!! Na beh COE