The Price of Migration

Have you ever wondered what is the price of migrating to another country?

If you are Singaporean, there is a tendency you are here with dollars and cents in your mind. That is okay. Having a money face and a money mind is normal. It is our DNA. If it isn't discussed to death already, just for your benefit, Singaporeans migrants fork out a few thousand bucks in fees for their entire immigration process to Australia. Most of us spend a several thousand more though, by hiring a migration agent to fill in some forms for them. Unless your case is a complicated case that needs special expertise and constant close monitoring, I wouldn't recommend using an agent. But then I am the sort of guy who will change my own engine oil and sell my own house if I have to. So don't let me dissuade you from feeling good about spending a few extra thousand dollars.

What I want to talk about today though are the other forms of costs.

Yes, of course you know that. The cost of buying a brand new car in Australia. No COE there, hoot ah! The cost of half a year of rental and living expenses, because we are prepared to give ourselves half a year to find our dream jobs before heading back with nothing and blaming racist Australians for not giving us a go. No, casual jobs are beneath us and we wouldn't consider that. So a war chest of cash is definitely required, no? Cost of migration, no? 

Maybe on another day. Not today.

After 3 years of Perth, I have experienced a good amount of emotional up and downs that may have been addressed different if I had not left Singapore. Both my dogs died a week apart within half a year of my departure. I would never forget how I had to clear my safety goggles of tears that I shed the entire night at work after I received the bad news.

When I was told that Jen's birth delivery were having complications and Albany's life was in danger unless we did an immediate operation, I was left sitting outside the theatre with hands trembling too much to text my old friend in Singapore. There was no hands to hold on to and only imaginary 
arms around my shoulders for comfort. 

Whenever I hear my father being hospitalised, there was little I could do but to lend a listening ear to my mother over the useful helping hand which I would rather offer.

I had to endure days of missing my wife and daughter when either one of us return to Singapore to attend important events, such as weddings or funerals.

True. To a large extent, money solves a lot of problems. The above situations are no exception. Need love? If I am that 15 million lotto winner, I could fly the entire contingent to celebrate my daughter's birthday. I could fly back in my private jet any time as when I wanted. Money closes gaps and ease pains but it doesn't substitute what really mattered. Even a private jet wouldn't be fast enough to catch my dog's last breathe, or hear the last words of a departing loved one when it happens, or be there for a friend at the most crucial timing. Money cannot buy me that missed moment of a shared joke or the optimal elation of hearing the breaking of a piece of happy news, 'live'. To make it worse, let's come back to reality and realise I am not that 15 million lotto winner.

But so aren't the rest of us, the many Singaporeans who had already left and the future ones embarking on the lesser threaded, dimly lit treacherous path. This is the curse all migrants have to accept. The price of migration. A price that cost no gold but demand a bit of humanity in you at every corner. Until you learnt to be hard, much harder than you ever wanted to be.


  1. “Have you ever wondered what is the price of migrating to another country?”

    Also wonder if any of those much earlier migrants ever ask or ponder such question, after making it over to the south side of the South China Sea …. then again, maybe they are now paying the “price” – their children, grand children or great grand children are able to get to ask the same question....

    1. My grandfather emigrated from Canton province to "South Seas" (Nan2 yang2) back in the 1920's. He explained to his decision thus (in Cantonese), "As a farmer, after paying the landlord for use of his land to farm after harvest, there was not enough to feed even oneself for the year."

      Then I asked him why he did not join the rebels to change the system, his response was, "Those rebel supposedly fighting for the people are actually robbers. They take/rob from the common folks and return to their mountain hide-outs to enjoy their loot instead of helping the poor."

      So I asked him why didn't he report the rebels to the government officials (guan1). His reply was, "The guan1 people are worse than the rebel robbers. Not only do they charge ridiculously high taxes on farmers' meager income (after the farmers have paid the landowners), they also find ways and means to corruptly squeeze the poor for more money! So no choice, have to leave the country to find a mouth of rice to eat."

      2 generations down, similar thoughts of long-term survival are being asked by this grandchild who eventually chose to emigrate.

  2. The question that has to be asked is what one got after paying the price. I believe Nix got a few prizes after migrating.

  3. Sigh! My brother - school teacher with a pay of $6 - 2 yrs younger than me migrated to Vancouver giving up everything in Sg. He had a brand new Toyota Wish, a stable secure well paid job, a maid and an Executive flat yet he chose to leave Sg for a foreign land! Why? I just can't understand. He must be going thru what you been thru. He told me he's doing it for his 3 children's future. Like many others, he’s given up hope on Sg.

    1. Hi Gintai,

      If your brother is doing it for his children's future, then I totally agree with his view that his children are likely to have a more equitable chance at a decent livelihood here in Vancouver, than in Singapore.

      Cheers, WD

    2. Hi Gintai, my 2 sons have moved to Vancouver 7 years ago, and life has been wonderful for them. They constantly mention that they are so fortunate to be in Canada. I am sure your brother's children will likely say the same.

  4. This was like me and my family. Both of us had well paid job 7 years. I had my parents to help us to look after the little one. We lived comfortably in a HDB. We were not contented and willing to try the life at the downunder, part of it was for my son since everyone said the sg school system was very stressful. BUT after 6 years, we find this was not what we wanted.

  5. Life in Australia isn't any easier. The clear blue sky, clean air and better weather is what money can't buy.

    1. > clear blue sky, clean air

      ... which also may have long-term impact on the next generation. :)