Where Australia Isn't Greener Pasture

Hi Nix,

Just to say hi. I am a Singaporean girl, living and working in Sydney (on the ‘hated’ subclass 457) since early jan this year. Chanced upon your blog a few months before I arrived in Australia as I was just googling on how’s life in Australia in the eyes of Singaporeans. So I have been stalking your blog ever since and was kinda sad when you suddenly announced that you will quit blogging. It was only a few weeks back that I saw some links to your blog again on facebook that I realised you are back on again. Hopefully your health is improving…

Anyway, I am currently living alone in Sydney and have zero friends or relatives here. Thus, it is really a big challenge when I dropped everything I had in Singapore and moved here. But I am one of the few lucky ones who found a job before I arrived (lots of people asked me how and I have to say, the job was posted on job street Singapore and I applied and got it). So financially, I guess it wasn’t that straining but it was still hell trying to find accommodation, open bank accounts, get furniture (I came with only 1 huge luggage and 1 backpack) etc within a short time frame.

I have to say, after going through all that, I think you are really ‘tok kong’ to come here with your family and manage to stay on. It seems like most people think that life in Australia is slack and life is like a bed of roses. However, I seriously think that most Singaporeans will find it hard to adapt and stay on.

Any anti/non anti-govt feelings aside, I think I have been overly pampered by how efficient Singapore is (yep, I only classified Singapore as efficient when I came here). I struggled with the fact that in Sydney, shops all close at 5pm (what’s there to do at night?!?!!??), trains come every 15mins during peak hours (25-35mins at night), no trains due to track work (yep, trains lines shut down for 3 days frequently), nothing is free (you have to pay for chili sauce, wasabi sauce etc), unlimited broadband is practically non-existent, no sheltered walkways, drug addicts lurking at the train stations late at night and many more.

Work wise, I also feel that I have less chances to be promoted to management level due to the fact that I am Asian. I see Asian colleagues working in the same role for donkey years. As I am an executive level staff, I am also not entitled to OT pay. Thus, whatever I earn minus the taxes, is equivalent to what I am earning in Singapore with probably no promotion. Like you, I was also in the construction line in Singapore. I was an engineer in a big consultancy firm and I always feel if I get my masters or get PE, I will have 出人头地的一天. However, here, day in day out, it’s the same job forever. But I have to say there is definitely more ‘work life balance’ and I do knock off on time.

Anyway, just wanted to know your thoughts about this because from your blogs, you seem to really prefer Perth than Singapore and I don’t know is it just me who hiam everything too much or am I missing out something and that everyone is enjoying Australia except me?



Hi Y*Y*,

First things first.

Yes, you are not wrong. Let me confirm, I do prefer working and living in Perth than Singapore. 

No, you are not the only one who does not enjoy Australia and there is nothing wrong with you. You are also right that most Singaporeans will find it hard to adapt to life in Australia and to stay here for good.

You have my respect from the way you expressed yourself, because you are frank, speak your mind and do not go into those bush beating, petty mind games. I also felt a sense of connection here due to the same industry we were in back in Singapore. 

Correct me if I am wrong, you have already made up your mind about Australia from your experience in Sydney so far. The purpose of writing to me was not to seek a respond that can change your perspectives. It was probably written out of curiosity on why a Singaporean like me who grew up in a city enjoy Perth, one of the most remote cities in the world. How dare me even adapt, not to mention relish every single ounce of my life here in expensive, racist, WA which they nicknamed "Wait Awhile" to illustrate the level of efficiency over here.

Perhaps you would have noticed by now how different we are in terms of personality. We also have radical differences in ambition as well as expectations in life. That is the short and simple answer to your question. You can stop reading from this point if you get where I am coming from.

I'm sorry it didn't work out for you. For a start, Mr Philip Wong, sir, and Sydney Librarian could perhaps, do something to change your friend-less status by offering themselves as your first two friends in lonely Sydney. Excuse me for being cuntish here, unless you can make friends with plants, animals and your right hand like me, you cannot have a good time anywhere in the world without a single friend. So make it your priority to increase that friend count from zero to one and then to ten by the end of next Summer. While having friends doesn't take away the annoying fact that buses arrive at a much longer interval compared to Singapore, it helps to have someone to talk to while waiting for that fucking bus. Trust me on that.

I agree that it is infuriating to pay for chili sauces. I can't decide if paying for ERP is worse but chili sauces takes my vote because chili is more important than driving past that stupid jammed road leading to my office. At least chili gives me a warm fuzzy feeling gliding down my throat. My friends, chili queen friends Samantha and M, would attest to that.

I will just use one example to explain how the differences in our personalities holds the key to how we view Australia. I remember there was once I was asked why I moved to a place where there was nothing to do after 5pm. My reply was, "I don't want to do anything after 5pm." 

And I meant that. 

Just to highlight another difference in our personality, I do not like covered link-ways. I think they are ugly and do not justify their cost of building and maintenance. I happened to know what I am talking about because I built many covered link ways back in my days. Just to share some of my experience as I thought you might be interested since you are in this industry, here was my last covered linkway project: 

Monument of Spendthrift
Photo by the project engineer (me) behind it

Over-designed 8mm thick steel hollow frames with way too many steel supporting members for aesthetic purposes, 3mm thick gray aluminum cladding which will not last a decade on top, 1mm thick panels underneath creating a "downlight" effect which will be dented after a "Super Mario" punch by any naughty secondary school kid. These set of covered linkways along CCL3 and 4 will leech tax-payers' money year after year of damage repair from the day it was commissioned. Just for your information, we built that ugly thing behind too. It was the canopy for a the lift leading down to the station control at Botanic MRT station. It was supposed to look like a mushroom, designed by some retard. Ah, I could recall the fond memories spending every single afternoon up this structure, measuring every single irregular steel members supporting these curvy aluminum panels that we installed later on. 

Yeah, I do not deny that gave me a job but I would rather the hundred of millions dollars spent on every single covered link-way in the country be divided and shared equally by each and every of 2+ million Singaporeans to buy umbrellas AND the budget allocated to perform ongoing repair, maintenance and rebuilding existing linkways continue to go into every Singaporeans' bank account every month. With so many enriched Singaporeans, I believed there will be a net gain in jobs created by enterprising Singaporeans later and possibly the emergence of better, marketable global products that benefits Singapore and its people in a much broader way. Maybe that doesn't add up or maybe that is too idealistic. How about pumping that money into healthcare so that every Singaporean can enjoy cheaper medical fees? Surely that is not far fetched.

Sorry about my covered linkway rant. I have kept it within me far too long. It was just a raw nerve. Please don't take it to heart.

Allow me to give you a serious piece of advice. This Australia stint may not be working out as much as you expected but from my perspective, you have gained a lot from it by realising who you are and what you want in life. Trust me, I searched for decades for the same answers without avail. It is a blessing to be able to find out what you really want in life so your time here was not wasted at all. So, my friend, go back to Singapore and go all out to achieve your dreams. Again, you are not wrong that getting your "PE chop" is a commendable career milestone. Go for it! Who cares about other Singaporeans enjoying themselves in Australia? When you get there, feel free to visit Perth on your vacations. Do pay me a visit, I will be very happy to play humble host - great food from my kitchen with free flow homemade chili sauce - that's a promise.

Part II - The Real Sydney [link]


  1. Have to disagree with the lack of promotion prospects due to her being Asian. Promotion to managerial or lead positions are normally competed through EOI and application process. I have worked with companies throughout Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney, and Australians are pretty much colour blind once they have come to know you. There are the occasional racist but that happens anywhere you go. They might crack jokes but it is usually not malicious.

    What you do need to do when you move to a new country and culture is to fit in and make an effort to make friends. When we moved here 5 years ago we knew absolutely nobody. In fact, we migrated without having even visited Australia before and our first visit was our landing. Didn't take long to settle in although job was already sorted, and we made a point to involve ourselves with the immediate communities such as schools and church, as well as make friends at work to build up the social circle.

    Getting used to Australia and staying here long term wasn't a big deal for us. If you are prepared for a different culture then you can be versatile enough to fit into anywhere in the world, more so an English speaking culture. We gave up Singapore citizenship at the first instance possible (2 years for us since we came before the 4 year rule) and never looked back since.

  2. Cracked me up reading the part where NB said "I don't want to do anything after 5 pm"! Music to my husband's ears. So glad you are re-blogging.


  3. you are absolutely right - once she starts making friends, she'll be happier. And when she settles down and starts a family, she will absolutely appreciate how raising children in Australia is so much more enjoyable than in Singapore.

  4. Hi,

    I've faced similar experience when I first moved from sg to London years ago for work. Took me a year and being very thick skinned to find my feet around in London. I'm now based in Sydney and have been here for the last two years. I hope I could share my experience and company to Y* if she wishes to. Thanks for being the middleman Nix. Warmest wishes to you and your family. Lay

  5. Humans are a funny lot.

    They go to great lengths to upgrade/upskill themselves, work their bums off and then complain about stress and that they have no time for themselves.

    When they finally get time for themselves they complain that there is nothing to do.

    Blessed are the ones who can find contentment.

  6. Life content is about what you perceive in life. One man's poison may be another's meat. Always ask yourself what do you want in life. Consider both long term and short term. The final answer is always not easy but at least you tried with no regrets is most important.

  7. Having read every post, right from the culture shock that Y had experienced to the last comment, I have learnt many things and some comments made me re-think. LOL

    As Nix (our Singaporean Son) said, every migrant has to adapt. If I may add - "if you cannot adapt, you better adjust your expectation. Perhaps that makes you feel better.

    I got my VISA and I am planning to migrate.

    I think it is a bad assumption to cast the misleading idea that Australia is layback. That certainly is untrue for Sydney and Melbourne. You probably started on the wrong foot that made you unhappy in Australia. Do not bear any assumption. We can only be aware there is this and that, but always remind ourselves that things can change, for better or for worse, but we just to adjust and adapt accordingly.

    At the end of the day, if you are more for career, it doesn't matter if you choose to stay in Australia or Singapore. If you are more for well-rounded family life, less stressful life for your children, well-rounded development and happier childhood, carefree retirement for you and cool climate all year round, then Australia is there for you.

    This is perhaps the common destination why all of us chose to migrate to Australia.

    Do note. The immigration is tighter. Singapore is just a little red-dot. Being a Singaporean, I just be frank with you. Singapore relies on imports, meaning inflation can make your things only more expensive.
    Australia is basically self-sustained. Expensive, but how expensive can it get on the long run?
    After all, Singapore is just an island-state. First, we have LKY. Then we have LHL. After that, who is the next PM? Can the next PM lead Singapore another 10 to 20 years.

    We must see far.

  8. hmm...I am an odd ball. as much as I find its hard to come here with a backpack and 1 luaggage, settle my accommodation and everything else, I found it fun. and I did it twice. first with studies next with migration.

    and I became a expert mover by moving 6 times in 2 years. like the lady, I am a peitie bui bui lady :Dwho walks with a slight pai-ka.

    I guess I always challegene to adapt and always will. in fact she is way luckier than me that she landed in a job with her original profession. whereas I had to carve a brand new skill from air.