Forever Learning

Hi asingaporeanson, 

I have been following your blog for a long time and I'm loving it!  Thank you for starting such a great blog!!

I have been toying with the idea of moving out from S'pore for the longest time but never have enough courage to move forward with my plan.

After years of contemplation, and now in my mid-thirties, I don't want to waste anymore time being part of the rat race, engaging in meaningless conversations with family and friends on nothing but work, promotion, remuneration, material possessions etc.  I really have no wish to conform to the norms and lead a life that others think is right in their opinion.
But sadly, after scouring through the SOL, my occupation is not in demand at all. I have a general business degree with nearly 14 years of administrative and sales support experience. 

Now, I am thinking if I should do a career switch to preschool education, work for a couple of years in this industry and use it as a ticket out of S'pore.  But I know there's also a possibility that it might be removed from the SOL even before I have gained enough experience.  

I would like to seek for your advice.  Do you think it is a going to be a wise move to switch career?  What other possible options do I have to make the move to Australia?
Sorry for the lengthy email... I hope you are not annoyed by it.  

the confused one

Learning to love what we fear
Hey XJ,

I was unemployed in Singapore for almost 9 months in 2008. Alas, the months had became a flash in the mind. I wish I had made myself write down my thoughts back then, as the different feelings that I experienced would have been far richer than the content you found here so far. My unemployment came on the back of quitting my decently paid cushy job in a statutory board. 9 months was a long time in unemployment, in Singapore terms. As I found out later, it is common for people to take a year off their careers in Australia. They call this a gap year and the social stigma for such a practice is tremendously lower as compared to Singapore where it is almost a sin not to stay in employment, a liability to the nation. My family, girlfriend and my friends probably thought I was crazy and they definitely felt I was irresponsible and disappointed in me at some points, if not the whole time.

The reason why I brought my grandfather story out was that a few sentences in your email gave me some flashbacks of those days in 2008, where I spent a bit of time thinking about what have been in your mind for years. 

And I felt you.

The most lonely thing about my unemployment wasn't about walking the the parks aimlessly when my peers were working, churning out the gold coins when my purse got lighter by the day. It wasn't about having lunch with only my dog while everyone was having theirs with colleagues or business associates. I found out that one of the most fearful thing in life was acquiring strong perspectives that not a single soul around me could relate to; and that I could only go on in quiet torment wondering if it was just depression. I found out years later it wasn't.

I wouldn't say moving out of Singapore made me a happier person. It might be just a coincidence or maybe not. It could be blogging, the only avenue that has been allowing me to vent my deepest frustrations somewhere, not really intended to be read by the public and it was never my wish to find agreement. For example, when I wrote about buying a house in Australia may not necessarily be the wisest decision under certain circumstances, it got me the familiar skeptical and disbelieving responses.

If you wish not to conform with societal norms and be your own woman, the toughest challenge you have to face is yourself and I'm dead serious about this although this advice may sound absolutely useless to you at the moment. For technically you can be in Australian soil by next week if you enroll in a course in TAFE or other course provider with a few thousand dollars. You will be granted a student visa that allows you to work for 20 hours a week in your school term and no limit during school holidays. If you work hard enough, it will be enough for you to fund yourself through the entire course, or the next course and the next course if you wish until you feel sick of it. If you select your course wisely and strongly driven, you should find employment here. In my opinion, Australia has no reason to reject a qualified and highly motivated worker in the workforce.

I am not advocating you should do the above. Instead, I painted a scenario of personal challenge and it is up to you to prove how much you want to break out of the Singapore conformity cage. Scenarios are up to your creativity, as some may even suggest in jest to find a Aussie guy to marry. At the moment, do not get too focused on legal boundaries of possible options. From someone who is on the other side of the turf, getting here isn't the biggest challenge but whether you can live with yourself from this point. And that, you'll have to be true to yourself and decide.


  1. Hi "the confused one",

    I went through what you and ASingaporeanSon went through too -- finding the "conversations with family and friends on nothing but work, promotion, remuneration, material possessions etc" meaningless, finding myself alone in my "lack of ambition".

    That said, ASingaporeanSon is right to point out that the biggest challenge is "whether you can live with yourself from this point".

    E.g. I just had a discussion with my husband last night about my observations of how/why some immigrants/refugees have difficulty fitting -- mainly they come with a specific ideas in mind about how they want their new life to be, and therefore are unwilling to make the interim adjustments to get themselves out of the current reality of being stuck in a rut. Sometimes it can take years (even a decade or more) of "failure to fit" before compromises are made. I notice that trend more amongst people who come from previously middle-class/rich families and/or socially-stratified environments where they are not willing take on "low-status" jobs to tie-them through to until they find better options. They hear of stories of immigrants who landed years/decades ago, who find professional jobs almost immediately and set that up as their expectations; not recognizing that the economy has changed greatly since and while not impossible, such situations are no longer the norm.

    The other thing is, once you tell people that you plan to migrate, the culture in Singapore (at least during my time) is that some will call you traitors, some will mock you that you cannot make it in Singapore that's why you're going to a "softer" country, and yet others will plead with you to "bring me along", etc. How you deal with it is up to you.

    Once you make up your mind to move, being mid-30's isn't the issue. I started my intensive research on emigration in my mid-30's. Strategizing a plan (and various back-up plans) and persistence in moving on in your plan is the main crux to your success. I started my nursing conversion training in my late-30's, landed in Canada by my 40's.

    As my aim was simply to get out of Singapore into a more equitable, less-materialistic society, I had various back-up plans from cashing out all my assets to pay for overseas studies in early childcare (I figured it would be easier to get my certification recognized and a job if I was already in my targeted country), being a live-in caregiver/maid (known in Canada as Au Pair back then), picking up electrician and/or plumber skills at ITE to apply to be a tradie/blue-collar-worker in Aussie, being a farm-hand in NZ -- the possibilities are as wide as your mind can get creative.

    Good luck on your journey. "The cowards never started. The weak died on the way. Only the strong arrived. They were the pioneers." -- About Schmidt

    Cheers, WD.

  2. If the thought of breaking out has arisen, pay close attention to it. As you are aware time is passing; the thought may grow stronger or weaker; in both cases if you don't act you will always wonder "what if" for the rest of your life.
    As both asingaporeanson and winkingdoll pointed out it's pretty much up to you REALLY. If you go through all the loops and hoops and finally get out of sg, you would have closed that chapter and begin a new one wherever you end up in. And along the way you get to know yourself and hopefully for the better. Enjoy the journey.

  3. Hi Confused One,

    probably you have come across Nix's post.

    probably you are currently in my shoes. i'm still waiting for my bank accounts to be "armed", and it takes quite some time to reach "fly" mode, and execute one of my options. It's been 2 years since i wrote to Nix, 1 more year to "fly barely", or 2 years to reach "fly comfortably".

    Is pre-school your only option in mind? TAFE and local degrees are options too, but you will need to burn your entire life savings (hopefully not). Only you can decide if such expense is worthwhile.

    - Mr N