The Hardest Thing For a Singaporean When We Move

I have met so many newly arrived Singaporeans over these 3.5 years and this is what I found out: Singaporeans do not travel well.

No, I do not mean we are not well traveled. We hold the 6th most powerful passport in terms of traveling freedom. We are not top but it is okay. Our red passport still grants us free access to 167 countries. Coupled with the fact we have a strong sing dollar, Singaporeans must be one of the most well traveled nationalities. We will assume since Singaporeans are so well traveled, we will be a bunch who will travel well and settle fast. Unfortunately that is far from the truth, at least from the way my data is skewing towards. I'll come to that but allow me to indulge in my usual dose of grandfather story first.

Over the weekend, I helped a young Singaporean couple move from their rental place to their permanent home which they bought a month ago. I arrived at their place at 0830 hrs, 2 hours before our appointed time. I have moved enough houses for people here to understand the benefits of starting early when it comes to things like that. Since I went early, the couple wasn't too ready to move as expected. The lady wasn't feeling too well, yet she continued her packing through clouds of dust with a quiet smile. The gentleman wore an insane grin on his face almost through the entire day and understandably so because it was his "Fuck yeah" moment. They were moving into their own house, on a freehold land and kissing their landlord goodbye.

During the move, I met an older Singaporean who came and give the Singaporean couple a helping hand. His name is Daniel. We didn't speak much because we had work to do but a few sentences with Daniel was enough to tell me what kind of person he was. I am a fine reader of men, did I ever tell you this? Daniel told me during a brief private moment that when he first met the gentleman, he was snooping all around the neighbourhood, asking the local fast-food restaurants to give him a job. He shared with me what he told thought of the then newly arrived, "If this chap is willing to start from the bottom, I do not have to worry about him. He'll survive, easily." Daniel was right. 

The couple reached a significant milestone in their 11th month in Perth. They didn't come with that much money (about $10k if I remember correctly). After spending $3-4k on two used cars and paying a deposit plus a couple of weeks' rental in advance, they were left with an uncomfortably low amount of money that, in the lady's own words "wouldn't last us 6 months." Then they found their jobs. By their 11th month, they moved into their home (with the help of the bank of course) and the rest is history. Congratulations to lady and gentleman.

What I wanted to emphasize is that their tale is not a norm but a rarity. I've heard that some Singaporeans still looking for their first jobs at their 11th months in Australia. Most barely settle down to a proper routine at that stage. Is that purely down to luck or is there more to it?

Mind you, I'm not trying to portray this as a race. No doubt, this will be misunderstood by Singaporeans planning to move to Australia in the near future. This will probably trigger the competitive streak in them to achieve as many things as they can in the shortest possible time when they arrive. Perhaps I am used to the slower pace of life here by now, such a mentality and the obnoxious behavior that follows annoys me to no end. Having said that, there is nothing wrong in doing so. Everyone is free to do what they want. Besides, it provides me comic relief on the dark because I know that after they zerg-rushed everything that they could, they will be left with nothing to do for months to come. The jobs will not come, neither will the house (unless the financially backed). Months of limbo will await, then panic and depression follows.

Believe me, I have heard at least 3 accounts from someone who personally met some Singaporeans who told them they knew they would make it in Australia because "if Nix could, I could." They are not wrong. If a below average "3rd class" Singaporean with neither the looks, talent nor the ability to speak proper English could survive 3.5 years in Australia, so could anyone of you~! Especially those who "made Australia their playgrounds for decades." I take that as a compliment but allow me to remind you guys what I did in my first 12 months. 

  • I rented a room for $120 a week for an entire year
  • I spent nothing on furniture for the first year
  • I spent nothing on clothes in my 3.5 years here
  • I got my child car seat and baby cot free from Gumtree
  • My daughter's clothes and toys are hand-me-downs and gifts from kind friends and family
  • My first car cost me $2.5k because I was too noob to buy one cheaper. My current car is $1,450.
  • I cook my own food 95% of the time, still do and love it.
  • I squeezed into a rental room with my wife, new born baby and mother-in-law for a month.
  • Before you think you can do what I did, you may want to stop to think if you can beat that

The list is not exhaustive and I know that is nothing to be proud of. In fact, you can forward this to all your friends declaring, "See, go Australia so cham, stay in Singapore better lah!" and so be it. When I look back, I regretted nothing and believe me, I have solid grand reasons of feeling so. That will be stories for another day. Grandfather is tired now, no more story telling.

To conclude, the reason why many Singaporeans do not travel well is because we are unable to leave our "face" behind. That includes our over inflated pride, which many wrongly misplaced as dignity. It includes our small mindedness, our nitpicking (yim zhim) and showing off tendencies. Last but not least, our "face" package also includes the reluctance to keep an open mind, to let go of old mentalities, habits and beliefs. From my unqualified biased data based on personal observation of a sizable Singaporean community here, the amount of "face" we bring along is inversely proportionate to the rate of settling down, or not at all.

You are free to test my principle against anyone you know who moved to Australia, including those who returned to Singapore. I'll point you to another Singaporean couple [link] who manged a similar feat of a quick settling down. The couple who called their writings (all perfect Raffles-standard English) "neurotic ramblings" are settled down well within their first year and haven't look back since. The man of the blog, whom I like to address as "Captain S" regularly shows off his dirty fingers proudly on my Facebook feeds. After months of training and rigging through nasty employers, he is a fully trained automobile mechanic today with a good employer.


  1. Very informative. Thanks for sharing.

  2. anybody can do things with enough money, but u managed with so little. this makes u superior to most people, in my book.

  3. Agree with disorder.

    We didn't migrate to suffer and we had relatively comfortable lives in sg. couldn't imagine such a huge compromise to our standard of living like you endured.

    Hats off to you!

    Btw any update as to Goldilocks' fate?

    - S

  4. I would have to say nix did well, and thats the way to go. becos migration does requires deep pockets, knowing how n when to plug leaks in your wallets and readjust urself with reality is the only way to success.

  5. To add to the above, I guess any newcomers (esp to Perth) need only to ask for help. Nix goes above and beyond to provide assistance, and there also a whole host of other ex-MY/SG Perthians willing to help where we can. Just need to voice out through the FB group so that those who can, will step up. (o)

  6. Face is very asian. And it's useless. Even the nobodies want to save face to have face. Many think they have a very high standard of living here because they have not hit retrenchment and retirement. I know people who did. They did not survive well, simply because they can't put away money at all after paying so much loan. And God help you if you fall sick when old.

  7. There are two ways of getting home; and one of them is to stay there. The other is to walk round the whole world till we come back to the same place. Perhaps we belong to our country of birth more than we would like to... We realize it when the quest for better places to live in gets tiresome and fruitless.