Millennial Lifestyle

How Green Is The Grass On The Other Side? 4 Singaporeans Share The Realities Of Living Abroad

Realities of Working Abroad

If you haven’t heard of it before, you should have by now. Ever since Crazy Rich Asians hit the cinemas, Singapore being one of the world’s richest countries has yet again become a hot topic.

Thanks to the Hollywood film, Singapore is a country full of sprawling mansions and wealthy locals who hold over-the-top parties on a regular basis. But we know that this is merely entertainment. Most Singaporeans would have ended up leaving the theatre amused by that depiction while secretly crying inside – if only we were all that wealthy.

The truth is far from that. We’re exactly what Nas said in his video, Crazy Poor Asians: we just get by.

However, when you put GST increase, transport fare hikes, increase cost of utilities and inflation into the picture along with a myriad of other social issues, you get disgruntled average Singaporeans who will naturally wonder about the possibility of better prospects elsewhere.                       

“The Grass Is Greener On The Other Side”

For many millennials, studying or working overseas are opportunities we wish to experience at least once in our life. Cold weather, a slower pace of life, the freedom, and the impression of a generally better employment package are things we associate with life abroad. Also, who can pass up on the chance to travel and explore a bit of the world under the guise of study or work?

In fact, a study released in July where 1000 Singaporean citizens and PRs were surveyed, seven in 10 (69%) want to work remotely to travel the world, and 85% of them would like to live abroad for some time. Unsurprising, considering how many wanderlusters you will find just by browsing through Instagram profiles.

 

Realities of Working Abroad

Image from TransferWise’s study results

The study done by online money transfer service Transferwise also covered the concerns Singaporeans have about living abroad, with 56% surveyed envious about other Singaporeans ability to move out of the country.

Realities of Working Abroad

Image from TransferWise’s study results
69% want opportunity to work remotely to travel the world
74% of these are younger Singaporeans – 15 to 34-year-olds

We dream of greener pastures, of a better life and better prospects outside of Singapore, but is it really rainbow and butterflies as we envision?

To better understand the realities of living abroad, we spoke to four Singaporeans who have actually gone through it themselves.

How Green Is The Grass On The Other Side?

1. Farhan – 3.5 Years In Thailand

After working in Thailand for 3.5 years as a project engineer, Farhan decided to quit and move back to Singapore following the end of his project.

Realities of Working Abroad

Farhan on his job in Thailand

What are the perks of living abroad?

The freedom! I enjoyed living independently.

And the downsides?

It gets pretty lonely. I really missed having my family and friends around.

Living independently also meant that there wasn’t anyone to help or care for me when I fell sick. There was once I was down with severe food poisoning and I felt so weak. I couldn’t visit the clinic or consult the doctor because of the language barrier. It was a working day so I couldn’t get my colleagues to help me with translation either. I ended up having to deal with it by myself by relying on off-the-counter medications

In terms of the living environment, I was living and working at a pretty rural area. The pace of life there is slower and definitely more laid-back than in Singapore. There’s also not much to do there except for the weekend night markets.

Realities of Working Abroad

Farhan on his job in Thailand

I didn’t feel as safe there as I do in Singapore. For example, walking alone late at night without feeling endangered there was a luxury.

What are some important factors that people should consider before moving abroad?

Pick up the language used by the locals. You need to learn beyond basic conversational skills if you’re going somewhere where the main language used there isn’t familiar to you. Moving to a new place means having to learn, accept, and adapt to the new environment, and communication is key to this.

Technology like Google Translate helps but it is not 100% reliable as the translations are not always accurate, and what if you experience poor internet connection? You can’t always depend on technology.

Live here or live abroad?

I am perfectly comfortable and happy where I am in Singapore. It’s a safe and efficient country, and my family and friends are all here so I don’t see a point of migrating.

2. RT – 3 years in UK

RT just came back from her completing her degree in the UK.

What are the perks of living abroad?

Life is a lot quieter, more chill, and university life in the UK isn’t as intense as local universities – I would imagine. I also really liked the freedom that came with not living with my parents, the ability to go back anytime and not having to worry about reporting to anyone.

And the downsides?

Being away from my parents also meant that Mum wasn’t around to help me solve my problems anymore. I learnt to appreciate the basic things in Singapore like fast internet speeds, convenient public transport and food.

What are some important factors that people should consider before moving abroad?

It is all the little things you don’t think about until you’re there. You have to be mentally ready to miss out on all the important events back at home, like gatherings or not being able to watch your baby relative grow up. Or the internet speed: The average internet speed in the UK is 16.5mbps, while it’s 180mbps in Singapore. Then there’s culture, safety and security.

Live here or live abroad?

I have thought about migrating because of the high costs of living in Singapore. I feel like we’ve stagnated in growth as a country while everything is becoming increasingly expensive. I may be wrong but at least that’s my general feeling about life in Singapore.

For now, I’m staying here as I just came back from UK and do want to spend time with my family.

3. C – 4 years in UK

C also recently came back after completing his degree in the UK, where he spent one year in London and three years in Manchester.

What are the perks of living abroad?

The best part about living abroad is getting to experience cold most of the year, at least for where I lived at.

Realities of Working Abroad

C at Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh

One thing I noticed and appreciate is how open-minded the people in UK are and how much freedom of speech they have there.

I also learnt to appreciate Singapore more. I realise that Singaporeans complain too much and that people should really head out and see the reality of living abroad themselves.

And the downsides?

The nightlife there sucks. I’m not even talking about parties or drinks, but I wouldn’t even be able to find any food if I just wanted to have supper at night. In Singapore, you can easily get prata at night or anything else from the many 24-hour or late night food places.

The services there are slow too. The service staff there always seem to be full of excuses and are a lot less responsible than in Singapore.

There are many other obvious differences if you compare life there to Singapore: The standard of living, environment, the people and culture, and more. But the paced of life life there is a little too slow for me. I love the fast-paced and competitive nature in Singapore

What are some important factors that people should consider before moving abroad?

The population in the area you are living at. It can get pretty dangerous and overwhelming. Consider the climate too.

Live here or live abroad?

There are certain decisions made by our ruling parties that I don’t agree with and I have thought of migrating, but I don’t think I ever will because having experienced the slower pace of life, I realise I still prefer the hustle and bustle here in Singapore. It keeps my fire burning.

4. Jasmin – Migrated to Perth 11 years ago

Jasmin moved to Perth, Western Australia in 2002 to pursue her dream of becoming a veterinarian. She stayed there permanently after graduating in 2007.

What are the perks of living abroad?

Life in Perth is pretty slow-paced and relaxed compared to Singapore. The people here are more interested in enjoying life in the present than slogging away or planning for the future. Most people are friendly and strangers would often strike up conversations with you.

And the downsides?

Singapore is a lot more convenient than Perth in so many ways, like public transportation, shopping, and getting food.

The biggest challenge is being so far away from my friends and family, especially my parents. It’s hard to keep up with friendships and relationships, especially when life gets busy.

Realities of Working Abroad

Image from TransferWise’s study results
More than half surveyed will not migrate because their loved ones are in Singapore

There isn’t really a best or worst thing of migrating, it is just a decision you make and then it becomes your norm.

What are some important factors that people should consider before moving abroad?

Check if you are able to carve out a career in your chosen field in that particular country. Sometimes your profession may not necessarily be in demand. You don’t want to be caught in a struggle to find work after you move.

Why did you choose to migrate?

I wouldn’t say that I migrated because I think Australia is better or that I prefer Australia. Singapore is a wonderful place to live and so is Perth. It just so happens that Perth is home for me right now.

To Migrate Or Not To Migrate

As much as we love to think that life overseas is all beautiful and perfect, that isn’t always the case. Just like the many issues we face in our life in Singapore, there are bound to be challenges wherever else you go. 

Instead of living in a dream of that Great Migration, know what you are in for first. Weigh the pros and cons for yourself, and if you do find someone else more perfect for you, good for you. (Share it with us)

Also read: A Millennial’s Reply To Minister Ng’s Open Letter: “Nobody Owes Us A Living”.

(Header Photo by Slava Bowman on Unsplash)

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