It’s National Day, the time of the year to be proudly Singaporean. But have you ever (or, do you) wanted to leave Singapore for good? Go to another country where there isn’t so much stress and lower cost of living etc.
Well, I have a confession to make on National Day: I wasn’t always so patriotic as I am now. Hell, I actually managed to get an Australian PR. So why I am still here in sunny Singapore? Here’s my story:
Like many of you, I grew up reciting the Pledge and National Anthem every morning in school. I took National Education and Social Studies subjects and began to appreciate Racial Harmony at a young age, seeing a melting pot of cultures converge every year on February 15th.
You could say I was a success of the government’s education policies (or brain-washing propaganda, as some of you narrow-minded folks may call it), swelling with pride every year on National Day or in the company of overseas visitors.
Up until I started having Physics Tuition at Sec 3.
Every week, aside from teaching Physics of course, my Physics tutor would complain about the government’s rulings and methods. Now, I’m not a very big fan of going to jail for blogging, so I’ll stop here. But suffice to say, my tutor showed me the other side of the coin.
Soon, I began to see his argument with high COEs, ERP, tight media policies etc. The anti-PAP sentiment was exacerbated by compulsory National Service, two years of my glorious youth, shoved into a obscure location in Singapore, learning skills of (hopefully) zero practicality.
So when I was given the choice to go to Australia for university after army, I left Singapore without a second thought. I fell in love of Melbourne within my first year. The weather, the friendly people, the brunches and cafes, the lifestyle. What’s not to love?
Given my accounting major at university, I applied for and was granted my Australia Permanent Residency after graduation. I found an admin job at Commonwealth Bank (one of the Big 4 banks in Australia), where I thought I could kickstart my career. Even bought myself a AUD20,000 Toyota Corolla. I was finally doing it, leaving Singapore for good.
But soon, cracks were appearing.
- I was earning AUD3,600/mth, but after taxes I could only take home AUD3,000. Yes, that’s about 16.67%, where you need to earn SGD16,000/mth to hit that tax bracket.
- Rental, phone, internet and utilities was nearly $2,000/mth, leaving $1,000 for food and personal expenses. Wait, did I hear $8 fried rice?
- Sure the stress was lesser and you go home at 5.30pm everyday, but it felt like my career was going nowhere. I studied for a Bachelor’s Degree, for this?
- Public transport was appalling, peak hour trains arriving once every 10 minutes, assuming they arrive.
- I was starting to miss my family and friends. When we graduated, I was the few who stayed in Melbourne.
- My skin colour is yellow.
If I went back to Singapore, I could save money on the rent (but lose out on the freedom, hi Pa and Ma, I know you read my blog). I could be surrounded by friends and family again, speak in my fluent Singlish, walk the streets at night not having to look over my shoulder, have an equal footing in the corporate world, my peak hour trains would arrive once every 3 minutes, pay 3.5% tax for $3k/mth, and the best of all, I could have my chicken rice. And ba chor mee. And nasi lemak. And char kway teow. And ba kut teh. And Teochew steamed fish. And roti prata. And laksa. And claypot rice.
What I’m trying to say is, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. It’s true: You don’t know what you’ve got, until it’s gone. I left Singapore, not knowing how much I took it for granted. Now that I’m back, there’re so many small things that I appreciate now. I’ve been on the other side, and not every country is a bed of roses, Singapore included.
The irony is that being away made me realise what home really means to me.
Happy Birthday, Singapore.