Thursday, 6 June 2013

A response to comments on about emigration

One of my favourite bloggers LIFT once commented about the poor quality of online forum discussions and said that he prefers blogging to forum participation as a result.

I guess old habits die hard. I have been a member of MyCarForum (MCF) for close to eight years and written over 7600 posts to date. While I generally agree with LIFT's observations, I have also observed that certain topics tend to attract fewer idiots. Topics such as this.

Since A and I are trying to migrate Down Under, I decided to share our process with the MCF community. This post is to address some of the comments I received.

Disclaimer: This is NOT a name-and-shame session. In fact, I have intentionally left out post timing and forum nicknames out of the screenshots, even though I feel these are all valid viewpoints. MCF is a public forum and I see no issue in sharing these views here given that there is no objectionable or racially/religiously offensive content. Nevertheless, should anyone insist on having their MCF posts removed from my blog, drop a comment below or PM me on MCF and we can discuss further (our blog comments are moderated and will not appear by default)

I have broadly grouped the forum responses by topic:

Why Australia and not New Zealand?

New Zealand is a far prettier place, and whatever I saw of Australia on my six or so trips there can't hold a candle to the average scenery I saw in New Zealand when I was 12. Too bad I don't have any of the photos from that trip. In any case, I believe I am a much better photographer now than my dad and myself were back in those days, so photo comparisons wouldn't do NZ any justice.
I've been to Tasmania, The Great Ocean Road and the Grampians. So I think I know what I am talking about. I've also been to Perth, Gold Coast, Albany, Fremantle and Melbourne. As well as the towns/cities dotting the coast between Perth and Albany - Mandurah is one example which I remember. I don't think anyone will dare to disagree that NZ trumps Oz in terms of natural beauty, and it is indeed a factor which I considered, as a keen photographer and a self-confessed visual person.
It's all flat and brown on the landward side of the Great Ocean Road...
Photo by S

So why Australia?
  1. A has relatives there
  2. We have friends there
  3. Australia has better opportunities for Scuba Diving.
  4. Our perception that Oz is more a more "complete" country.
  5. Our perception that the people in Oz are more tolerant.
  6. It is nearer to Singapore (but from Melbourne where we are headed, not by that much...)
  7. A sense of familiarity from our numerous trips there. Offhand, I can't remember how many trips A has made, but quite a few herself, too.
I will be the first to admit that reasons 4 to 7 are not the 'best' of reasons, but they factored into our overall planning process. I think 1 and 2 are pretty self-explanatory. #1 alone could tip the balance if those relatives were in New Zealand instead of Oz.

Now imagine a Great White, instead of this Black Marlin on a fishing line. Mmmm..
Photo by S

Have you lived overseas before? Could it be just a "grass is greener" mentality?

The short answer is "No" and "Yes", respectively. The longest I have ever lived overseas was perhaps three months, when I was three, in New Zealand. Back then, my dad had made a failed attempt to migrate there. He didn't have much savings and my parents had decided that my mum would stay home to look after me. It was quite frankly, a recipe for failure, even though I fully salute his tenacity and willingness to put so much on the line for a shot at a better life for the family.

Obviously, I can't remember much from those days. So it had little bearing on our choice between NZ or Oz, or even to migrate at all. It's just some mostly irrelevant background information. I hope you aren't too bored by it.

The thing is - as far as I can remember - my dad has nothing but aversion to migration. His responses to my desire to migrate have been nothing short of discouraging.

"Find me a better place than this [Singapore]!" he practically shouted.

He too, used the "grass is greener on the other side" line on me, more times than I can remember. His criticism of my decision was much harsher (heck, I can't even call anything said on MCF "criticism"), and he had genuine concern for our well-being and future.

So, these forumers have a point. My short, positive experiences in Australia could have led to a clouded fairy-tale impression of the place. That's a definite possibility.

Having recognised this, and being a critic of the mindset of "denial" I see so often in the people I know, I made it a point to find out more about what life would be like in Australia. I sought opinions of those who live(d) there, and those who study(ied) there as well. I did a lot of reading from the internet too. It's definitely not a bed of roses, as forumers have pointed out in my next section.

The best answer I have to this is: We know it ain't perfect, but we are gonna try to make it work. Wish us luck!

It's not going to be a bed of roses

Don't things just keep sounding worse? First, people question if it's a good idea, then others gave sound arguments why it could be a bad idea. Ok, that's slightly out of context. They never said that it would be bad for anyone in particular. They just pointed out factual drawbacks of Australia which we already are privy to, given our extensive readings.

However, to anyone keen on migration who hasn't already heard of these, it's just the tip of the iceberg. I have a Singaporean friend there who has given me a long list of which suburbs in Melbourne to avoid buying or renting property - crime rates and drug abuse mean that the chances of losing one's car and wallet are unacceptably high for those of us used to Singapore's "low" crime rates.

I plan to take his advice as gospel. Thankfully, he has also given me a (much shorter) list of which suburbs are desirable. I guess that will make house hunting over there easier...

Home loan interest rates are another huge buggeration. I won't go into detailed figures here, but the sale of our HDB isn't going to completely cover the cost of a one to two-bedroom house over there. Car-wise, I expect to be able to afford a used Ford Falcon XR6 Turbo in full cash, but oh boy, the home will be a real pain in the ass.

The contrast is even starker, considering our Singaporean mindset of being able to "use CPF" to pay for our home loans here, creating an illusion of "no cash outlay". In addition, our flat in Singapore has been fully paid for.
This signified the end of our HDB installments...
But to put things in perspective, being able to cash out does give us an edge to beat the ridiculous interest rates Down Under. If we can keep the home loan amount to under AUD 150k, I'm guessing that things will be reasonably comfortable down there.

I fully agree that the decision to migrate should not be based solely on financial factors. In fact, it should be far more comfortable for A and I to live in Singapore and draw our respective modest salaries for the next 20 years, before taking whatever retirement benefits (if any) or savings and starting a small business to see us through our golden years. Better yet,  retire in a neighbouring SEAsian country where the cost of living is lower.

But we have made the decision and are willing to make sacrifices to try to find the lifestyle that we want. Indeed emigration not for everyone, and some people will simply find _____ (insert country of choice) not cut out for them. I even believe from the bottom of my heart that for some people (including many whiners in Singapore), Singapore could indeed be the best country in the world to be in!

Pros and cons

Actually, I don't have much to add on this. The thing to remember is "different strokes for different folks". Some Singaporeans may be hoping to live in the country with the world's highest population density, while others may find Melbourne disgustingly overcrowded, let alone Singapore. I notice the former class of people tend to be isolated from the reality of life in Singapore, i.e., their mode of transport, working time and location gel well with where they stay, to give them the illusion that Singapore is less crowded than it feels for the rest of us. And really, I can't blame them for it.

However, I would like to invite whoever thinks that Singapore isn't overcrowded to take the MRT somewhere meaningful at peak hour. Jurong East Interchange Northbound is a good place to start for the evening peak. If anything, do it just for the rubba rubba experience!
It really feels like this, minus the music, alcohol, and good looking people
What gives ME the entitlement to migrate?

 This is a classic example (in green) of unproductive comments in local forums. But I like the response from someone else.

To the person who thinks that anyone in Singapore feels "entitled to migrate to other people's country", I believe it isn't the case at all. Especially once one begins the migration process. It's grueling and humbling, and the sad fact of life is, not all who want to can make the cut. If anything, some Singaporeans may have a sense of entitlement over just about anything and are disgustingly presumptuous. But I don't think I belong in that category. Honestly =D

I think such a tough process makes us keen to really make the effort to integrate. Migrating to Australia isn't cheap (we estimate SGD5k total, without use of agent, and without guaranteed results!!). I am not sure how difficult or easy it is to get a Singapore PR for those from China or India, but I get the impression that our authorities are not nearly as fussy as Australian Immigration.

Easy come, easy go. Singapore's approach draws all sorts, while Australia carefully filters those who are just trying their luck, or simply trying to fleece the system.

What do you guys think? Please feel free to leave constructive comments below. All comments will be screened, and Anonymous Comments are currently enabled to stimulate discussion.

- S


  1. 5.Our perception that the people in Oz are more tolerant.

    This can be a bit of a mixed bag. I have many Kiwi friends who have gone over to Australia to look for work (a mixture of white Kiwis and Kiwi Asians), and although some of them haven't encountered any (or much) racism, a few of them have said that Australians are incredibly racist. Interestingly enough, both my white and Asian friends have commented on the racism, so maybe they're just racist to foreigners in general, regardless of colour. Or maybe they just dislike Kiwis!

    Why I would choose Oz over NZ - higher wages. I'm not convinced it's a better LIFE than here in NZ (could well be, but I don't know. Life is pretty good here!)but definitely higher wages. My friends there are earning at least 25% more than they were earning here in NZ, in the same line of work. Many of them have gone over there with the intention of working for two or three years, saving for a home deposit and then coming back to Auckland to hopefully buy a house. House prices in Auckland are ridiculous at the moment, as all and sundry are able to buy property, and it's pretty much impossible for the average Kiwi to keep up with rich Chinese property investors, who often snap houses up at auction, sight unseen. So if you want to buy a house in Auckland in a suburb where you're not likely to get stabbed or attacked, you need to be earning an above-average income. Sydney is also in the same boat, and possibly Melbourne too, although not too sure to what extent.

    Honestly, though, there is no perfect country. Australia is often seen as the land of milk and honey, but, as you've said, the economy is on the downturn, and that milk could well be souring. But I've also had friends who have easily found great jobs, so it might just be a matter of luck. But in the end, life is what you make it, and you guys seem like sensible, down to earth people, so I'm sure you'll be just fine. Good luck.

    1. Hi Jabber,

      Our "perception" is just that. That's why I never even bothered to justify or elaborate. Among 'our' three countries, I have now heard everything. Believe it or not, I have been told that Singaporeans are more racist than New Zealanders or Aussies! (Limpeh is Foreign Talent does a great post on racism in Singapore).

      Thanks for your insights into NZ property, that was trumpeted in our Shit Times too, no surprise. Bad news about Down Under gets good coverage by the local crap media. I'm not saying it's not true, but we do know their agenda. Of course I also verify with other sources (readers like yourself are one!) and sometimes the news is indeed unsettling.

      I agree fully that there's no perfect place.. I think that those who migrate then move back might be those who expect perfection and got disappointed. Though I might have been a bit presumptuous to assume that.

      We appreciate your encouraging and insightful comments on our blog! :)

  2. I was in MCF too since late 2005 but became inactive in early 2007.

  3. I am also in the process of migrating to Vic, Australia. Wondering which neighbourhood is safer. Will you be able to share?

  4. You mentioned that your friend gave you a list of suburbs to avoid, and those which were desirable. Would you be so kind as to share that information? It would be really helpful, as we are looking at prospective places to rent/settle down in. Thanks in advance! Hope you're doing well in Melbourne. ;)

    1. I was once given a guide, go to and sort by price. I would like to direct you to the priciest suburbs if you want something 'desirable'.

      We did the opposite :)

      Suburbs can be a contentious issue, much like choice of religion, operating system, choice of cars. I tend to go against the grain so I'm not too certain I can offer any useful advise to you.