I have never thought about leaving Singapore to live elsewhere in the world, until I was forced to make the move in 2015.
It was the time when The Real Singapore writers were persecuted, and I believed at that time, I would be prosecuted with false charges by the Singapore police. I applied for an aussie graduate visa and took the first flight out to Australia, right after I was questioned by the Special Investigation Section at Cantonment police headquarters. It was a cautious move, since the Singapore authorities can never be trusted.
I heaped a huge relief when I cleared Australian customs, and did not tell the Singapore police investigator about my whereabout until I landed in Australia. I could tell he sort of gave up in our email exchange when I said I would not be returning. My emigration was accidental, and looking back at it now, it was one of the best decisions I ever made.
Back then, I was thinking of staying in Australia until the two TRS editors were convicted, but a few months later after working in Australia, I realised I did not want to return.
Driving was a new experience and I enjoyed long road trips with my wife. Both of us did not want to return to Singapore with all the free time we have after work. Back in Singapore we were clocking 12 hours a day for six days and barely had any vacation. 7 days annual leaves in Singapore was restrictive, we could not go anywhere other than short trips to Bangkok. What good is the red passport when you are too poor to go anywhere lol, I always have a good laugh when I read news about Singapore newspapers boasting about having the “best passport in the world” – we Singaporeans are too poor to go anywhere hahahah. Singapore publish this “news” every year without fail lol.
If you love driving, you won’t want to be in a land-locked island country where the maximum limit is only 80. Not withstanding the fact you will pay until you bleed dry in Singapore. Australia is an absolute paradise for hobby drivers. Cheap cars, cheap fuel and live wallpaper-like sceneries while you cruise along at 100km/hr for hours on highways. There are actually practical mechanical reasons why I would buy a BMW over a Toyota.
In Australia, we went for month-long holidays in Japan every year (oh we love Japan so much I even speak Japanese now) and we had more money to spare. Japan taught me that the world is so big, and even Japan itself has more to offer than you think. I have US, China and England on my list next if I grew tired with Japan – which I doubt I would ever be.
Whenever I travel and fly for hours staring into the clouds, terrains and stars through the plane’s window, I always think to myself the world is so… big. THE WORLD IS SO VAST AND BOUNTIFUL, I AM HAPPY TO BE ALIVE AND I LOVE MY PARENTS FOR GIVING BIRTH TO ME!
All in all, our only regret was that we did not emigrate earlier.
A few years later, we got our PR and today we are proud Aussie citizens. Yes, “proud” is a choice word here. The skeptical personality of myself usually have little fixation for things like sense of belonging or even the term “family”, but the only description to my feelings at the citizenship ceremony was nothing less than proud.
I still keep my sg citizenship for investment purpose, by moving all my CPF funds to Special Account to maximise interest rate returns. Holding Singapore citizenship without its military obligations is fantastic – oh I did complete my conscription and attended one reservist training.
It is ironic to know that in Singapore, locals like myself were given second-class treatment compared to “foreign talents” in my own country. Over here in Australia, I became a foreign talent. However, unlike many “foreign talents” in Singapore (point to note, their salaries are no indication they are talented. poignantly speaking, just cheap labour with degrees), I made effort to integrate with the Australian community. I was often told that I was an Aussie Chinese many times, and nobody knew which country was I from. There was once an ex-colleague said he has worked in Singapore and no Singaporeans speak like me. Well, I guess I am indeed assimilated.
Being a foreign talent in Australia is very different from being one in Singapore. You literally have to prove yourself with qualifications, presentation skills and eloquence in Australia. The moment your interviewer asked you to repeat yourself, or you asking them to repeat a question, it is over because local employers are concerned about communication when they hire a foreigner. In Singapore, I used to work with foreigners who could barely string together a cohesive expression in English or write a decently-formatted email.
Of course, with an Aussie passport today, I no longer have this issue. It is so much easier to get a job being a citizen here, people won’t ever ask “where are you from” once you’d written “Australian citizen” in the resume.
The coronavirus pandemic has devastated economies, but Australia is having it better than most countries. The unemployment payout is thankfully plentiful, and nothing beats being a full-time father to my daughter. I used to worry that I have no time or no money for my children, ah, but this coronavirus flipped the whole assumption around.
All assumptions can indeed be flipped with the right conditions.