Thursday, October 9, 2008

6 reasons why Singaporeans leave Singapore - part 1 of 2

Over the course of my stay in London, I had the opportunity to meet up with some fellow Singaporeans who have decided to relocate to the UK. I realized, after speaking at length with them, that there are a couple of common reasons why Singaporeans leave Singapore. Let's cut the chase and here are the top 6 reasons, which will be presented in two separate posts.

1. Space

Singapore HDB flats

This is the most common reason given by Singaporeans below their 30s. Singapore, an island state of merely 700 square kilometers, is home to over 4.8 million souls. That's over 6,800 people crammed in a single square kilometer. In comparison, New Zealand has got 4.2 million people spread over 268,680 square kilometer (15 people per square kilometer).

Even though Singapore has got a reputation to be a 'garden city', the greenery is simply not enough go around when all you see are crowds of people everywhere you go. Thinking of bringing your Porsche out for a spin? You wouldn't even hit 100 km/hr before hitting another traffic light. Likewise, those longing for open spaces will have to get their fix elsewhere.

2. Stress

Singapore Stress

The typical work day in Singapore is extremely fast paced. Overtime is almost mandatory and 9am - 6pm work is non existence unless you are working in certain service sector but even then, its getting increasing rare. As a result, Singaporeans tend to speak and walk faster, which contributes to the stress.

There is also this chase for material wealth, which is common in most metropolitan society. A while back, there was this talk about 5 Cs - Car, Credit cards, Condominium, Country club membership and Cash. Most families are 'double income' - both parents are working. A typical young couple is expected to have a kid (or two), own a flat, a car and employs a maid - all before they hit their 30s. In short, Singapore is not for those who prefer to 'take it easy'.

3. Education system

Singapore education

As Singapore is branding herself as an educational hub, many Singaporeans, having gone through what they consider to be a rigid system would prefer not to subject their children to the same ordeal and move abroad before their children hits school going age.

Although the primary and secondary education has gone through a much needed revamp and has seek to move away from rote learning, creativity is still generally not fostered. As a result, the Singaporean educational system is able to produce generally high averages but comparatively lesser peaks.

Read also...
6 reasons why Singaporeans leave Singapore - part 2 of 2
5 reasons why Singaporeans return to Singapore

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jcb loader said...

sure, why not!

Rudy said...

This is so true. I used to live in Singapore for a while and known many. They're all driven by wealth accumulation and social status. Very stressful life. Similar to Hong Kong.

Nonetheless, it's a beautiful city.

xiaocangshu said...

Last sem a friend on exchange from US asked me how I was going to spend my 1 week mid term break.

"Will probably be studying..." (Mid term tests are usually after the break.)

My friend said she was thinking of going overseas for a little while over the break.

siying said...

Hmm and this is not the case in say London?

simon said...

i guess its the same with malaysia and most other asian countries. the grass is always greener on the other side.

kyh said...

education system is quite the same all over asia. we value high achievers rather than creativity.

Dutchie said...

Personally I think there is a price to pay for a change of scenery or the greener pastures.

I hv gotten over the culture shock, I hv adapted to another way of life but I will never really be one of them here. It's a lonely existence when one lacks a warm social circle of friends/family.

A retired immigrant once quote : "Everyone for themselves n the State for us all" He was summing up his experience in NL. Heading back to his birthplace was not an option bec he would feel just as alienated there with the passing of time n change.

I can empathised with his sense of living in limbo.

Is it possible to re-root oneself in a different culture n make a success of it ? For those who made it, pls enlighten us with ur thoughts.

SheR. said...

Dutchie I empathise with you. I know that feeling. I have mates in London from S.Korea, Thailand and Japan who have spent over 7 years there. Returning home is never an option because they felt they no longer belong. But having lived in London for over 3 years, I realised that I can never be considered a Brit no matter how hard I tried. I'm always different. Same as my case here in croatia. So people like us are really stuck.. we lead a lonesome life. That's why we need to have friends who are just like us who can understand this.. loneliness. Well.. CK and Dutchie at least you are not alone in that situation! :)

Deb said...

Agree with point 2 and 3, but not so with 1. Never been squashed in HK? Manila? Shanghai? those are extremely crowded cities and I get claustrophic just standing on the street corner! To get out to zoom 300 km/h and go to heaven (or the other place) in a big hurry, wide open spaces are just a causeway away.

Another thing is, i m sometimes puzzled with singaporeans migrate to US, UK, Australia where cost of living is so high. V few folk ever consider settling down in the philippines. Not the big cities, I mean, the small towns. Ok, I have a soft spot for the Phils, but whenever I go there, I get this desire to buy a big house cheap, eat and shop cheap, and no stress. ok, maybe when the typhoons come. Hehe.

emzpie said...

i c,so better life in london?...

Gary Arndt said...

I heard this from several Singaporeans when I was there. I was sort of surprised given the standard of living in Singapore. While so many natives want to leave, even more Filipinos or Indonesians want to migrate there.

Makes you wonder what the country will look like in 20 years.

BK said...

The education system has always been an 'experiment' and the rigid system to produce general followers and highly skilled employees. This results in generally law abiding citizens (which in a way is considered a blessing as it gives Singapore its much needed stability). The rigid system however hampered enterprising spirit. It is good to see that they are changing the system.

Talking about housing, it just keeps getting smaller and the building are packed so close that maybe you can just jump into your neighbour's house through the windows. Not only that, the prices of flat are rising and in some specially designed units, they could be closed to a condominium's price; talk about priority of home ownership to the citizens.

In saying that, we have a few comments that spoke of the same situations in other asian cities. Unless we are talking about moving out of the cities, then there will be a big different in space. I sort of agree with Deb on Philippines; I had stayed in Philippines for about 1.5 years and most of the time in Davao city. Davao City is a bless area to be free from typhoon as it is shielded by the Mount Apo. Not only that, the place is also relative safe because of the strict mayor. And if one wants space, you can get a lot of place for a good price and at the same time you get lots more greeneries. When I was there, I did see a lot of foreigners buying lands and settling down.

Travelostic said...

Hey ! I spotted your web , about living abroad. You're studying in Uk right? Perfect ! Im going to be debating in school , about whether or not we should go abroad to study , or stay true to our country(mine's singapore). I would love to hear about your experience and how studying abroad can help you in anyway . Because im for going abroad , i would like to know some positive stuff. If you're interested in helping me , please leave a comment here :

You'd see one of my entries regarding my project . Below it , there is a 'comment' button . Please help me ! My prject is due monday . Thank you. And sure , i'd give you great big thank yous and credits for helping me out on my next entry . Thanks !

EastCoastLife said...

I want to leave too if I could. It's so stifling in Singapore. I have tried living in Gold Coast and Melbourne for a while but there is racism. And it's lonely.

No matter how bad the situation (seriously speaking, it's a good place to live and make money if you ignore the politics) is, it's still my homeland and I have a duty to protect it.

daria369 said...

Well, it sure doesn't sound like a place I would choose to live in... I prefer to see the trees and blooms and butterflies through every window of my home - but it doesn't really matter to me that much what the country is called...

Den Relojo said...

And these are also slightly the same reasons why we Filipnos would also leave the Philippines.

Dutchie said...

Sher, thanks for ur empathy :-)

ecl - at least u hv the option to go back to Sg. I had to surrender my Sg passport the moment I married my Dutchman. Is there a way to reversed it ? I would really like to hv a life there when I retire without being treated like a foreigner n paying thru the nose for a home, for example ?

C K said...

@jcb loader,
I got this lingering suspicion that you're here to drop your link. Oh well...

Well, I think that goes all the way back to the 19th century when Singapore was (and still is) the trading port for the region and people who settled on the island are immigrants who came from all over trying to eek out a living.

The same goes for HongKong I supposed.

Hey, have not been seeing you around for quite some time. Welcome back.

I think the mentality is somewhat different. I mean, if you were to be on an exchange in the States, I supposed you would want to travel during your school break.... wouldn't you? :)

Well, it's true to a certain aspect. However, to someone who come from a totally different societal context, I must say that it doesn't affect me that much when I'm in London (as compared to someone born and bred in London).

Oh speaking about the grass... the grass is really different in Europe. It's the species I supposed. Over here, people (me included) love to lie down on the grass whenever the sun is out. Hmm...

That'll depend on what you mean by 'high achievers'. I mean, some creative people become successful (and very rich) in their own right later in life. Would you consider them as high achievers?

Thanks for your comment. Have always appreciated your insight.

I guess that though I don't feel like I'm treated any worse (as compared to the next chap) over here in London, it's the different social context that we were brought up in that me feel different. That made it even difficult to hold a conversation I supposed.

However, I have not (yet) come to the stage whereby I feel awkward when I return to S'pore for short visits. I really hope that it wouldn't come to that.

Hey, have you ever considered returning to S'pore? Can I assume that you have family back there? I met a Singapore who studied in the UK and worked in London for awhile before returning to Singapore. Guess what? She stayed merely for a year before heading straight back to London... and that was 2 years back.

I guess, as Dutchie was saying, the longer you stay away the harder you'll find it to return. Kind of sad, isn't it?

You know what? I have never been to the Philipines before. Funny how I have considered it as a holiday destination. It's probably due to some unfavorable news wrt the Abu Sayef a couple of years back that got stuck in my mind.

Anyway, which city/town would you recommend for the first time visitor? Thanks in advance!

Well, depending on how you look at it. Hmm, you gave me some ideas for a post. :)

@Gary Arndt,
I guess that nothing comes free really. I would think that high living standards generally mean that the people work harder too. It doesn't help that most Asians would try to undercut each other in terms of pricing.

Singapore's future is looking a bit uncertain as the rest of the countries in the region catch up. With the lack of a hinterland, I, too, find it difficult to imagine how it would be like in a couple of decades' time.

Well, there are still restrictions to foreign ownership for HDB flats. However, it's quite different when it comes to private housing.

If I'm not wrong there have been some attempts to teach students entrepreneur skills. But I would venture to say that teachers are hardly the people to convey these lessons. Perhaps some tie-ups with the private sector would be more appropriate.

Like I mentioned earlier in my reply to Deb, I've never been to Philippines (much less Davao City). However, if what you said about the mayor is true, it sounds real good. Is there any political red tape over there?

Hmm, I'm not studying in UK and sorry about the delay in reply. Hope that you did well for your debate. :)

So what happened in Australia? Care to share with us? At times, I find that the difference in use of language (English in this case) can be misconstrued as racism. For one, Britons sometimes say - with a straight face,"He's rubbish!". I was quite taken aback when I first heard it. Back in Singapore, that would sound pretty offensive. My 2Cents' worth.

Well, no quarrels there. I agree that Singapore is a good place to earn a living - some say HK is even better. But as for living, it depends on what you're looking out for really. And cool it, no one says anything about the need to defend anything. :p

Hmm... if you have the means, you can get a mansion, which will of course give you trees, butterflies and all that stuff. Do you have around S$10 million to spare? If so, Singapore is the place for you!

@Den Relojo,
Really? I find it surprising given Philipines' size and pace of life.

Deb said...

Considering that there are 7100 islands in the Philippines, the so called dangerous Abu Sayaf are only in a corner of one island which can be easily avoided and I've never had a smell of them. CNN, CNA etc all repeatedly play up the terrorist threats in this region cos that's what they sell - News.

I've not been to Davao City but I would agree with BK abt it from what I've heard from friends who came from there. It's really sheltered from typhoons. :)

My frequent visits are to the central islands - Panay, Negros, Cebu, Bohol and Leyte, with idylic little towns with everything you need and more. For me, that equals huge aircon shopping malls. Heh. But seriously, it's safe, everybody speaks English, I go around on my own, land and houses are cheap by S'pore standards, and the dollar we earn stretch sooooo far when we go there!

Deb said...

@den relogo, Yes, I understand as many as one out of 10 Filipinos do manage to get out and become balikbayans i.e. OFWs or overseas foreign workers, that's due to unemployment in the Philippines where college grads cant even get jobs. Yet lots of foreigners have discovered the beautiful islands and relatively low cost of living, and have chosen to stay on.