Tales of Two Cities: Singapore-Melbourne

If you are undecided whether to migrate to Singapore or Melbourne, this post might do the trick.

From the Best of the Chronicles of Rea


I have a few friends who had and have been asking for my two cents worth on whether they should move to Singapore or to Australia.

There is no easy answer to this. The following list is not exhaustive but tries to address the essential matters.

1. Education
Singapore school system is one of the most rigorous and stressful in the world. Children go to many tuition classes i.e. Mandarin, piano, swimming, math, science, writing, ballet. Just about anything. I have an impression that children live to study in Singapore. Most start formal schooling at a tender age of 3 years old. Although local schools with high academic standards are affordable, you have to pay a hefty price for private schools which offer more balanced curriculum.

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Nursery at Singapore

From my limited experience, Australian education focuses more on building the child’s confidence, creativity and social aptitudes. Play-based learning is given a high priority. Less emphasis is given on the sciences. Young children until Grade 6 are encouraged to play, engage in sports and manage with little or no home works. The pace of learning will dramatically intensify in high school. I sense that they want to make learning here fun and exciting especially during the early years.

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Kinder at Melbourne

Tuition fees of good Catholic schools in Melbourne are affordable. Plus, most schools charge per family and not per child.

2. Housing and transportation
Singapore’s flats are very small and they are very close to each other stacked up in high-rise buildings. It is considerably expensive for its size averaging 100 sq m. Prices of cars are 3-4x higher than in Australia. Owning a car is considered a luxury since the transportation system is very efficient.

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Our 100 sq m flat at Singapore

Houses in Australia are generally landed, spacious and suitable for growing families, growing kids. There is plenty of space to roam around. Car prices are reasonable and affordable. Driving is a must. If you live in the metro, cars are not that indispensable.

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Our side lawn, Melbourne

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Our garden and backyard, Melbourne

3. Jobs
I find Singapore a better place to find jobs related to banking/finance, engineering, IT, logistics. I am not sure if this applies to other industries. However, I find working in Singapore quite stressful due to the long hours required. I also noticed that most Singaporeans don’t leave the office before their boss does regardless of whether its 12 midnight or if they are done with their tasks for the day.

Remuneration is considerably rewarding and tax rates are attractively low.

I have no Australian work experience yet. But from what I gathered, Australians are very vocal and opinionated. Nonetheless, I don’t recognize any stratification in society based on profession. An electrician can earn more than a project engineer. You can be who you want to be and make a decent living. Do note that tax rates in Australia are considerably high.

4. Government support/subsidies
If you are a Singapore Permanent Resident (“PR”), you will enjoy some subsidies from the government but not as much as the locals. You can check www.cpf.gov.sg. to see the benefits you can receive.

Australian PRs enjoy the same benefits as the citizens. You receive fortnightly subsidy from the government based on your family’s income, number and ages of children, etc. Visit http://www.humanservices.gov.au/  to approximate the amount of monies you can receive from the government.

5. Healthcare
I think both countries are equally reputable in terms of healthcare. The major difference I found is that you don’t pay a single cent if you are hospitalized in a public hospital in Australia. In Singapore, you have to bear the cost out of your own pocket or use your CPF savings allotted for medical reasons.

One major difference I found in terms of treating children is that Australian doctors rarely give medicines/antibiotics. Rather, they rely on fruits and count on the child’s own immune system to fight off the flu. Singapore doctors give medicines by the symptoms. You can have as many as five or more medicines to administer to your child by the time you leave the clinic.

I find that our children rarely get sick in Australia. I can only attribute that to the generous amount of space and clean air which this country has been blessed with. If they get sick, they get well on their own. In Singapore, our children used to get sick frequently. I found that utterly painful, exhausting and disruptive to our children’s growth. Most of the time, they caught the flu from school then they easily passed it on to their non-schooling siblings.

6. Other key considerations- relatives, helpers, support
You can rely on affordable domestic helpers to take care of your children while you work in Singapore. Most of them are stay-in. However, good and reliable workers are getting harder to find these days. Still, helpers do most of the household chores, child caring or whatever you ask them to do. You can just have your dinner once you reach home from work or wherever. Easy peasy.

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One of my favorite coffee shops in Singapore

It is completely different in Australia. You have to do everything on your own. Sometimes you even have to cook while recuperating from a high fever or while in labor. Good news is, those difficult times are far and few in between.

It will greatly help if you have family, relatives or friends around to help you settle down.

7. Food and Places to go
Singapore beats Australia in terms of food choices for me. Singaporean dishes are a fusion of Chinese, Malaysian and Indian cuisine.  Western food is available everywhere. You can practically eat anything in Singapore at a third of a price here. Most families eat out since it’s cheaper that way than to cook at home.

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Marina Bay Sands, Singapore

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Sentosa

But you can cook anything you fancy in Australia. Ingredients are generally available and fresh. You can just go to any major grocery chain or farmers’ markets. There are also Asian stores selling Asian goods here. May bagoong pa nga eh.

Definitely, Australia rules in the places category. Beautiful nature, city, beach, mountain ranges, malls, museum, sports arena. You name it, they have it.

Lindt Cafe, CBD

Lindt Cafe, CBD

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Sunbury Country side

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Mornington Peninsula

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Brighton Beach

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Mordialloc

Singapore is too small to contain a lot of great places. We normally ended up spending weekends in the mall or at the park.

8. Weather
Singapore is constant not only in its mindset but in terms of weather as well. Temperature ranges from 28-33 degrees C with minimal rain showers. You can wear the same type of summer clothes year round.

Melbourne is a different kind of animal. One of a kind. The seasons do not occur on a quarterly basis but on a daily one. Locals found that a bit exciting. I don’t know about me. You have to be prepared to embrace winter as it can really be cold but snow doesn’t happen here.

9. Culture
Singaporeans are very efficient and task oriented. Singaporeans make things happen. However, they tend to rush through life and less importance is given on building/enriching relationships mostly due to career reasons. I find that the society tends to be robotic and most locals find it difficult to think out of the box.

I also felt that there is too much control in Singapore like Big Brother is watching you all the time.

Australians are laid back, relaxed. Too much sometimes. Elmer use to tell me that you wait for things to happen here.

There is a profusion of liberality in child raising here which I find as an advantage and a challenge. Children are encouraged to speak out their minds sometimes undermining politeness and filial respect. Let’s see.

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Kids at Mordialloc Beach Playground

I also find that Australians know how to enjoy life. I haven’t experienced any discrimination (yet) since we moved to Melbourne two years ago. Maybe I am too thick-skinned.

10. Quality of life
You can sense from the tone of my post that I would choose to live and raise my children in Australia. I would, a thousand times over.

Quality of life depends on how you define it. For me and Elmer, it is being close to God, to each other and to our children. We found Australia to be the best place to achieve this. Australia allowed me to stay at home while Elmer brings home the bacon. This country also enabled us to own a house big enough to accommodate and nurture five children or more. It also taught me to become a mother in every sense of the word. I find great pride in that. Elmer and I learned to depend on each other more than ever.

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At the end of the day, it is still our relationships which enrich us.

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