Singaporeans Never Migrating Overseas
August means National Day, but our love for Singapore is all year round. While living in Singapore might be the dream for some Singaporeans, leaving our little red dot and starting a new life elsewhere have also crossed the minds of many. As the saying goes: “the grass is greener on the other side”.
But despite considerations to move overseas, sometimes Singapore is simply home. We spoke to 10 Singaporeans to learn why they’ll never migrate overseas and foresee themselves spending the rest of their lives in Singapore.
1. “The pandemic showed me how efficient the Singapore government is”
“I spent a total of 8.5 years living in South Korea and only returned to Singapore in 2021.
There are many reasons why I came back to Singapore but the main reason is my family. It is never easy living in a foreign country with no family members and the pandemic made it even harder.
While there are many things I like about South Korea such as their frequent K-Pop concerts, I don’t see myself spending the rest of my life there. There are many limitations being a foreigner as I had to constantly worry about my visa and even deal with the occasional discrimination as an outsider.
The pandemic also showed me how efficient the Singapore government is with handling and controlling the cases. With such a competent government, I find it safer to live in Singapore. Also, I am spoiled for food choices and I love how diverse our culture is. After all, I was born and raised in Singapore and I find myself belonging to this little nation.”
Advice for those who are deciding between staying in Singapore or migrating overseas: “I think living overseas for a period of time is an experience everyone should have. You get to be independent, learn about yourself, and even find out how blessed you are. But, you also need to factor in which stage of life you are at and consider if the move is really worth it.”
‒ Jou, 27
2. “Good infrastructure, stable economy, and a pleasant environment”
“I lived in Glasglow for 6 months during a university exchange. But as a person who prefers to stay near family and friends, migrating overseas has never crossed my mind.
There are many things to consider when migrating overseas. I would have to improve my financial situation and consider my partner’s opinions. At the same time, I have to do research to see if the country is a conducive environment for my future kids and family.
If money was not an issue, I wouldn’t consider migrating overseas immediately. Rather, I might retire there after purchasing a building there for family and friends.
Singapore is blessed with good infrastructure, a rather stable economy, and a pleasant environment to live in. While the fast-paced lifestyle and sink and swim mentality among Singaporeans can be a turn-off, I don’t find those reasons strong enough for me to migrate overseas.”
Advice for those who are deciding between staying in Singapore or migrating overseas: “Weigh the pros and cons first so that you can make an informed decision.”
‒ Darren, 28
3. “I feel safe when going home at night”
“I stayed in the UK for about 2 and a half months for an exchange during winter. Since the sun was down early, I was back indoors usually by 5pm. To be honest, I was scared and unfamiliar with the environment. But when I actually did stay out late, I had my male friends accompany me which made me feel safer.
One of the best things about staying in Singapore is feeling safe, especially as a female when going home at night. Though we shouldn’t take this safety for granted, the chances of being attacked or kidnapped are significantly lower than in other countries.
Perhaps I’ve never travelled enough for me to know if there are “better” options out there, but I’m comfortable with being myself in Singapore. I get to speak Singlish, eat local food, and head to places that relive my childhood nostalgia. I don’t want to give up this comfort to start anew in another country.
The only chance of me migrating overseas is if my whole family was to go with me. Home is about who you are with, and I’m afraid of leaving that by myself.”
Advice for those who are deciding between staying in Singapore or migrating overseas: “I think beyond finances, the most important thing is being happy in the country you are in. Migrating isn’t a bad thing since you’re opening yourself to new opportunities and expanding your world to grow.
But if you find yourself more burdened and unhappy overseas, there’s also no reason why you can’t change your mind and return to Singapore.”
‒ Nicole, 22
4. “I can get to places easily for food, necessities, work, or for hanging out”
“Realistically speaking, I don’t see myself migrating overseas because of the responsibilities I have at home. I have to take care of my ageing parents and the convenience of Singapore makes it easier. For example, with the accessible transport system, I can get to places easily for food, necessities, work, or for hanging out.
On the contrary, living in Singapore tends to get a little boring from time to time because there are hardly any places to go on road trips. Plus, the rise in the cost of living is also burdensome.
If money was not an issue, I might head overseas to make living more comfortable for my parents. I would love to have a place big enough with a couple of guest beds to accommodate relatives or friends when they come over for a visit.
The probability of me migrating overseas is low. Maybe if I had a change in career plans or if my partner agreed on coming along. But right now, I don’t see that happening and probably won’t in the near future too.”
Advice for those who are deciding to stay in Singapore or migrate overseas: “Do tons of research on the law, cost, and standard of living of the country. Make sure that the culture in the country you decide to migrate to aligns with your standard of living.”
‒ Alice, 25
5. “Perks like health benefits and education”
“Although I didn’t live overseas for a long period of time, I’ve stayed in Indonesia and China for a 2-month holiday before.
In Indonesia, I found it hard to run multiple errands in a day, considering factors such as distance and work efficiency. Whereas in Singapore, I can get things done quickly thanks to the advanced technology and easily accessible transportation.
Plus, Singapore has a lot of perks for its citizens ‒ education, health benefits and housing, just to name a few. On top of that, I also know that I’m safe and protected.
I would only consider migrating overseas if the country could offer me something similar or better than what Singapore has. Also, I would probably only migrate to other countries to experience country life if I’m no longer interested in living in a big city.”
Advice for those who are deciding between staying in Singapore or migrating overseas: “If you decide to migrate not because of a mandatory job posting, I would ask you to think about what you are already enjoying in Singapore and see if it’s worth giving them up. In other countries, you might face problems such as lack of transportation and convenient access to necessities.
If you are hoping to seek a different lifestyle, you should go ahead. But if you prefer to stay within their own comforts, it might be better to stay in Singapore.”
‒ Alleyne, 28
6. “Prime location with no natural disasters”
“The only reason I would migrate overseas is if Singapore suffered from a climate disaster. Since Singapore is located in a prime location with no natural disasters, I don’t see myself living in another country.
Being born and raised here, I find it hard to fit in another country. Likewise, most of my family and relatives are living here and I would hate to be alone in a foreign land.”
Advice for those who are deciding between staying in Singapore or migrating overseas: “Think about your personal circumstances and requirements you have in life”.
‒ Lam, 58
7. “ Tertiary education at a reasonable cost”
“One reason why I’ll never migrate overseas is because of Singapore’s education system. As a country that offers tertiary education at a reasonable cost, I would want my future children to receive such a standard of education.
At the same time, Singapore is super expensive to live in when it comes to housing and raising a child ‒ some issues that I actually think about quite often.
Yet, even if money was not an issue, I don’t see myself migrating overseas. I feel that the biggest obstacle of living overseas is adapting to the new environment and country. Also, with my family and friends living in Singapore, I wouldn’t want to leave them behind.
The only time I would actually consider migrating is if rare career opportunity that I am passionate about arises. It has to be an opportunity uncommon in Singapore. Another reason is if I feel that the government was not doing the best for its citizens, making Singapore a less livable place.”
Advice for those who are deciding between staying in Singapore or migrating overseas: “Think carefully about what you are willing to give up and what you will gain from migrating. Make your decision from there.”
‒ Lee Kah Kit, 25
8. “Singapore has one of the best medical care in the world”
“I have never lived overseas for a long period of time but I believe Singapore has one of the best medical care in the world.
For someone my age, healthcare benefits are one of the most important things to have. Singapore is capable of providing such welfare and I don’t think I will give this up and live in any other country.
While Singaporeans also struggle with the rising cost of living, expensive public housing, and competition of job opportunities with foreigners, I wouldn’t want to live in a country where I don’t have any family or friends to rely on.”
Advice for those who are deciding between staying in Singapore or migrating overseas: “”Look for places where we will be comfortable and are happy to live in.”
‒ Ong Cheng Kee, 60
9. “It is a food paradise for foodies”
“I would only migrate overseas if my family came along. Other than that, I don’t see myself living in another country other than Singapore.
What I like about Singapore is its safe and clean environment. It is also a food paradise for foodies like me. Adding on, we have a good government that contributes to our world-class education system and accessible healthcare.
On the other hand, the periodic increase in the cost of living is not something to look forward to. Being a small nation, Singapore has scarce resources and prices are very dependent on the global economy.”
Advice for those who are deciding between staying in Singapore or migrating overseas: “Consider your priorities and trade-offs!”
‒ Lovelle, 28
10. “I see the progression of my career in Singapore”
“Although I have never lived overseas before, my aunt’s family lived in Houston and Shanghai for many years because of my uncle’s job posting.
They have since returned but I don’t find myself getting swayed just because they had lived there. Perhaps I was too young to understand back then, but I thought it was cool to live in the suburbs when I went to visit.
I think the best part of living in Singapore is definitely safety. Other perks include the variety of food, robust education system, solid healthcare, and easily accessible public transport. On the downside, Singapore is geographically small and you can’t travel around the country to call it a road trip compared to countries like the US.
I might only consider migrating overseas if there was a rare career advancement and experience that I won’t be able to get in Singapore. Right now, I see the bulk of my career progression happening in Singapore.
Another possibility is if my future partner got posted overseas. I would consider following along if my partner planned on relocating and the relationship was strong enough.
That said, migrating overseas requires you to have a certain amount of savings to live comfortably in that country. You have to consider how you might not have citizenship status which would mean fewer subsidies and benefits.
Currently, all my family members are living in Singapore. I would like to be near them and with them especially since my parents are getting on in years.”
Advice for those who are deciding between staying in Singapore or migrating overseas: “You really need to consider the pros and cons of migrating. Ask yourself why you want to move overseas and really be sure of what this country can offer that Singapore can’t. If possible, try to get in touch with the expats and locals from the country to understand better about their experiences.
If you decide to live in Singapore, my biggest advice will be to broaden your horizons as much as you can. Try to meet people from all walks of life because it is hard to really soak into a bunch of different life perspectives because of how small Singapore is.”
‒ Aidan, 21
These Singaporeans Showed Us What They Love About Living In Singapore
Singapore may be a small nation but it is a country with many benefits which can be hard to find in other countries. Through these Singaporeans, we get some insights into why they plan to live in Singapore for the rest of their lives. At the same time, proving that Singapore is home, truly.
Responses have been edited for brevity and clarity.
All images courtesy of the interviewees.