Archive | June, 2012

Where to Live – Singapore or Melbourne?

27 Jun

My husband and I moved to Melbourne from Singapore because opportunities were opened up for us here. Our immigrant visa was approved, and my husband was offered a job here in Melbourne. It was a long decision-making process, as it wasn’t easy for us to leave good jobs and close friends that we had in Singapore. After much contemplation and prayers, our resolution was to give this opportunity a try and see how it goes once we’re here.

So more than five months into this trial stage of living here in Australia, particularly Melbourne, we thought of writing down what we think so far to help organize our thoughts and give you a few points of comparison between Singapore and Australia –

HOUSING

In Singapore, people tend to buy or rent HDB flats and private condo units. Landed houses are pretty much for the uber rich or expats whose homes are provided for by employers.

In Australia, there are also condo units and apartments equivalent to flats in Singapore. But families opt for landed houses.

In terms of cost, homes are more affordable in Australia. Basically, the amount you will need to buy a flat/condo unit in Singapore can already be used to buy a landed house here. New apartment type units like the one we are renting now cost about the same, though.

Rental price just varies a little from those in Singapore.

Currently, we are renting a two-bedroom unit apartment less than 30 minutes away from Melbourne CBD by train. We pay AUD1700 (SGD2200 as of this writing) per month for this. Our rent is considered high by local standards. But we opted for this because our main consideration is accessibility. We are still deciding whether to buy a car or not because we have no kids and we are still in that trial stage of staying here.

Restaurants, markets, and shops are just five minutes away and a couple of minutes further, you can hop on the train or tram to get to the city. Also, this unit is brand new and the rent comes with a reserved parking space.

For the same amount of space, but not as new or a bit farther away from transpo/amenities (which is not a problem if you have a car), rent can be as cheap AUD1300-AUD1500 for a decent landed house or unit.

One thing to note, though, is that when renting here, the place would usually be unfurnished. Only the stove, oven, and dishwasher would come with the rent. So when moving here, you need to consider this when determining your start-up budget.

TRANSPORT

The cost of brand new cars here start at around $17,000, which is just a fraction of Singapore’s COE. You can pretty much picture out how big the difference is in the amount you have to put up to own a car.

As for public transport, Melbourne has quite an extensive transport network compared to Singapore (and Sydney). But the fares are incredibly expensive. A single day pass covering both zone 1 and zone 2 would cost around 11 AUD. If you are buying a monthly pass, it will be reduced to around 6 AUD. Still considerably higher than what you will spend going to and from work in Singapore, where the maximum you pay would be less than 4 SGD.

WORK

Work passes are not as common as in Singapore. So normally, the path one would take is to get an immigrant visa first, then find a job. As for finding a job, it is usually quite challenging and takes a long time, because most companies would hire only if you have prior local experience here. My husband and I have been blessed on this area, though. He was able to get a job from outside Australia (while we were still in Singapore). I was able to get hired three months after landing. Both of us did not need local experience. So we believe it depends on the need for your skill, and on God’s will ๐Ÿ™‚

It is common knowledge that the working hours in Australia are family-friendly, which is the ultimate selling point for migrants to decide to come here. Being an IT professional, I was doubtful about this before we went here. But I was pleasantly surprised that the same applies to my field, too. People go off at 5 PM, or earlier, and do not do overtime unless required.

Now about work compensation (are you glad I’m finally touching this topic? :p ), we believe it depends on the field. Top earners here are those in the mining industry, the ones largely supporting Australia’s economy and are based in Perth. As in any country, the IT industry pays well, too. But whether IT is paid more here or in SG, there is no general index that can be used as basis. It depends on which IT field you are in. For the sake of my friends in mainframe, I have good news for you, though. The NET pay here is largely higher than in Singapore. If you are curious about how much your field is being paid here, the answer lies in just a simple Google search ๐Ÿ™‚ But for estimating your net salary, you have to consider the high tax rates here, which takes off a big chunk from your pay.

PEOPLE

Australians or residents of Australia have been migrants at one point or another, so there is quite a mix of races in the country. Melbourne, in particular, is a melting pot of racial origins such as Greek, Italian, Vietnamese, Chinese, Indian and many more.
So going into the concern of most people about the problem of racial discrimination, considering the fact that there are so many migrants here, I believe it is not that much of an issue. Also, there are laws against racial discrimination to protect an individual. Though, come to think of it, the fact that there are laws such as these means that the problems exists.. But personally, we do not have an actual, evident experience of being discriminated. We have been asking around as well for opinions on this problem, and people’s stories and observations differ.. So I guess, yes, there will still be instances that some sort of prejudice will come to surface, but then, does this not happen in any country where there are differences in culture? From my five years of living in Singapore, I can attest that this can also be felt there, too.. Especially now that locals are becoming increasingly threatened by the large influx of foreigners in the country.

So far, I find the people I come across with and the people I work with quite friendly. I am still getting used to the standard small talk that one engages you in when you enter a shop or when you meet someone you know – “Hi! How are you today?”. And you are actually expected to answer or ask back ๐Ÿ™‚ Having lived in countries like the Philippines and Singapore, I’m certainly not used to this. Not wanting to be misjudged as a snob or a non-English speaker, I eventually adapted and learned to reply. So hmm, I think the culture here is on the friendlier side.

FOOD

For groceries and fresh produce, the cost is about the same. There are products that are more expensive here, but there also products that are cheaper. So the difference in amounts just cancel each other out. But there is definitely more variety here. Not just food itself, but in the kitchen tools and trinkets that you can buy. Probably because, unlike Singaporeans, Australians normally cook at home. Not sure though if it’s because they love to cook, or because as we have observed, eating out here is quite expensive.

In Singapore, hawker centres are everywhere, and probably more than half of the population would like to eat out. You can get a decent meal for as low as 3 SGD. Here in Melbourne, a meal would cost at least 6 AUD. A more elaborate meal in Singapore for about 15 SGD will cost you more than 20 AUD here..

When it comes to variety, on the other hand, a typical food court here would contain stalls for Western/Aussie, Chinese, Middle Eastern, Indian, Japanese, Mexican, Italian and occasionally, Thai food. In Singapore, the variety includes Chinese, Malaysian, Indonesian, Western and Indian.

SHOPPING

If you like faire des courses, then we can tell you outright that shopping is definitely better in Singapore. There are more brands, and retail is definitely generally cheaper. Yes, one can still stumble upon good finds in sales here, but it still doesn’t compare to those authentic, branded items you can buy for a fraction of its cost in Singapore.

The only place where you can find cheap buys that I’ve come across so far here in Melbourne is Queen Victoria Market, but I still find myself missing Bugis Junction or Toa Payoh ๐Ÿ™‚

Only big supermarkets and a few stores are open til late night daily. Stores usually close at 5 or 6 PM on Saturdays to Wednesdays here, but are open til 9 on Thursdays and Fridays. Something to adjust to when you’ve been used to shops closing at 9 or 10 PM everyday in Singapore.

WEATHER

This did not seem like a big consideration for us before coming here, but moving from a warm/tropical country to a cold country definitely requires a change in lifestyle. If you like the warm weather in the Philippines/Singapore, you will really miss that, especially when you are in Melbourne, where it can still be cold even during a summer day. I can now understand why Australians are loving Singapore “because it’s summer all year round”.

So there. Again, we are still in that trial stage of living here.. Not really leaning on a particular decision yet. As you can imagine, there are a lot of things to consider. But basically, it all boils down to what your preferences in life are ๐Ÿ™‚

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Update on 2012/02/26:

For information on Family Life, I’ve created another post –ย https://livinginmelbourne.wordpress.com/2012/07/26/family-life-in-australia/

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