It’s been almost 2 years now since I moved to Melbourne to pursue my studies. I’ve returned to Singapore a few times and every time I get people asking me how life’s like down under, and whether I would prefer living here for good.
I’ve always had this dream of living abroad because I prefer a more laid-back lifestyle compared to the hustle and bustle city life in Singapore. But then again, everyone has their own lifestyle preference and while Singapore isn’t exactly a place to look for breathtaking escapades, I’ve come to learn that you don’t always find everything greener on the other side. In a nutshell, wherever we go there’s bound to be pros and cons, yes?
Allow me to elaborate on some of the contrasts I’ve experienced so far between the two. Brace yourselves for a super long – but hopefully informative – post!
1. The changing seasons
I came to Melbourne during winter last year and I remember struggling to cope with the freezing temperatures down here. There was probably a 20-degree shift in temperature from Singapore to Melbourne and I practically wrapped myself with 4-6 pieces of clothing because I couldn’t withstand the cold. Hey, after living in a tropical country for over 20 years, I needed some time to adjust to the cooler environment.
It took a while to get used to the seasonal changes and I had to learn it the hard way. As if winter wasn’t enough to traumatize me, I had to suffer a whole month of hay fever when spring came too. But I shouldn’t complain much during these two seasons because summer (between Dec-Feb/Mar) was far from anything I imagined. I dare not fuss about Singapore’s average temperatures because summer here was 10 degrees hotter and being far less humid made it worse!
It’s also worthy to note that Melbourne’s known for it’s unpredictable weather conditions and most locals would tell you it’s the only country to experience 4 seasons in a day! The sweltering weather in Singapore doesn’t sound so bad now, does it? 😛
Also, a heads up for those who are unaware of the changing hours of daylight you get each season. In winter, it gets dark at around as early as 5pm while in summer, the day would last for up to 14 hours! Lucky for us Muslims, Ramadhan still falls during winter time, hence, we usually break our fast a little earlier than the rest of the world 😀
2. No late-night shopping
Another thing I had to immediately adapt to was having much lesser shopping hours here. My first visit to Melbourne was in 2011 and I remember having nowhere to go after 5 or 6pm on most days. The only late-night shopping you’ll get is on Thursday and Friday nights, where most shopping malls would close at 9pm. That’s the best you’ll get.
If you’re used to hanging out late and going for supper in Singapore, I guess you’re gonna miss that part of your life if you start living here. I had a friend telling me once she won’t trade the late-night privileges she gets in Singapore for anything. So it all boils down to your lifestyle. I reckon having more family time (which could be hard to get in Singapore) sounds good.
3. Overpriced food
Perhaps they’re not overpriced, but having lived my entire life in a country known for it’s value-for-money edibles, the cost of dining out is over the top for me. Goodbye to cheap-yet-scrumptious hawker centre food and low-priced fast food. A plate of good ‘ol Nasi Lemak here would cost you about AUD12 (at Papparich) and a Filet-O-Fish meal, if I recall well, costs about AUD7. But after realising that’s just how it is, I often opt to cook and eat at home.
Considering it’s hard to get certain ingredients and spices used in authentic Asian dishes (though we do have Asian groceries but they’re not exactly cheap), I’m not surprised how a plate of rice with side dishes could cost me between AUD6-12. I do miss getting a packet of chicken rice for $2.50 or surviving a whole day in town with $10. If I could sum it all up, eating out in Melbourne is equivalent to eating at Swensen’s all the time in Singapore – heavy on the pocket for an average local. Regarding the quality of food, I’ll call it a tie for now because not every foodie shares the same tastes! 🙂
4. Great roadtrip opportunities
Don’t you just love going on roadtrips in Singapore? Lol just kidding 😛 The only roadtrip I ever make in Singapore is to Sentosa or taking it across the border. Not gonna exaggerate, but very often my friends and I find it hard to plan an exciting outing or a short getaway in Singapore simply because we “run out of new places” to go to.
Personally, I enjoy sightseeing natural landscapes with breathtaking settings. I guess it’s a given that you’d have more places to explore in any other country, considering the size of our little red dot. Would be unfair for me to compare it this way, but just putting this out there for thrill-seekers – there’s a bunch of things to experience here.
There’s also a downside though. Most of the attractions in Melbourne are inaccessible by public transport, unlike Singapore. They lack direct transport services to most of the places, in fact. I’m not a fan of the public transport here in Melbourne except for the free tram rides around the city. And the transport fares (including cab fares) are pretty high too.
Singapore may not have much to offer the locals, but one thing Melbourne can’t beat Singapore in is affordable travels. Unless you’re planning a trip to New Zealand, getting out of the country from down under is a tad too expensive. I think Singapore’s airport is conveniently located such that flying would cost lesser than if you were to fly from Melbourne. So lesser roadtrips but cheaper holidays abroad? I say heck yeah!
5. The world’s happiest country
Everyone who’s been to Australia would tell me how generally friendly and pleasant the people are. I can’t recall a time where I walked into a store and the salesperson doesn’t come up to me with the brightest smile, greeting me with a “How are you?” or “How can I help you today?”.
And there’ll always be those days where some stranger on the train or the bus stop just randomly starts a conversation with you, be it about the weather or talking about how they lost their way around the city. I’m always prepared for small-talks, especially when I’m out alone and it really makes me happy.
Being in a country where Muslims are a minority, I hardly ever feel like I’m being discriminated whatsoever. I’ve had people sharing a table with me for lunch and having random conversations, helping me lift my heavy grocery cart up and down the bus and even do simple gestures like holding the door for me or a flashing a warm smile. I think having courtesy and being happy is just their way of life here.
Not saying Singaporeans are less friendly or cheerful, but I think it’s got to do with their quality of life too. You get off work earlier, you’re paid good salary (though I heard the tax here i pretty high but you can claim a lot of things through it), you’re encouraged to spend more time with your family and so on. I think that’s something some of us lack having in Singapore, which somewhat does equate to our happiness.
These are just some of my thoughts on how Melbourne differs from Singapore overall. Obviously not putting this out to say one is better than the other, but just to give some of you an idea of what I’ve experienced from living here so far. Hope to share better things next time. Leave me your thoughts! 🙂
This post was originally published on my old blog, www.theopenscrapbook.wordpress.com.