Chasing Dreams is a multi-part series chronicling my thoughts, dreams & changing ideals over the years (since 2018), including burnout, quitting the rat race, migration and trying to find my path in life
If I had a dollar for the number of times I’ve heard ‘But why? Singapore is a great place.’ or ‘Singapore is so safe, why would you leave?’, I’d have enough money for a one-way first-class plane ticket to the UK.
Some people will never understand why I, someone who’s been blessed enough to be born in a great country like Singapore, would willingly choose to leave for a ‘less green’ pasture. Over the years I had tried justifying myself to my family & friends who were (and still are) baffled by my strong desire to migrate, but it’s like trying to describe colours to a blind person; they hear what you’re saying without really understanding & empathising with it. Thankfully
and strangely enough, after speaking so openly about this dream, I found a number of friends who also felt the same way, but just never dared to speak out about it because it’s a relatively obscure life path that most Singaporeans will never even consider, either due to financial or familial considerations.
The most common reason for humans wanting to migrate is because of better perceived opportunities somewhere else, i.e push and pull factors. We’re like cows, always looking for greener pastures, even if we’re already grazing in a verdant field
sprinkled with 24K gold flakes. Singapore would be a great place to move to if I had been born in one of our neighbouring SouthEast-Asian countries, with great economic opportunities and the promise of a better life for future generations.
My desire to migrate is driven by both emotional and rational reasons, but in this post I’ll just cover the practical considerations as to why migrating is the central part of any future I can imagine for myself. There are so many ‘push’ factors that have…pushed me over the edge (pardon the pun, I just had to!) and made me feel that uprooting + leaving my family + starting from the bottom in a foreign land is still preferable to living a comfortable life in Singapore. No one migrates on a whim or just ‘for fun’; it isn’t an easy or cheap task, and takes long-term planning if you’re intending to permanently set up base overseas.
I’ll just list a few reasons for migrating off the top of my head, but the list is pretty non-exhaustive.🌚Disclaimer in case the government sees this: I’m not promoting migration or advocating for brain-drain, these are just my own opinions.🌚
- Geographical location. I’m a person with a strong sense of wanderlust, and it kills me to spend each weekend stuck in the same place. A roadtrip in Singapore is verrrry different from an American roadtrip (think of all the mountain ranges, big cities and countryside scenery), and in Singapore you don’t really go anywhere but in circles.
- Housing prices. Do I really have to get married just so I can apply for a BTO apartment? What happens if I’m single and have to wait till I’m 35? Even then, do I want to spend 3 years+ worth of combined salary (since only couples can buy BTOs) to pay off the housing loan? For the same price as a BTO ($150-250k), I could get a larger house complete with a backyard + garage + basement in the American suburbs. It’s not directly comparable (big cities are expensive), but the improvement in my quality of life would be immeasurable and probably worth paying more for.
- House sizes. This isn’t Singapore’s fault, it’s just unfortunate that I was born on such a tiny and land-scarce island, but I’m so sick of living in lego-block apartments. I’ve been very blessed to have grown up in a HUDC (larger version of HDBs), so I’m used to spacious houses. Imagine your kids being able to run around in your backyard and play with lawn sprinklers in summer. There’s so much land in most other countries, you’ll be able to buy a plot of land and build your dream house for around the same price as a shoebox condominium in Singapore.
- Culture. A country’s politics shapes its culture, and that’s all I’ll say about this because politics are generally contentious. I’m someone who supports freedom and equality, so I’d like to live in a place which reflects my values.
- Competitiveness of the education system. It’s too competitive, restrictive and achievement-oriented for my liking. After 12 years of being unhappy but successful in the system, I realised that so little of what I learnt genuinely interested me. There was so little space to explore contrasting subjects. You were either in the arts stream or the science stream, and even then, almost everyone chose the science stream since they equated it with better university prospects and stable careers. I often wish I had spent those years in a different education system, and I wonder how differently my life would’ve turned out.
- Work-life balance. Need I say more? Singaporeans are overworked and junior doctors have notoriously bad work hours. Combine both, and you get one very burnt-out Singaporean doctor. Anyone who knows me will attest to how much I value having a life outside school/work, and my overly-chill lifestyle hardly fits in with the bustle of a big city, so it makes sense that I’ll choose to live and work in a country that treats/respects its people as more than just money-making machine cogs. 🌚
- Mental health awareness. It saddens me how those with mental health issues feel compelled to hide their diagnoses for fear of societal judgement (a medical record at IMH apparently affects job opportunities). It’s ingrained in our Asian culture that people with such problems are ‘weak’ and ‘different’, and while people’s mindsets can change, I’d rather spend my time as a doctor actually healing people, instead of trying to fight/radically change the system. Westerners are generally more open with regard to mental health, so working there would probably allow me to help more people and to a greater extent.
- Cost of living. It’s definitely more expensive to live in the city as opposed to the suburbs or rural regions, so I’m guessing the costs of living in SG and other big cities are comparable. But in a bigger country, I’ll have more options for home ownership (from the really shabby/cheap to the posh/overpriced) and commuting to/from work (I might actually be able to afford a car), so I’ll be able to find a sweet spot where I can live in a relatively large – compared to Singapore’s shoebox houses – but affordable house, and be able to own a car for a reasonable price.
I guess this is my twisted version of the American Dream? Let me know what you think in the comments below. 🙂
Perhaps I’m taking Singapore for granted, or maybe I’m just tired of living in such a sanitised version of reality. Singapore has extremely low crime rates, no gun ownership, a healthy economy, low taxes – I could go on all day about how seemingly-perfect life here is, but I want to get more out of life than Singapore can give me. Too many people warn me that I’ll get robbed, shot and/or murdered if I choose to move to another country, which are ridiculously extreme consequences that I’ve already considered and accepted as possible but unlikely scenarios. After seeing the lives of my friends who left to study abroad, I think I’ll take my chances at a better future…even if it comes with a 0.01% chance of death by a gunshot wound.
Call me selfish for wanting to live my life to the fullest (instead of spending my life giving back to the Singapore community), I’ll gladly accept that because at least I’ll be happy. I used to feel conflicted and guilty when I considered migrating, especially after how much the local government had contributed to my education all these years. Our teachers used to tell us that we had a duty and ‘owed it’ to Singapore to give back to society after all it had given us, but I’ve decided to reinterpret it as giving back to the world at large, using the skills/education I’ve received from this country. As long as I contribute and leave a positive impact on the world, it doesn’t matter which country raised me and which country I choose to contribute to; the world is too large and too many people outside this little red dot are in equal need of help, especially in the field of healthcare.
I’ll have spent around a third of my life in this place before I can actually set this plan into motion, so I can say for certain that I’ve given enough of my life to a place that never really quite felt like home, and soon enough I’ll spread my wings and find a new home.
In the next part of this series, I’ll be sharing more about my dream to travel the world and become a published author. Be sure to follow my Insta or Facebook page so you’ll be notified whenever I post new content! 🙂
P.S. I don’t make any money from running this blog, so if you’d like to support my writing and help me bring even better content to you, you can buy me a coffee/donate on Ko-fi!
If you’re interested in exploring my blog, click here for an index of all the posts I’ve ever written (travel, musings, doctoring), or check out my most read series below:
- the Chasing Dreams series: a multi-part series chronicling my thoughts, dreams & changing ideals over the years (since 2018), including burnout, quitting the rat race, migration and trying to find my path in life
- the (not-so-definitive) guide to doctoring: Getting into Med School & FAQs | Surviving your Clinical Years | MBBS Tips | Life as a M1 // M2 // M3 // M4 // M5 during COVID // Life as a Doctor (monthly series) | Chasing Careers series