Is the grass always greener on the other side?

We have often believed that migration to another country is one way to solve a person’s or family’s problems as regards to education, jobs, economic elevation and political freedom. Our forefathers came from China and India, mainly to seek better fortune and took a gamble as they did not know what to expect in a new far off land. However, it paid off as many made it, survived comfortably and succeeded in bringing up generation after generation.

I have read that many Singaporeans are contemplating on migrating to overseas, particularly Australia, New Zealand and Canada, believing that the grass is greener and their problems of overcrowding, pressures in schools, political freedom etc would be alleviated. The question is, is the grass always greener on the other side or it is worse off than where you come from, i.e. Singapore?

Having stayed in Sydney for several years, I would consider myself qualified to make comparisons based on People, Environment/Hygiene, Housing, Transport, Safety and Security. My comments are what I have observed.


Generally, people are friendly and if you meet them on the road, they would automatically give you a nod or a greeting. Even when you meet a stranger and ask for direction, they would take the trouble to assist. This is as far as it is. They prefer their privacy and will not reveal too much about themselves and neither will they want to know about you. Hence, migrants such as from Asia are not easily assimilated and will mix with their own kind. When you speak with an Aussie you sense certain insincerity even though on face value they appear to be helpful. The same can be said in organizations such as in social/church workgroup or at workplace! It is better to be prepared to find your own countryman to mix with.

This brings me to the work attitude of Aussies. Most have poor working attitudes and merely clock watches……with some cheating on their work time by going home 15 minutes earlier when no supervisors are around. You find that service in civil service is in wanting of positive work attitude and more so in the private organizations. The word “productivity” is practically unheard of and customer relations is at its lowest point.

Except for sole proprietorship who want revenue through repeat customers, you will find that when you go into department stores, supermarkets, F & B outlets, or even so-called 5 star hotels, the staff do not display positive attitude and they think that they are of equal status with the customers! Service is slow and you often don’t see smiles from service staff! It is al seldom that they will engage in a conversation with you. To me, they seem to treat work as a chore and as a means to a living. They have forgotten that if customers don’t come, the organization may have to let them go. Complaints made are simply ignored and no one is held responsible.

All this can be attributed to the people’s mindset! You will note that Australia is a country of migrants and refugees. When they arrived, they bring along their old habits which over the years have been ingrained into the minds of successive generations. Many come from backward and third world countries and their priority is to survive in a new country. Customer relations is not at the top of their list. Their tempo is to have an “easy going” attitude. Further to this, the country is insular and cut off from the world. When you read their newspapers, they give little coverage on news abroad. Hence, they have nothing to benchmark with, and no wonder, when those who can afford travel to Asia, realised that service is a luxury in Australia as they bring back memories of good service they had received in hotels, restaurants, shops etc!


Australia is by far less polluted and does not experience the haze that Singaporeans have to go through each year. The climate is generally cool throughout even in summer if you are not directly under the sun. Humidity is low so that you don’t sweat or tire so easily. Yet, I find that the workforce is not being stretched fully which will enhance productivity and subsequently the economy. This has resulted in many large companies like Ford, Toyota and General Motors packing up as wages paid does not equate to productivity.

Noise pollution is more prevalent in the city whereas the suburbs are generally quiet except when some inconsiderate neighbours rev their car/motorcycle engines in the process of warming up.

Graffiti is a common thing, and nothing is being done to prevent or eradicate it. Nice and clean buildings have succumbed to unscrupulous vandals who believe that talents need to be put on show!
Many of the roads are filthy as papers, cigarettes and drink cans, papers and leaves are strewn along the sides. Throughout my stay, I have yet to see a road sweeper/cleaning vehicle perform its task. Motorists will just throw their cigarette stubs out of their windows while driving as if it is the norm. The Sydney Tram which prides as an icon for tourists have forgotten the filth along its tracks and especially at the starting point at Central Station. Although there are laws prohibiting littering, it is seldom enforced.

Unlike Singapore where rubbish are being collected daily by the Environment Ministry, rubbish collection is done only once a week. This has resulted in stench and insects hovering rubbish bins. Moreover, I have personally seen rubbish carelessly spilling onto the road while being collected by workers who will not bother to pick them up! Again, it is attitude and no supervision.

All the stringent checks at the Airport to ensure that no diseases are brought in by humans or food are laid to waste considering the unhygienic condition prevalent which can breed home grown diseases.


Houses are no more cheap in certain parts of Australia and becoming more expensive in Sydney and Perth. Many Singaporeans tend to compare the prices of houses with those in Australia. There are 4 or 5 room houses which may cost from A$670,000 to a million, all depending on where the houses are located. Since the arrivals of rich immigrants from China, prices have gone up especially in prime areas.

It may seem cheap, but there is a catch. You not only have to pay for your mortgage, but also monthly dues to the Town Council and also for the disposal of your rubbish. In some cluster housing, you have to also pay to the sinking fund. Utility bills are not cheap as an average family may incur a monthly bill of up to A$250. If you intend to renovate and make changes to the facade, you have to write to the Town Council and it is normal for neighbours to object for some flimsy reason. There was a house owner who planned to have a double storey added but his neighbour objected because it would block the sun from shining into his house!


Generally, cars are cheap in Australia, without having to bother about COE. The normal cars that Singaporeans buy such as Toyota, Honda, Mazda and Mitsubishi are priced between A$18,000 to about A$ 30,000, depending on the range and model. Repairs, panel beating/repainting costs much more than in Singapore. An example to give is when I sent my car for repainting of a scratch of 4 ins long of the bumper and it cost A$500. Tires are expensive and cost about 40% more than in Singapore!

A majority commute by trains which have double decks from the suburbs where they stay to other parts including the city. I must say they have a very good system of public transport and timing of arrivals are accurate. The setback is that drinks and food are allowed and littering is evident as drink cans, food wrappers etc. are left behind on the seats and floors. Very often, you find a passenger putting their legs onto the opposite seat.

Safety and Security

Generally, it is safe to go out doing one’s work. However, I cannot vouch safety after 10.00 pm as many of my friends have told me they had been mugged while along street corners and quiet areas. Break-ins are common in houses situated in suburbs as well as in the city. Those who have children studying in cities like Perth, Brisbane and Sydney can attest that many of their flats have been broken into and cash including computers have been stolen. There is a high rate of drug addicts who do not work and need money to buy drugs and hence resort to stealing from houses and flats.

Many who have been victims and reported to the police are exasperated as their cases remain unsolved!…..and few have been brought to justice!


Singaporeans who intend to migrate should think very carefully. The grass may not be greener as propagandists tend to show! Why should we leave, allow foreigners to occupy our land and without a fight? We can make the change for the better!

Singapore has cheaper food, cleaner environment, and our housing/medical/education problem can be tweeted or changed! All is not lost! Just remain united and vote wisely in the coming GE!

Faulty Towers

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