Saturday, April 11, 2015

Singaporean Living In Malaysia - My Response To The Naysayers

For everyone who had taken your time to read and comment on my previous post, "Why did I Left Singapore For Malaysia," first of all, thank you. The response has been overwhelming, so much more than what I have ever expected. But not surprisingly, my post has gathered both positive and negative comments which I initially did not intended to reply. But then, I realized that I could not. There has been too many misconceptions about me which I feel the need to clarify.

However, from the overwhelming responses and comments this post has received, one thing is clear. It is undeniable that I have brought up a topic that is worth debating.

Initially, I wrote this post with the intention to share my experiences in Malaysia. Numerous times, I have been asked by the many people whom I have met in Malaysia for the reasons of my relocation. Well, it is true that my husband was the greatest pull factor in my relocation to Malaysia. However, even if I have not met him, I might have plans to relocate elsewhere. It could be Australia, Canada or anywhere in the world.

My husband and I actually have the choice to choose between Singapore or Malaysia. For him, it was never a difficult decision to make. But for me, it took me lots of courage to make such a decision. Just like every Singaporeans, Malaysia was never the most ideal country for me to settle down and start a family. In fact, I was just like any other typical Singaporean who thought that Malaysia is just a country that is inferior to Singapore in every aspect.

After living here for a few months, my perception about this country changed. Malaysia was nothing like what I have read or heard from others. In fact, my dad is a Malaysian and I spent 1/3 of my life growing up in Malaysia, travelling to and fro between Johor and Singapore every day. Malaysia was just like my second home. I thought I have seen and knew Malaysia well, only to realize how wrong I am.

I am not ranting, not trying to justify. Everything I wrote is solely based on my personal experiences. If anyone of you still feel that I am ranting, I am fine with that. From the comments I read, I realized how much people can be blinded by anger, thus could not be bothered to read more deeply into my article.  I certainly do not need anyone to tell me how unsafe Malaysia is since I have already raised my concern on that issue in that previous article I wrote. If bringing this issue up again and again makes you feel better, then please continue.

Also, to Singaporeans, Malaysians are not foreign immigrants. I do not hate the Malaysians who are in Singapore to earn our stronger dollars. To me, Malaysia is not only a close neighbor, but also a family. It is known fact that a sizable number of Singaporeans and Malaysians have families or friends living on both sides of the border.

Furthermore, I did not specially relocate to Malaysia to work or to earn the weaker ringgit. Instead, I moved to the country for my Malaysian husband with the hope for a balanced and fulfilling life. Thus, I found it extremely offensive when I was compared to the Filipinos, Vietnamese or Chinese who specially came to Singapore for job.

For people who have supported, defended and encouraged me, I feel so utterly thankful. You might not be aware that your little words of encouragement gave me strength and courage to continue to strive for the better future. It was also because of you that I decided to speak up and defend myself. Do not worry. I am not affected by any of the negative comments left behind by some of the readers.

As for those who disagree with my opinions, I certainly do not take your negative comments to heart. Every individual has their right to express their opinions and it is impossible for me to please everyone. Furthermore, why should I please others? I should focus on making myself happy instead.

For those readers who happen to think that my article is shit, I am sorry that you actually feel that way. It's a shame that you have to leave such an offensive comment just to get your point across. However, the fact that you actually took your time to leave me a comment shows that my opinions have indeed stirred some kind of negative emotion in you. You actually felt something, but decided to deceive yourself. If this article of mine is really shit, I believe you would not even bothered to write me a comment.

However, if you still feel that what I wrote are just trash, please feel free to leave and never return to my blog again since I will probably not stop writing about my life in Malaysia.

Now to clarify some of the misconceptions of me.

1. Public transport system 

Undeniably, Singapore has one of the best transportation networks in the world, but we must admit that it is inadequate to cope with the current population in the country.

Due to the sudden population growth, service outrages are definitely not an exception anymore, but becoming a norm in Singapore. It is definitely not rare to wait more than 15 minutes to get on a bus, which often arrived with passengers packed like sardines.

As for affordability, I find it relatively cheaper to take the public transport in KL than in Singapore. I find public transportation in Singapore no longer reliable and punctual as the frequency of service disruptions increase in the recent years. Commuting on public transportation is no longer a pleasant experience when service disruptions become common.

To Mr Patrick who said that you do not quite buy my argument on public transport being better in KL than it is in Singapore, I afraid there is nothing I can do to convince you. Furthermore, I do not see the reason why I have to convince you since my argument is based on my personal experience.

Although public transportation system in Malaysia still lacks of integration and accessibility, I still find commuting a more pleasant experience in KL compared to Singapore. In terms of connectivity, Malaysia is rather well-connected by road, rail, sea and air too. You will find public transport by buses, trains, taxis and planes comfortable, efficient and relatively low in cost in Malaysia. If you dislike the idea of taking a public transport, you could also drive and travel around in your own car, which is available at an affordable price.

To me, cars are definitely NOT a luxury, but a necessity. Just like what this anonymous reader above, I could not imagine sending my child to school to school with public transports and then to work everyday. It is both mentally and physically draining to spend 3 or more hours just on travelling each day.

Without a car, grocery shopping will be a chore, even in Singapore. I could not imagine myself squeezing into a sardine-packed train or bus with my hands full of heavy grocery bags and not being able to get myself a seat.

Undoubtedly, owning a car in Singapore is a luxury due to the need to bid for a Certificate of Entitlement (COE).

The above shows the results of Singapore COE opening bidding exercise for April 2015. Paying SGD 67k for a piece of paper is just ridiculous. If the COE system does not exist, I believe you would want to buy in Singapore too.

Furthermore, I do not see the point of comparing the public transportation system in both countries. In Singapore, Singaporeans rely heavily on the public transport for commuting. Whereas in Malaysia, Malaysians generally rely on private vehicles to get around due to two factors:

1. Public transportation in Malaysia lacks reliability, punctuality and accessibility

2. Affordability of cars in Malaysia

When I commented and explained why I actually had better commuting experience in KL than in Singapore, Singaporeans just got extremely defensive. It makes me wonder why. Perhaps, Singaporeans are just too proud to accept critcism and admit to their weaker neighbour that there are indeed flaws in our 'world class' transportation systems.

Undoubtedly, the public transportation system in Malaysia is also flawed. However, it is obvious that the government has done a lot of hardwork to improve the national transportation system. Besides, Malaysia is about 478 times bigger than Singapore. Thus, we must understand that implementation of a sustainable and integrated transportation system could not be done in a short time.

2. Discrimination

The topic of discrimination can be a very sensitive one to discuss. Since some of the readers brought this up, I shall discuss on this topic briefly.

It is true government policies in Malaysia often favour the Malay majority and those with a Bumiputras status, particularly in areas such as housing, finance and education. However, the Chinese and Indians in Malaysia do not really view it as discrimination. Instead, the minority see it as preferential or special privileges given by the government to the majority Malays. Well, it may seems a little bit unfair and biased, but unfortunately, there is not much you can do about it.

Regarding the issue of Malay privileges, I would agree with what the anonymous reader above has said. If racial discrimination is really such a big issue in Malaysia, then most of the Malays in the country would be much more well-off than now. However, this is not the case in the country where a significant number of the race still live in poverty.

Personally, I feel that racism and discrimination exist everywhere in all levels of each society. Singapore is not an exception too. An example of this will be employment discrimination. It occurs when an employer posted an employment ad explicitly stating or suggesting preferred candidates for that job position. I believe many of you would have seen dozens of employment ads specifying a race, nationalities or language requirement for that job position on several online job portals in Singapore too.

3. Corruption

A number of the readers have brought up the problem of corruption in Malaysia. Well, corruption is actually another very sensitive topic which I do not wish to comment on, especially when I could not provide any supporting evidence to prove my point. However, has any of you wonder how Singapore managed to curb corruption to remain as the one of the least-corrupt country in the world? Well, I believe part of it is due to the excessively and ridiculously high salaries the country offers to its ministers.

It is a known fact that Singapore's cabinet ministers are, by far, the highest paid in the world. In fact, the prime minister of Singapore is paid 4 times more than the president of United States of Amercia.

Not surprisingly, these high salaries received backlash from the public, particularly from Singaporeans who are struggling in their everyday life. Despite public unhappiness, the government has justified that high salaries are necessary to attract the best talents into the government and to discourage political corruption in the country.

Now, let us look at what Malaysia actually pays its ministers. The figures shown below may be outdated, but this is all I could find on the internet.

Comparing to the high salaries offered in Singapore, the monthly salaries for Malaysian leaders are peanuts.

So, are high salaries necessary and efficient in discouraging corruption? I am not sure too. But I believe it is effective way to reduce corruption in the public sector. In my opinion, high salaries lower the high public officials' interest in accepting additional income from corruption. Even if they wanted to, these officials will probably never want to take the risk and get caught, thus losing their high-paying job.

Are high salaries the only way to curb corruption in a country? Probably not. Offering high salaries is good, but not at the expense of Singaporeans. Despite being an effective way to discourage corruption, unfortunately, the high salaries which Singapore offers has also attracted intense anger and unhappiness from the public.

3. Taxation 

The personal income tax rate in Singapore may be one of the lowest in world, but Singaporeans actually pay 3.5 times more into indirect tax than direct tax.

Goods and Services Tax (GST) was introduced on 1st April 1994, at a rate of 3% as to enable Singapore to shift its reliance from direct tax to indirect tax. The rate was later increased from 3% to 4% and up to 5% on 1st January 2004. It was later increased to the current GST rate of 7% on 1st January 2007.

As of Financial Year 2014, %The GST contribute the second largest portion, after corporate income taxes, making up about 16.5% of Singapore's total operating revenue.

Similarly, GST has been implemented at a rate of 6% in Malaysia with effect from 1st April 2015. With the implementation of GST in Malaysia, the high income tax rate in Malaysia has also been reduced by 1% to 2%.

GST is a form of indirect tax which tax on the consumption of goods and services in the country.

GST in Singapore vs GST in Malaysia

Singapore has adopted a comprehensive taxation approach, under which almost all goods and services are taxable at the current standard rate of 7%, except certain financial services, sale and lease of residential properties, sale and import of qualifying investment metals, which are exempted from GST. Only export of goods and international services are categorized as zero-rated.

Whereas, in Malaysia, basic necessities such as rice, sugar, flour, cooking oil, vegetables, poultry, water and utilities usage are categorized as zero-rated items. Private healthcare, education services and public transportation are also categorized as exempted items in Malaysia.

Income tax in Malaysia

To the anonymous reader above, I have not overlooked the high income tax rate in Malaysia. In fact, as a non-tax resident in Malaysia, I had paid 26% of my monthly income into taxation. But once I have become a tax resident in Malaysia, the high tax rates will no longer apply.

Besides, I have been working in KL for more than a year and I would say that not all companies in Malaysia make PCB deduction for their employees. Even they do, I believe most Malaysians do not really give a damn about it.

Do Singaporeans really pay the lowest tax in the world? Perhaps not.

4. Higher purchasing power ≠ Wealth ≠ Happiness

Can money buy happiness? It is always perceived that people with higher income are generally happier than those who constantly struggle to get by in life. Well, I must agree that money can indeed buy you some form of happiness.

However, earning a higher income and stronger currency does not necessary guarantee you a good and easy life. What matters more is how you manage you finances or spend your money.

Happiness cannot be measured by wealth, just like money can never buy you time. What is the point of earning and having lots of money in your bank when you do not even have the time to appreciate and enjoy life?

Furthermore, earning a weaker currency does not mean that Malaysians could not afford go on overseas holidays or buy imported branded products. Singaporeans might be proud that their stronger currency enables them to travel more often and buy more branded products than Malaysians, but at the end of the day, the happiness you get is just temporary.

The true advantage of earning SGD instead of RM comes only when you are spending it outside of the country.  But when it comes to settling down, starting a family or planning for your retirement in Singapore, you would realized that you actually have nothing to boast about.

However, whether you are rich or poor, the most important thing in life is to be happy. From what I have seen, most Malaysians are generally happier than Singaporeans, who are known to place a greater importance on family. Singaporeans, on the other hand, are more interested in monetary rewards than family. For me, it is family life.

5. Education & healthcare system

Education in Singapore adopt a system of meritocracy which recognizes and rewards individuals based on acheivement, merit and hard work. Unlike Malaysia, Singapore embraces an English- based billingual education system where English is used as the medium of instruction for all subjects in schools. The official Mother Tongue of each student - Mandarin for Chinese, Malay for Malays and Tamil for Tamil Indians - is taught as the second language.

English continues to be the dominant language in the business world and fluency in the language actually offers one a far wider choice of career prospects and the advantage to succeed globally. However, due to the strong emphasis placed on English language, many Singaporeans in Singapore today could not communicate fluently in their Mother Tongue.

Singapore's education system, despite being rated as one of the best in the world, has been heavily critcized for being heavy on memorization and light on critical thinking and creativity. It is also too competitive and rigid in nature where a strong emphasis is placed solely on academic results. In fact, Singaporeans are not learning in school. We do not study just because we wanted to learn, but rather, we memorized to pass our exams in school. There is a common misconception that the higher number of As indicates the person is smarter and will fare better in the job market. Is this really the case? I bet the answer is no.

Even having said that, I still prefer the education system in Singapore. But only to primary school levels. Why? The education system in Singapore, though rigid and exam-orientiated, is still efficient in developing a strong foundation in every individuals. It allows interaction across all different races and foster unity  among Singaporeans. The biggest problems I find in Malaysia's education system is the medium of instruction used to teach and the existence of vernacular schools.

Schools remain the best place to unite all Malaysians, regardless of race or religion. Without doubt, the existence of vernacular schools may have caused disunity in the country, especially when we have the chinese going to chinese schools and the Tamil going to the Tamil schools.

Even so, I wonder what actually makes the anonymous reader above assumed that my children are bound to have a hard life in Malaysia. If life is hard in Malaysia, every Malaysian will be suffering now. But why do I still see lots of successful Malaysia who are too, the product of Makaysia's education system?

The education system in Malaysia might not br the best, but I believe it is improving. If Singapore's education system is that good, why are Singapore's companies recuiting and hiring foreign talents? We should have the talents to fill in all those positions that are taken up by the foreign talents. But why are Singaporeans not hired?

Health care 

Singapore is known to have one of the best healthcare system in the world, but unfortunately, it comes with a hefty price tag.

There is a common saying in Singapore. "You can die, but you cannot fall sick in Singapore. if you fall sick, you might not be able to afford  to go for medical treatments, even with government susidiaries."

Unlike Singapore, the health care system in Malaysia is definitely not the best in the world, but at least, it has been heavily subsidized by the government. In fact, the medical and health charges imposed by the government hospitals and clinics are the cheapest in the world.

The above shows the charges of imposed by the government hospitals and clinics in Malaysia.

At government hospitals in Malaysia, a Malaysian will only need to pay RM 1 for a visit to outpatient clinics and RM 5 for consultation at a specialist clinic. Although foreigners are required to pay more, I still find the price pretty affordable when compared to Singapore.

So, to Ferli81, if you already feel stressed and cannot even afford to pay the medical bills in Malaysia, please keep yourself healthy and do not fall sick in Singapore. The cost of healthcare in Singapore will be so much more expensive than Malaysia. Also, I do not find the private services in Malaysia ridiculously expensive or unaffordable too.

Final Conclusion

After reading through all the comments, I can further confirm one thing - that Singaporeans are arrogant who love to brag and put others down. Why are Singaporeans always trying to put their neighbour down? Does it make them feel much better about themselves? No matter how many times I have stressed upon the importance of work-life balance, some people just remain too blinded to see. Between money and a balanced life, I have chosen the latter. For those who said that I have no right to rant, then what gives you the right to judge my decision.

Apart from that, I certainly do not understand why Malaysians have to compare KL to Penang or to any other state in Malaysia. To me, every state in Malaysia has its own speciality and uniqueness. Whether it is KL, Penang or any other states, as long as you are happy and satisfied with your life, anywhere, everywhere could be home.

Be sure to follow me on Facebook or Twitter  for any latest updates on my blog. So stay tuned!


  1. Elin, some Malaysian netizens that are posting negative + sarcastic comments are probably losers or too ignorant. A normal Malaysian should have a more balance view on their own country.

  2. Even you're not staying very long here, but your comment based on your experiences quite accurate.

    Your overwhelming response post, may be one of the main reason is being listed at here

  3. I think the main problem is many people who comment on blogs (or wherever else on social media) do not like reading before jumping to conclusions. They misinterpret a personal account as a factual account and go butthurt for no good reasons. As a KL boy who moved to Penang for work, I face similar concerns that you faced (why move to less affluent place) and agree with your chain of thoughts. To those butthurt people, they can go fly their own kites.

  4. Do not feel sad over bad comments, it doesn't matter and they voice their opinions like yours (unless reference with facts). These stuffs make us learn and do better which the one that commented don't. Like our work places, if everyone is nice and the environment is perfect, most probably we are the troublemaker. No need for respond, you know where you stand and you are ahead of the rest when you learn from what you need to pick up from those comments.

  5. Hi there,

    I've read your previous post and straight looked whether you have any follow up post. And kudos for articulating your points and view so well.

    I believe most of the haters are here just to troll. So ignore them :)

    As for me, the reason why I came across your article is because I am a Malaysian and was pondering a move to Singapore.

    I guess what I've managed to learn most from your post is that there's no right or wrong decisions. In the end it's what you value most in your life.

    For me, the initial urge to move really was a superficial one where I was slightly envious of friends who moved there and are living "the life", well... at least in my eyes. They hard shorter working hours (I work in an IT consulting firm that pays really well, but hours are really long compared to my friends in SG), food is cheaper and transportation is cheaper if you don't convert, and what made me envious the most is that they often travel overseas almost without a care in the world because of Singapore's strong currency. Whereas I have to plan and save meticulously only will I be able to travel overseas.

    But after reading your post, I'm and seriously rethinking whether I should make the move or not and here are a few reasons why.

    1. Malaysia is better if I were to think long term as the cost to raise a child that as you mentioned is significantly higher. A very valid point that was highlighted by my gf previously which I do plan to marry in the near future.

    2. You may be able to travel like a king in Singapore but you'll be able to live like a king in Malaysia. I'm currently staying in a landed property with my parents which would eventually be given to me. Plus I've bought another one that will be completed in 2018. Don't think I'll be able to buy one in SG anytime soon if i were to move there.

    3. I was planning to move to Singapore for an end user role because the hours are shorter but I believe I could get the same deal in Malaysia if I try. Only downside is that the currency is weaker. Which brings me back to point no 2.

    I guess my concluding point will be that I should be open to both options and see what they have to offer, but I should think long term on whether I would really want to bring up a child in Singapore.

    Thanks again for the awesome post that opened my eyes.

  6. An interesting article, I also have a few comments.
    1. Public transport system
    --> As a Malaysian, I never find people saying Malaysia is better than Singapore. The only advantage is cheaper but definitely far lower quality.
    --> Talk about car, definitely Malaysia is more affordable. However, this comes with a price of traffic jam. Grocery shopping in Singapore --> people gets around by staying nearby grocery stores or takes taxi or asks for delivery. Anyway, I consider driving skills is important. Thus, I am having a vision that Singaporean can own a car at Iskandar instead. I can't imagine my children can only live in Singapore but not elsewhere (sadly, this happen to some people).
    2. Discrimination
    --> Is not a major concern but discrimination definitely is far serious than Singapore. People just get around by avoid working in government department. The major concern to me is security. Imagine if the police officer treats you differently compare to those richer or different races.
    3. Corruption
    --> This is a minor concern if government is efficient, economy is good, and country is in good shape. However, look at current situation; do you think corruption is not a major concern? BTW, to me, I prefer high pay salary minister that do a good work than a low pay minister that corrupted a lot of money and doing lousy job. Do you care how much your boss earning or how much you are getting when you look for a job?
    4. Taxation
    --> Singapore definitely has more saving power after taxation (if you don't buy a landed property or a luxurious car).
    5. Wealth / Happiness
    --> This is subjective. Singaporean is definitely wealthier but we can't say is happier or otherwise (this depends on individual). Singapore definitely is losing if talk about space (landed house / car / etc) but winning talk about wealth.
    6. Education
    --> Malaysia standard has dropped so much and international school is very expensive. However, Malaysian has advantage of knowing more dialect and Malay (with sacrifice of proficiency). Anyway, in overall, I prefer Singapore.
    7. Health Care
    --> Singapore definitely far more expensive. Malaysia government hospital is cheap but quality also low. Anyway, now we have Medishield life. Also, we can goto some private Malaysia hospital if needed.
    Conclusion --> heaven is in your heart. Stop complaining and choose the best option that suits you.

  7. Dear Elin,

    First of all, welcome to KL!!!

    Singapore is no doubt one of the most advanced cities in the world in terms of its systems(ie. education, infrastructure, etc.)

    KL in comparison will have room to improve. However, being KL-ite, it's very exciting to see KL gets better and better overtime. Because KL needs improvement, we can look forward to all the exciting projects such as MRT, HSR, River of Life, LRT extensions, etc. It's like watching your boy grow up overtime kind of feeling and am proud of being this generation to witness its change!

    Hmm... unlike many commented, KL is full of opportunities for people who are willing to work hard too. Similar to Singapore, it can get very competitive in certain industries here and some people, irregardless of races get promoted as long as they can prove themselves.

    Safety wise, I would not say KL is very unsafe, but I would say Singapore is very safe.

    Like living in big cities in many other countries, everyone needs to have some common sense and stay alert during certain time of the day to prevent crimes.

    I often have this philosophy(no offence to anyone :)), a person to decide to live in Singapore or Malaysia, is like an animal choosing to live in Zoo or the wild.

    Inside the zoo, one will feel very safe and protected and he won't expect any attack from other animals at 99% of the time.

    On the other hand, being animal in the wild is widely exposed, he will need to learn the surviving skill how to protect himself from any attacks from other animals. But in exchange he will get his freedom.

    I really enjoy reading your posts. I am like you. I value work-life balance a lot and I love my freedom here.

    It doesn't matter where you stay in any part of the world. You have made your decision together with your husband. Thats the most important thing. That's why I strongly believe you will not regret your decision, because you put your family first, and that you will stay a happy family and that counts.

    Great food, warm people, more space, a little less stressful in work, always room to improve, this is Malaysia.

    You will hate it at some point, but you will also love it.

    But one thing can be sure, you will LOVE it more than you HATE it!!! :-)

    Again, welcome to Malaysia and be a witness of its transformation!

    I wish you and your family stay strong, happy and healthy!!!