Singapore Documentary: Should I Stay Or Should I Go?

The one about living abroad segways neatly into my latest reality documentary entitled “Should I Stay Or Should I Go?”. This video was taken from a recent Singaporean dinner gathering which offered a chance for seniors to meet incoming students here at the University at Buffalo.

In this short piece, I chat up with Singaporean students on the premise that if given a choice, whether they would prefer to stay in the U.S. or return to Singapore.

At this social gathering you’ll see a melange of young and old to geek and glam. Depending on your perspective, you might already realize that the more senior students tend to prefer settling down abroad while the incoming teenagers, prefer returning to Singapore.

For those who prefer staying abroad, the most common reasons include:
– the nature of their discipline (e.g. American medical degree, bigger job market)
– comfortable way of life (e.g. freedom of expression, wage vs. cost of living, consumer rights)
– democratic economy (e.g. eBay creates low barrier to entry for business)

For those who prefer returning to Singapore, the most common reasons include:
– family attachment
– familiar local food
– close friends

My basic hypothesis for this would be that the more time you spend in a new location (e.g. United States), the more you are able to get accustomed to what it offers. Once you find something favorable, especially if geographically unique (e.g. culture, economy), those ideals often ends up challenging your precepts of home (i.e. Singapore).

At this point I’d like to turn to you…
Where are you now? And if given a choice, would you stay or would you go?

Recent related links:
Singapura Video: Introducing Ourselves (Fall 2006 students)
Singapura Video: Steamboat Party Outtakes (How we have fun!)
Singapura.org: A fresh blog for Singaporeans living abroad

On the imagination of home, also check out:
AGrainofSand’s “Home is where the heart is?”
My LifeStory: When “home” isn’t a place anymore…
Takchek’s “Where is Home?”
L’oiseau Rebelle’s “Choices”

19 thoughts on “Singapore Documentary: Should I Stay Or Should I Go?

  1. I spent some time with some physio and physical therapy friends recently, who have been living in US and Canada working with people from all sorts of neighbourhoods.

    After a couple of years out there, they now intend to return to Singapore. I figured in their business they see the less enticing side of society and found it wanting. They were more enthusiastic about Singapore’s culture.

    Took me by surprise since these adventurous individuals appeared well settled.

  2. Me and my family made the relocation to San Francisco 8 months ago from Buffalo and we have not even glanced back to Western New York.

    But truly, life anywhere is what the person chooses to make it and less about the town they live in. Granted, living in certain places will have its own unique rewards, but the bottomline is how you use those resources for your own means.

    Enjoy wherever you live – life is too short to feel remorse for being “stuck” somewhere (unless its jail)

  3. Otterman: Indeed, seniority doesn’t automatically leads one to settle abroad. I know of some who still plan to return home to Singapore. In such cases, it could boil down to the type of character one has.

    Dennis: It’s true. The best strategy is to move forward and make the best of things. For the middle-income person, life is already good as it is, so everything else is really just a matter of getting use to.

  4. i feasted in Singapore in transit on my move from Sydney to London, so can understand the appeal! … have only been here, in London, for a couple of months and the novelties of the new are still pretty much keeping me entertained and distracted.

    We’re seeking new adventures, new places, new experiences… so being away is a necessary part of the equation. I think we might even move somewhere else before we start thinking about moving back home. (Don’t tell my mum!)

    I’m away for a few years yet I’d say… and not sure what would draw me back. I’m open to living anywhere at the moment… but it’s friends and family – being close to them – that I suspect will ultimately draw us home.

  5. i’m working here in chicago for now. think i’ll stay here for a couple more years at least, since i want to get my mba and my company can help pay for part of it. ultimately, it boils down to my having to decide if i want to travel around the world for a while more yet – experience living in other state/countries – or if i want to plonk my money down for my own condo.

  6. ha, it reminds me of one of my earlier posts, where i wondered what defines home. i think, right now, my answer would be, a place i own. somehow, at this point in my life, i feel like i’d truly belong somewhere when i can call it my own. not a rented apartment, not my parents’ house, but my own space.

  7. Sacrelicious: I find that some U.S. cities are more varied in terms of culture compared to Singapore, likewise for the food. An example is San Francisco where you literally get everything. That’s a place I’d love go.

    Leisa: Glad you tried the local delights! And yes, travelling is always exciting. Perhaps once you’re tired of everything, you’d see home as a familiar safe haven.

    L’oiseau rebelle: If you love the mountains that much, perhaps you should get to know Peishan who comments just after you. She loves rock climbing it seems. And yes, the HDB is a cultural construct Singaporeans have grown to accept. Right now I’m living in a pretty big apartment with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen, dining area and a big living room. All for US$750 per month rent which I split with my fellow housemate. I wonder what I can get for the same amount in Singapore. Also, would I be earning to same as a graduate assistant?

    PS: I definitely recall your “Where is home” article. This theme does resonate constantly among us. Relating to this, I know someone who has struggled all the way to work in the U.S., made it big, and now considers moving back to Singapore. Apparently he claims that doing the math, he would be earning more in Singapore, with lower cost of living than Manhattan.

    Shalini: Everyone can now see how Andy loves eBay! eBay to me is a monopoly and their fees just keep going up. That pretty much sucks 😛

  8. Hi Kevin,

    Nice video u have there. I spent 7 years in the UK before I came back last year to serve my 2 year bond. At the moment, I am thinking whether I should stay in Singapore or spend another few years in US to get better career opportunities back home again.

  9. Kevin, dont forget me if you have any good deal in SF. Being abroad start to make me appreciate the value of the quality of living. The pace, the surroundings, etc. Its no longer so much the big ass fat paycheck which most people dream of, as you probably already know the fact that a firm willing to pay so much, expect no less than 18-20hrs of your life daily.

  10. I believe Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs would determine whether I stay or go, wherever “here” is. Oh, your last statement just before the video ended… you said, to those who said they would return to Singapore, to “give it a few years, you might change your opinion”. I think that statement applies to those who choose to stay outside Singapore too, Kevin. 🙂

  11. Ivan: Perhaps more explanation is needed. Briefly, I didn’t get to interview the newcomers much. They seemed quite preoccupied at the dinner. The last person I spoke to was one of the many incoming students and when I asked them earlier, they said they wanted to go home because of food, family and friends. I didn’t mean to brash, but they are new here and obviously won’t come to favor their new place immediately due to unfamiliarity.

    The majority of Singaporeans I’ve interviewed and polled said that they’re prefer to stay in the U.S. if given the opportunity. However, there is a natural tendency for newcomers to want to return home since they’re more familiar with Singapore than whereever they are currently situated (e.g. America).

    That’s why I said “give it a few years”: Once incoming Singaporeans are given ample time to adapt to their new place (and develop new friendships), most of them will also start asking themselves where home is.

  12. Wow… Hi dude. How I wish I could join u folks in US. I do not know you guys personally. Actually I’m an Singaporean, an international student in Melbourne Australia. The Singaporean in Melbourne are less organise like yours.

    I used to work in Singapore before I arrived in Melbourne for further studies, I like it here so much that I am applying for my Aussie PR here. But I will be going back to Singapore applying m Aussie PR off shore, coz I might not be going back after I got my PR. As I need to fulfill the 2 years stay requirement.

    I agree with your view that the more senior students tend to prefer settling down abroad while the incoming teenagers, prefer returning to Singapore.

    For those who prefer staying abroad, the most common reasons include:
    – the nature of their discipline (e.g. Australian Medical or Law degree, bigger job market)
    – comfortable way of life (e.g. freedom of expression, wage vs. cost of living, consumer rights)
    – democratic economy

    For those who prefer returning to Singapore, the most common reasons include:
    – family attachment
    – familiar local food
    – close friends

  13. Both my spouse and I had our first degrees in Singapore and tertiary education in US.
    As young working adults, we enjoy living in US- immensely. The earning power, job nature and cost of living, as well as the quality of life, are attractive to us, so much so they surpass the benefits of living in Singapore.
    After living in our own suburban home for some time, I will most likely suffer from acrophobia (fear of heights) and claustrophobia if I return to live in Singapore.

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