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Across the Causeway

Malaysian to Mom: “You Force Me Also I Refuse to Work in Singapore.” Here’s Why!

(Eds’ note: Chen Yun Ru’s tale was written in Mandarin, and we’ve translated it here)

CHEN YUN RU: I was born in a small village in Ipoh, Perak. Many youngsters who had just graduated from school would leave home to find work in Singapore. The elders would tell them “Go to Singapore and earn your fortune, work hard and save the money, then after 10 or 20 years, you can come home and buy a house, and even open a store and do a business. You won’t have to worry for the rest of your life.”

That’s why my younger cousins are now working in Singapore.

I had returned home from Kuala Lumpur for a few days to visit my mother. While we were sitting in the living room and watching TV, she suddenly asked, “Why don’t you go and work in Singapore? You can make a lot of money, especially when payment is in Singapore dollars. Look at your cousin. After working in Singapore for 2 years, he can buy a small car for your aunt…”

She told me other “success stories” of relatives who had gone to Singapore to seek their fortune, and said that it’s “not worth earning ringgit”.

I told my mother that yes, I’m not filial. I know I’m not earning much money, but I’m happy living and working in Kuala Lumpur. I told her that working in Singapore is difficult and that she only looks at the “successes” of those working in Singapore, but can’t see the tears they shed in private.

While driving back to Ipoh, I was thinking about why I’m so against going to Singapore to work. I’ve been to Singapore several times. There, it’s safe, you don’t have to worry about walking in the streets at midnight, and public transport such as the MRT and buses are convenient to get around. I also admire Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew, but why do I just not love Singapore?

1. Singapore is a city without a soul

Every time I describe Singapore as a “city without a soul”, my friends tell me they don’t understand me, it’s too abstract. But it’s just a feeling I get. When I’m walking in a mall, or through the high-rise HDB estates, I feel that everything is too organised, as though there’s no sense of freedom.

2. Singaporeans have left a bad impression on me

One of my relatives married a Singaporean man. He’s always complaining. I remember him always saying this line at Genting, “I want to see your manager, I want to make a complaint against you.”

3. There’s no freedom in Singapore

Now, I’m someone who can’t live without my car. With it, I can go wherever I like. When I’m hungry at night, I can meet my friends and have dinner at MacDonald’s. But in Singapore, cars are expensive! Also, some cars can only be used from Monday to Friday, some cars only on weekends – that’s something I can live with.

4. I want to live in the moment

My parents have told me “suffer for 20 years and the future will be better.” But I don’t even know what will happen tomorrow. You want me to be frugal, cut down on entertainment, and eat bread every day? No way! If I worked in Singapore, I don’t think I would save a lot of money. Working in Kuala Lumpur, I feel free and at ease, and can at least save some money.

5. Malaysia has its good points

My Singaporean friend brought me to eat Hainanese Chicken Rice, which he says is deicious. I don’t know why he finds it so tasty. I can find better-tasting food in Malaysian coffeeshops. I still prefer the Malaysian flavour. As a Malaysian, I have feelings for my homeland. I wouldn’t want to go to Singapore and be criticised by Singaporeans (it was in the news a few days ago that Singaporeans are scolding native China workers for not learning to speak English before coming to Singapore. I won’t want that to happen to me.)

After all these reasons, if a Singapore company offers me a high-paying job, I might consider working there. Haha!

This story was written by Chen Yun Ru.
Chen’s  original story in Mandarin is included below:

我生在霹雳怡保一个小新村,新村里许多年轻人中五一毕业就会找机会往新加坡去工作,因为长辈都会和你说:“去新加坡先赚一笔,然后在那边省钱,拼命地工作存钱,10 年 20 年后再回来买屋子创业,开个小小的店面做生意,这样生活就有保障了。






从怡保驾车回吉隆坡时,我一直在想,为何我那么不想去新加坡,明明我已经去过几次新加坡,也觉得那边治安很好,晚上半夜 12 点走在路上根本不用担心,交通也很方便,要到哪里坐 MRT 巴士基本上都可以到达,我也非常崇拜李光耀的聪明才智,但为何我就是不爱新加坡呢?

1. 这是个没有灵魂的城市


2. 新加坡人给我的不好印象


3. 没有自由


4. 我要活在当下

当父母和我说,挨了 20 年后,以后的路就会更好走。但,对我这种活在当下的人来说,我连明天会怎样我都不懂,你要我省吃省用,不出去娱乐,每天吃面包过活? NO WAY! 若我在新加坡工作,我相信我应该也存不了多少钱,那倒不如我在吉隆坡自由自在,还可以有一点点小储蓄。

5. 马来西亚也有他的好




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