October 17th, 2009
Singaporeans like to go into Johor Bahru (JB) to shop, eat and play a game of golf – but only over the weekend. When asked the question if they will like to reside in Johor Bahru, most will give a definite “NO”, due to the safety concerns, custom jams and perhaps lingering uneasiness of staying in a bumiputra country, where privileges are still accorded to specific races.
With the global financial crisis that started in Oct 2008, there is an increasing number of Singaporeans who actually made the decision to move out from Singapore and make Johor Bahru their permanent home. Money is usually the main consideration: The rental income from a 4-room HDB flat in Singapore will be able to sustain your living expenses in JB. There are also cases of whole family units moving into JB from Singapore; 5-room flat in Singapore is rented out, rental income is used to tide over family expenses while parents continue to look for employment in Singapore – children travel across the causeway daily to school.
Irene is one of the growing number of Singaporeans who made such a decision to relocate into Johor Bahru. In the article below, she shares with us her thoughts and experience on making Johor Bahru home.
“Living” In Johor Bahru, by Irene
What do you do when you are somewhere in your mid-life, single, getting tired of the 9 to 5 routine office job, but still need some kind of income to sustain yourself?
Like many other Singaporeans, I, too, decided to rent my flat out and go live in JB. Perhaps the difference for me is in the process of looking for a place to stay in JB, when prices of houses in Singapore were escalating, the plan to rent out my flat turned to selling instead.
So, here I am who will soon be without a house to call my own, having found a place to live somewhere in JB and with a view!
I have also got myself a part-time job in Singapore, working only four days a week traveling during non-peak hours when I do not have to squeeze with the office hour crowd or experience the daily rush hour traffic jams at the causeway. As I do not drive, I have to rely on taxis as it is quite inconvenient to take the bus from where I live. Added to this, when you have so many people telling you to be careful and be safe, you just have to rely on taxis instead of waiting at some lonely make-shift bus stand for a bus that does not seem to show up. Although the traveling time takes almost an hour and a half, I have no complaints as the journey is quite a breeze. However, dealing with some cab drivers has its frustrations when they charge you more than the meter fare and you just have to pay when they appear rough and aggressive. This is a form of robbery too except that you are robbed of a couple of bucks (or depending on how much more they ask you to pay) and your confidence is a little shaken.
Right now, there is one big inconvenience I am experiencing in my own apartment. There have been a few evenings when I come home late and tired, switch the lights and fans on only to find nothing works. I am living in a new apartment and I have just found out that the power supply to my unit is not official yet. As a result, the building management staff has been removing the fuse in the electrical room to stop the power supply to my unit for fear that the department for power supply may do a check and find out I have been tapping electricity illegally! It is no fault of mine that I have actually been allowed to move into an apartment unit oblivious to the fact that the power supply is yet to be approved by the government department, and now I am subjected to living without electricity.
So, this is living in JB for me so far. It has its frustrations but then again, just like anything else in life, things cannot be perfect all the time. I do not know what other problems will come my way, but it helps to have an open mind and take it as it comes. I have been unduly worried about problems with immigration and customs for traveling in and out of JB too frequently but that cause for worry seems to be unfounded now.
Obviously, some sacrifices have to be made when making a shift to live elsewhere. For someone who is so used to simply going outside for a walk or exercise any time of the day or night, I have yet to pluck up the courage to do the same here as I have not seen any woman exercising in the open space in the neighborhood yet. I also miss the freedom of going out and returning home alone late at night without having to feel unsafe and to be cautious.
Having said that, I am also glad that I have got to know a few people who are living or working in the apartment premises and have been invited to join them for a night out in the town. I had the chance to mingle with the locals and it is nice to know that there are people you can turn to in times of need.
Living in JB has its highs and lows. For all the shortcomings, I am actually grateful that I have the option to make this move. After all, I had wanted a change and there was JB just right across the causeway offering a way out for me, at least for a while… Kudos to others – especially families who are also looking for a way out to solve a financial situation, for having the courage to make the same move and are straddling two countries.
Editor’s Note: This post is contributed by a Irene, who can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you wish to contribute your article to us, please visit the post here
And see a response on this post by yet another of our reader, Kay Yap
I wandered into your website whilst taking a ‘walk’ in cyberspace after dinner and came across the article “Living” In Johor Bahru, by Irene. I read it with interest because for some time now, this topic of Singaporeans relocating to Johor Bahru has often been discussed with friends. We feel that given the suffocating pace in which Singaporeans must breathe to stay alive, Johor Bahru is the ideal place for those who want to live ‘slower and cheaper’ yet wish to be near to their relatives and/or friends in Singapore.
I am sorry that Irene had teething problems settling in her new place but as with relocation, it is inherent anywhere and not just limited to Johor Bahru. Even as a local, I have my share of being fleeced by taxi drivers, had my handbag snatched in bright day-light once, had my electrical power cut off in the dead of the night due to a blown main fuse and stewing (both literally and physically) until the next morning before it was fixed by the relevant authority. Such problems are not unique to outsiders.
In any place outside of your own country, the culture of the people and way of life are always different and it is indeed a learning experience albeit frustrating at times. Our Malaysian way of life is largely shaped by our very multi-racial society , the way things get done or undone and our knowing how local authorities function. Not that we happily expect less but that we accept that change is slow and comes with the passage of time. The key is to expect and accept frustrations as part and parcel of living in Johor Bahru because things do not move as efficiently, effectively and speedily as you are used to in Singapore.
Once you get the hang of things, you will find life in Johor Bahru not so bad afterall. There are good and affordable eating places, most housing estates have basic amenities nearby, shopping complexes and cinemas are within easy reach. If you don’t drive, you can dial for a cab. If you drive, roadsigns are adequate. If you are not sure of your way, google the map before you start. If you choose to stay at home, you can still tune into your Singapore television channels or subscribe to cable television. Find time to join the ladies in their morning exercise routine (most housing estates have such organised activity) and you will find yourself making new friends and getting invited to other events. Join a church, you will meet more people and find fellowship, company and help. In fact, in no time to come, you will find Johor Bahru liveable, affordable and comfortable.