I have been meeting up with my friends since I returned from Sydney for the past few weeks.
Three topics normally dominated our conversations: making enough money to survive, how to benefit from the ridiculous red-hot property market and thinking of various ways to migrate.
I am sure that in Singapore, most people who met up will talk about these three hot topics in their conversations.
I will be most amazed if such topics are not raised up in any of the gatherings here.
No country is perfect
I guess I am the more fortunate ones who could travel in and out of the country frequently as my family is based in Sydney.
The shuttle also allows me to compare two great countries and of course the ability to see changes when I return back home after being away for a while.
No country is perfect and after staying abroad for long periods, I have learned to accept the shortcomings of our country and cherish those that appeal to me.
Wherever I am, Sydney can never be Singapore and vice versa, so I always try to appreciate the uniquesness of each country so that my stay will be pleasant.
Singapore’s infrastructure is rock solid and it’s transport system efficient though somewhat crowded lately.
The same could not be said of Sydney whose train system is close to 70 years old and some cabin seats are tore from over usage.
I have once stood waiting for the bus in Sydney for close to half an hour in cold biting wind in the thick of a wintry night and wished that the transport system there is as efficient as ours.
When the bus finally came, my toes were numbed from the cold and it took me a while to warm up to the heater in the bus.
I always find Singaporeans complaint too much and sometimes it borders on the incessant.
Worse still, there is also no suggestion of any possible solutions to their problems.
Besides shopping, complaining should be the next Singaporean past-time by now.
I can go out with the person a few times and he will be complaining about the same old thing till I could repeat what he will be saying next!
Perhaps, due to the lack of human rights, we could not vent our frustration properly and so we let go at one another when we catch up.
I hardly see the Aussies complaint even though they have their own local issues such as the boat people and frustrating traffic jams.
Their conversations mostly consist of jokes and light hearted stuff and I always wonder if they ever get serious.
The Aussies are also very touchy warm people who hug and kiss alot unlike Singaporeans who will scream molest if you touch a girl arm even if you held her while crossing the street.
I have never felt so detached during this period of my stay here as perhaps I am more used to the kind-hearted warm nature of the Aussies.
I could talk to anyone in the street if I am lost for direction and most will even bring me to the place if its along the way.
Many stores owners I bought stuff from daily became my friends as we talked abit each time I made a purchase and after a while we became good friends.
I remembered buying dinner almost on a daily basis from a Korean woman at the foodcourt and we became friends after a while as we asked about each other whenever we met.
The same could not be same of our local store owners here who will not even bother to wish or thank you when you make a purchse from them – even on a daily basis.
Its as cold as that and I always find that our society lacks the human touch which is exhibited in most great cities in the world.
Money money money
One big item for discussion when I caught up with my friends is the issue on making money.
Some friends took on another job during the weekend or after office hours and mind you, these are professional people!
Its either they are being paid poorly for their full time day job or they need the extra cash for other necessities.
Perhaps, the influx of foreigners have make the locals more edgy and want to work even harder than before to make any extra income that they could lay their hands on.
Not surprisingly, most women friends whom I met tend to be rather apprehensive when it comes to making enough money – especially if they are still single.
They have no one to count on and it gets worse if they have dependent parents.
That is probably why those who keep upgrading their degrees in evening classes are usually women who are desperate to keep themselves relevant to the job market.
I also find that single women who are jobless tend to take it alot more hard than single guys.
They will worry alot and became very distressed as the jobless days ticked into weeks and then months.
Maybe, the women folks are by nature more emotional and less steady than men.
The complicated dating local scene right now is also depriving many eligible women folks to the sidelines.
Complicated dating scene
I have met so many single professional women during this short period since I returned a month ago that I wonder where are all our local men?
Most of them want to settle down but could not find anyone local who is suitable or are our local men intentionally avoiding our gals?
One ex-air stewardess I knew even went to a professional dating site to look for her Mr Right and welcomes friends to recommend nice eligible guys for her.
She is only 35, articulate and attractive.
Of course, she is not supportive of our government’s BTO scheme as it favours the married and penalises those who are still single.
She also wants to settle down fast so that she could have kids soon as her biological clock is already ticking loudly.
Women also tend to be rather insecure about themselves and many prefer to play it safe when it comes to earning an income.
Most will want a stable income than risking it on doing business and frankly speaking many of our women folks are doing much better than our men at the work front.
I visited many offices in my work and saw at least 70% of the workers are women whereas men tend to become cab drivers, property agents among others.
The lopsided job market tends to disfavour our male counterparts resulting in many women earning a better income than guys.
Seventy percent of the huge teaching force here are women and most workers in the esteemed banking industry also consists of women.
This has serious implication in our dating scene as most women prefer their men to earn more than them and men on the other hand will also shun away from dating our high-powered high-income women.
That is probably why we see alot of expats dating our local women as most expats earn at least $7000 – $10, 000 monthly.
Women who dated and married our expats here probably also have an eye on moving abroad with their husbands when the opportunity arises.
Its a worthwhile preposition which appeals to many of our local women here – leaving many men here to pursue after foreign brides.
The only draw back here is that culturally mixed marriages tend to have far more adjustment issues than locally arranged ones and so the divorce rate for mixed marriages is rather high.
There is no known official statistics on the percantage of mixed marriages failing yet.
Thus, our local guys preferred to date and wed foreign women as many men find our local women to be high in expectations.
Long gone are those days when ah pei or lowly educated men go for foreign brides.
These days, I have heard of graduates searching through foreign brides’ catalogue and many have in fact settled down with them.
I am however unsure how successful such mixed marriages are as the cultural adjustment can be frightening for women from third world countries.
Many could also use the marriages as a fast get-rich ploy and I am sure by now we have heard enough of such stories to know that there is an element of truth in it.
I am sure that most people will agree with me that our country is entering into unfamiliar territory of social ills, over population and huge income disparity.
I don’t meet many happy Singaproeans these days and most hardly smile in the streets.
Of course, you can’t smile alot in our sardine trains especially when you are hard pressed in between by other commuters.
I saw that many people are generally stressed up by the lack of work life balance here and our happiness quotieth could be in the lowest barometer ever.
There are also not many places where we could go to unwind without bumping into another fellow human being resulting in many people staying at their caged HDB flats over the weekend.
That is probably why many people want to see me to check out their migration options!
As Singapore progresses well economically, I realise that socially we are still lacking on many fronts and unless these gaps are seriously look into, my fear is that the exodus will continue relentlessly.
Written by: Gilbert Goh