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Monday April 2nd 2018

Singaporean family settling well in Sydney and regret not doing it earlier

Describe a little about yourself e.g. name, citizenship history (if any), educational background, work experiences.

Jarod – I am a born-and-bred Singaporean with Australian PR since 2009. I only made the move in May 2012 as during the 2009 it was the GFC and I found the job market stagnant in Australia.

I ‘m a Diploma holder with lots of IT skills and certification working in large MNC’s as a IT system engineer/consultant/ junior manager for over 12 years.

The job search in Australia is tough and I was incredibly lucky to find a role consultant role in Melbourne. If not my PR might have lapse as it was valid for 5 years with just 2 years left on it. So it was a real blessing and I spent 6 months on my own bunking in with a close relative – again another blessing! My wife and 2 kids moved over in November 2012 and we found a small apartment just close to my work outside the CBD near Melbourne central.

Where are you living now and why do you choose that location?

Jarod – I am living in the Ryde area in Sydney and only moved to Sydney from Melbourne when I found a good role at a principal IT software vendor better suited to my previous experience in Singapore and paying more.

As for Ryde it’s fairly close to the city, has a train station nearby, family friendly and good public schools. My wife fell in love with the suburb and the community there which is culturally very diverse. We made friends fast with neighbours, parents of kids from my child’s school / class and  work mates living close by. We have no relatives or friends in Sydney  and actually wanted to make Sydney a short-term stepping stone move career wise. However we’ve both fell in love with Sunny Sydney which has much better weather than Melbourne where the joke of the 4 seasons in a day is very real. I still romanticize about Melbourne alot but my other half is a die-hard Sydneysider!

What are the general challenges faced in living overseas? (Housing, Food, Languages, Culture, Weather, Discrimination, Transportation, Schools, Community, etc…)

Jarod – It’s a apples and oranges comparing Singapore our home country where my spouse and I were born and bred. You can easily make a pros-and-cons list and Australia should win hands down on quality of life and the slightly more laid-back way of life. However, given the amount of time spent in Singapore already and the attachment one forms to routine, food, family, culture, Singapore is a small and pretty convenient city so it’s a tough adjustment when one ventures abroad.

I had a good head start in Australia and relatives to guide and support me in Melbourne so when my wife and kids came over they have the same adjustment issues and doubt but I could offer her “my solution” or my experience – that alone gave her the confidence that she can make it too!

This is a good strategy to have – one foot in to test the water to see if we can adjust to the new environment.

The main issue is that we both do not drive in Singapore, however, driving is easier than we expected in Sydney as drivers are generally safer and there is GPS!

If you need to take a driving test it’s also really easy and cheap…cars are cheap too! Housing was a challenge as there is strong competition for available units which are conveniently located in hot suburbs with top schools but once your application gets approved it’s a achievement in itself! Most other things we get tips from friends and the online sites on social media.

Most are more than willing to share and help new migrants in a pay-it-forward style. There is the occasional racism but it’s fairly predictable from the small percentage of bogans.

The right choice of a safe suburb will give you that extra comfort.

Did your family moved with you and if so, how is your family coping? Are they happy or do they want to move back to Singapore?

Jarod -Yes my family came over 6 months later and we did have to move back for short period to take care of our sick parents and get help with raising our newborn who popped out 3 years ago. Family support for newborns was essential for my wife for our first 2 kids so when the 3rd one came along I fished around for a stint back home. Thankfully I got lucky with an internal transfer.

Was it difficult to get jobs while staying abroad? Describe your job search experience and how different it is from Singapore.

Jarod – The job search challenge cannot be underestimated and unless you have very really strong niche skill or previous working experience you better have sufficient savings and give yourself 3-6 months to find a job.

I got lucky but not everyone has that – the Australian job market has always been a employers’ market because of the global skilled talent pool migrating in every year to the most livable cities in the world – Melbourne and Sydney.

Was the work culture similar or different than Singapore? Describe the working culture, expectations and conditions.

Jarod – The job culture is radically different. While hard work is respected it’s working smart which is really looked upon as an asset. Everyone wants the job done with the least amount of effort and finishing work on time. At my office the lights are timed to go off at 5.30 and most work the 7-4 timing and sometimes 3.30pm if they take 30-minute sandwich lunch break. Working late is looked upon as being unproductive or inefficient- unless you have no choice like if you are on call for support work or special projects needing after-hour work. In such cases you are well compensated. Communication is also very important and although Singaporeans generally speak well we still need to slow down our speech and cut off the Singlish!

What precious lessons did you learn from living overseas?

Jarod – Tons! I could go on and on. The most important is that you never know what you truly made off until you challenge yourself and put your self through the real thing. Moving an entire family over and transitioning work, school, home, finance, etc is no mean feat. You can do a basic plan but have to “wing it” and live through month to month. The rewards of better work life balance, less stressful academic life and chance to have residency in Singapore’s number one holiday destination is a dream come true! And it’s totally doable!

What are your reasons for wanting to move overseas to work, live, study and/or migrate?

Jarod – It’s always been our dream ever since our first holiday here about 14 years ago to live here! Cheap housing, cars, beautiful country, better more holistic education, slower pace of life and government safety nets among others.

At this point, would you want to return to Singapore eventually or prefer to settle down in your new place permanently?

Jarod – Settle down here…we may come back to Singapore for some short work assignments but my family has settled here and love what the Aussie lifestyle offers.

What are your regrets till date and will you do it again if given a choice?

Jarod – Regret not doing it earlier!

What are your advice for Singaporeans aspiring to live, work, study or migrate overseas?

Jarod -Come and talk to us and trial it out if you need to. It’s not for everyone as if you are too used to the Singapore’s city life, the big change can be quite overwhelming. For us, holidaying back to Singapore to experience the local food and get in touch with family and friends is much easier now with budget air travel and travel promos so you can have your cake and eat it kind-of.

What could possibly compel you to permanently return to Singapore?

Jarod – Family sickness taking care of aged parents.

Thank you and end of interview

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One Response to “Singaporean family settling well in Sydney and regret not doing it earlier”

  1. GVY says:

    Young Singaporeans aspiring to build a life in Oz should note the following, assuming you do not an Oz spouse, direct relations in Oz or A$5 million to spare:

    1) Understand the Skills Occupation List (SOL) for skill-based migration, which is reviewed annually. No surprises for which skills are perennially in demand – the STEM skills, discipline and professions. Fortunately, unlike the U.S., specialized blue collar skills are also in demand in Oz, especially those working in tough and demanding environments, like oil, mining and gas. (Hint: you do not work in a nice comfy office). But Aussie tradesmen in these sectors earn A LOT. Therefore, do channel your passions to study specialized disciplines that lead you into these in-demand professions. Sorry, business and arts grads need not apply as Oz has plenty.

    2) Brush up on your English. You will be required to take the IELTS test and doing well will score you more immigration points. In addition, certain professions have higher IELTS score requirements before its Skills Assessing Authority is willing to certify your skills for migration. No skills assessment, no migration. Most immigrants flop at the writing and speaking (oral) sections of the IELTS test. For the latter, start listening a LOT to BBC radio, watch Jamie Oliver, whatever. Learn how native English speakers speak, drop that Singlish! You don’t have to pick up the Queen’s English, but you do need to speak well enough to be understood by the oral tester. A 0.5 points difference here could mean the difference between a re-test or 10 additional immigration points. Some oral testers take it upon themselves to be Australia’s immigration gatekeepers. The more you can convince them you respect the English language, the better. My best oral score came from an American tester who was working for IELTS.

    3) Get relevant and good work experience. Do what it takes to get that experience for your chosen specialized field, even if it means having to leave Singapore to get it. Your skills assessing authority and immigration authority will want it. You need at least 2-3 years.

    4) Age plays an important factor in your migration case. The younger you are when you apply, the more immigration points you get. The sweet age is before 35 years old. After that, it goes downhill quickly and even good IELTS scores or tons of work experience will not be enough to cover points shortfalls from age. With the rest of the world discovering what a great place Oz is, every point counts. A good target is to get 70 points and above, the higher the better. The minimum is 60 points but nowadays that could mean an infinite wait like the U.S.

    5) This is hard but start saving because you will need a cushion of funds to get by when you land and try to find your first job, unless you are a star researcher or IT whiz that every Aussie STEM company will trip over themselves to hire you. Learn how to get by financially by being frugal in every aspect of your life. You don’t need that iPhone X if your iPhone 6s is still serving you well. Learn how to cook because you will save and pick up valuable skills for Oz. A plate of chicken rice costs A$10 so all the more incentive to know how to cook it. Put your money in Singapore’s blue chip stocks if you can like banks and telcos. It will grow much faster to build your cushion of funds.

    6) Network a lot, or learn how to. It will open doors and new horizons to you. Oz is a much more diverse place than Singapore. You will likely be living next to and be working with immigrants from Euro countries, Greeks, Italians, India, Middle East, Africa, Korea, etc. It is not our standard Malay, Indian (Tamil), Chinese & Others mix.

    7) Lastly, you must set your own thoughts and path. Your environment in Singapore will try to influence you – family, friends and right-wing Singaporeans – that ours is the best place on Earth. Yes it is in some aspects but not all. I value a country that truly protects its citizens’ access to jobs and opportunities, that provides proper safety nets, that has wide open spaces, clean and pristine nature, that gives everyone a fair go. What do you value?

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