Where do I want to live?
I’ve come to the conclusion a long time ago that Singapore is a good place to work in but not great for a good living. I can fully understand the influx of expatriates into Singapore, because as a place to work it has a lot going for it. It’s in east Asia, where even with the current recession, economic growth is likely to be the highest in the world for at least the next few years. Language is not a barrier, it’s convenient to every amenity, and most importantly, it has one of the lowest income tax rates in the developed world.
But as a place to live, I think there are many other places in the world that has so much more to offer. If it’s urban excitement that we want, London, New York, Los Angeles, Tokyo all provide a more exciting lifestyle. If it’s a more relaxed city life we’re after, Melbourne, Vancouver and Amsterdam seem to be well regarded. For nature, the list gets even longer, and for culture, well that’s everywhere else in the world.
If we do a comparison netting of cost of living and average income earned among the different cities, Singapore doesn’t really come out ahead as well. Sure Tokyo and London are expensive places to live in, but then average pay there is also higher, and netting them out assuming similiar jobs and livestyles, the residual amount saved is not much different in real terms. ( Real being a comparison of purchasing power). A 4 bedroom flat here, is the price of a landed house on the outskirts of Melbourne. A Toyota Altis here, is 3 times the price as one in London or New York. I would argue that Singapore is not a cheap place to live.
The only significant category that I think of where Singapore tops everywhere else is in terms of safety.
Of course every city in the world has it’s flaws and bad policies. But the world is a much smaller place now than it was 10 years ago. and we really should take a page out of the expat’s handbook in terms of doing the rational thing. You choose a place that is better for work to work, and that when you’re done with work, choose a place that is better for living to live in. As many expats come into Singapore to work, Singaporeans (mostly) can emigrate to other “better” places to live as well.
Of course, emigration is not easy, as there will be criterias to meet, and for some it’s not really an option. As much as we think that the educational system here is flawed, it really gives us an advantage over a lot of other people when it comes to immigration criterias. For most young professionals in Singapore, making it all the way through the educational system was the hard bit, emigration test/ criterias by comparison is a piece of cake.
Yes, everything has to be weighed against the consideration for friends and family. And it’s subjective which column will end up with more weight. But until we sit down and tally up the score, we will not know if it’s actually a viable alternative.