I am not a fucking Quitter!

Gist:

What are your advice for those Singaporean migrants who have newly moved abroad?

We are not quitters. We are simply trying to survive and make a decent living for ourselves. Only once we are economically stable, we can then come back and talk about patriotism and national pride. Do you want to be jobless, poorly paid, full of complains, live a shitty life in Singapore or do you want to expand your horizons first and come back later when the time is right to remake Singapore?

Any last words from you?

If you are a poor or jobless man in Singapore seeking financial assistance, and you talk patriotism or national pride to the government, won’t they ask you go fly kite? The government will think you are a liability who complains too much.

Rest of the interviewed by Gilbert Goh

Describe abit about yourself e.g. personal particulars, educational qualification, work experience.

I was last employed by a Bank in Singapore for more than 3 years. I have had about 4.5 years of banking experience starting from an entry level sales position to a loans manager. Essentially, I am a professional salesman if you take away the finance component.

I left Singapore to pursue my Masters degree in Finance and accounting in the hope of securing better future opportunities. My goal is a CPA and / or CFA. Its like a skill certification. My client living in Melbourne offered me a job and he is willing to wait 2 years for me if I move there.

Before I left, I was unsecure in my job even though I did quite well to earn a decent living. But the cost of it was many stay overs in the office or working till 1-2 am in the morning. I was driven to succeed. However, my wife wasn’t happy. She was also frustrated with life in Singapore. She was a foreigner (Vietnamese) and discriminated at her previous employment, a retail outlet in Causeway point. Most of the employees were Chinese Malaysians who only cared about hitting sales target (better salary) so that they stand better chance for a PR later.

I applied PR for her once and was rejected without reason. So she had the unwanted and unwelcome feeling. I felt worse, as a citizen. I couldn’t secure a permanent stay for my wife. I have seen many of my foreign clients obtaining a PR before her, hair stylist, PRC hawker assistant, and the non-working spouses of the PRs here. The 1 year long term visitor pass for her wasn’t good when securing for a job. Only after the second try, and only on the month that we are leaving Singapore, the PR was approved.

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

I am living in Brisbane now as a Permanent Resident.

We visited Brisbane, Australia for holidays early last year and visited my wife’s relatives. We stayed there for 2 weeks as her aunt persuaded us to apply for a PR in Australia and work here. She told us the good, bad and ugly side of Australia but generally as compared to Vietnam, Australia is heaven.

I really enjoyed my stay in Brisbane and seriously considered a move. I rented a car ($30 per day only) and drove everywhere. The weather was perfect, environment beautiful and people were very gracious and friendly. Even on the road they are extremely considerate. The real estate was cheap, many even cheaper than my 3 room HDB! You have big spaces, front and back yard, car ports and plenty of time! The work-life balance is emphasized. Minimum pay less any taxes is 17 per hour. My wife could easily find work here. As I was disillusioned by life on the small and congested island of 5.4million, my heart was set to leave, so I planned cautiously.

We planned our moves like where to stay, what to do during our stay there. I applied for many bank jobs all over Australia but was told that I need a PR before I can be considered. So I got back to Singapore to seek help from a migration agent and apply for a PR. I also discussed with my parents on the move. They were supportive. So the decision was to apply for a masters degree before the PR is approved and gradually assist my brothers study and work here. Surprisingly, it was approved a few months after I arrived in Australia. It was a permanent visa and I am now part of their welfare system.

If things don’t work out in Australia, at least I have a masters degree. That was the plan.

Did you face any adjustment problem initially when you make the move? Any regrets so far?

The Australian accent was a small problem, took my wife longer to understand and communicate with them. There were more things to shop in Singapore, while the shopping centres here close very early.

The Food is expensive (imagine cold storage price x2) so we searched and located a Vietnamese groceries market at Inala. Cheaper prices and still quality food. Asian food in the shopping areas typically sucks. I had to learn how to cook and I did. I miss hokkien mee and dim sum.

I thought clothes, furniture and electrical appliances will be expensive. But the things sold in Kmart are surprisingly cheaper than some things you find in Singapore. Quality isn’t bad at all. But if you talk about branded stuff, handphones and PCs, I guess Singapore is cheaper. Not 100% sure.

The environment was great but the one thing I have to adjust is myself. To restart life from zero is unimaginable. But as I heard from those who had already migrated here, most never look back.

I didn’t miss my friends in Singapore much and I quickly made new friends: mostly Chinese nationals, one Singaporean and some ang mohs. I was surprised that 90% of the students in my course are from China. Many of them age 22 years old. They don’t have NS liabilities like me. My Singaporean friend and I are almost 30. Even some of my lecturers and tutors are from China. Some Ang mohs who don’t know Singapore thought Singapore is a province or city in China.

My only regret is why I didn’t come earlier and I could have moved south to Sydney or Melbourne if not for my wife’s relatives living here.

 

How is the family coping currently? Are they happy or do they want to move back to Singapore?

On the first month since we moved there, her relative found a job for her working for a Vietnamese company. Pay was $9 per hour. In Australian terms, the pay sucked. We thought it was ok because that was the only opportunity then. Then about a month later, a local ang moh retail company called her for an interview, instinctively, we knew if we could secure a job with them, pay would be higher.

Now, she works for them as a retail assistant manager earning more than the minimum pay of $22 per hour. She now pays a reduced tax as a PR, 0% below 18K and 19% for any excess above 18K. She loves her job, as she is being treated like a family member. 8 hours per day is the maximum. Sometimes she works 4hrs or 6 hours per day.  Fellow colleagues are protective of her and taught her customer service the Australian way.

We are planning for baby now, there is time for it. I heard having a baby in public hospitals is free and there are other benefits.

She is very happy now.

My parents back in Singapore are supportive and we frequently meet on Skype.

What precious lessons did you learn from living abroad? Will you do it again if given the choice?

I need to learn how to cook and my wife needs to learn driving. The country is very big and owning a car is very cheap. I am driving a 2006 KIA Cerato purchased at 6490AUD and my friends here say its still expensive.

We also have to learn to live like the Australians, like being environmentally conscious, recycling, being polite, friendly and helpful to even strangers. They donate generously while we don’t. We Singaporeans are already a considerate bunch so we could blend in, just minor adjustments.

There is no doubt I would do it again if given the choice.

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

As I have previously mentioned, not easy for me unless I get a PR here in Australia. Then again, the job prospects may not be ideal for me as a banker. In 1.5 years after my studies, if I can’t get a job then I will either have to depend on my wife’s salary or go to Melbourne or Sydney to get one. I may return to Singapore if there is a higher pay job offer.

I reckon the average time taken to get a desirable job for a professional is 3-6 months. I am impatient; I can’t do nothing at home so most probably, I would do some part time work.

As for my wife, its easier. Then again, when you compare to Singapore, its a completely different story. With a long term visit pass, no one wants to hire her. After getting a PR, immediate $6 per hour positions are available.

Do you want to return to Singapore eventually or prefer to settle down in your new place permanently?

If conditions change for the better, I will come back or if a very good job offer comes along I may come back. But its not likely, I feel discriminated in my own country.

In Australia, I am confident of myself, I am a salesman, acclimatized to work long and hard and I think I can talk my way to a good job offer, but I have to do it on the Australian terms.

Singapore can be a place for a stop over for a shopping holiday and to visit my parents. I wish I could bring them here.

Singapore is also a good place to start a business compared to Australia. If there is an opportunity and I am capable or I have the capital I will come back and try my luck.

We will see how things go here. I am very happy now.

What are your main reasons for wanting to move overseas?

Job, family and education opportunity. Tertiary education is accessible and free for citizens. I am thinking for my child in future. Do I want him (if he is a boy) to serve NS like me? Do I want him to study in the pressure chamber in Singapore?  In Australia, I have a choice.

What are your advice for those Singaporean migrants who have newly moved abroad?

We are not quitters. We are simply trying to survive and make a decent living for ourselves. Only once we are economically stable, we can then come back and talk about patriotism and national pride. Do you want to be jobless, poorly paid, full of complains, live a shitty life in Singapore or do you want to expand your horizons first and come back later when the time is right to remake Singapore?

There are still plenty of opportunities in Singapore perhaps after 2016 or the general elections after.

Think about your parents, brothers and sisters in Singapore. You don’t want them to suffer unless they are very well-off. Persuade them to leave unless conditions have become better.

Any last words from you?

If you are a poor or jobless man in Singapore seeking financial assistance, and you talk patriotism or national pride to the government, won’t they ask you go fly kite? The government will think you are a liability who complains too much.

End of interview and thank you.

More about my work experience:

Any diploma holder can helm the salesman role as long they can hit target but I am a degree graduate. However, my degree from RMIT University (studied at SIM) was not prestigious or recognized by the public sector back in 2008-2009. That did not deter me then.

I nicked my first bank job in a foreign bank on the very first interview because it was a big company and thought it was prestigious. Pay didn’t matter. I was naïve then. It was lots of hard knocks instead of bed of roses then after. I had to sell insurance, credit cards and personal loans to walk-in customers, on the street in roadshows and doing cold-calls every evening to secure appointments. I did not believe in insurance when I sold them, so the conviction wasn’t there. Then selling investment products were added to my role after 6 months. Nobody taught me anything except for product training. Not even how to behave and speak to the customers. Just hit your sales target or resign in 3 months.

My first year sucked and barely made the cut. I read many motivational and self-improvement books as well as attended motivational seminars and joined Toastmasters before I finally learnt something. I met a few mentors and one of them worked in another bank. I guessed he saw something in me and recommended me a position. My job in the foreign was already in jeopardy then due to the mass resignations of my fellow team members.

The next 3.5 years were fantastic, never looked back. I even got married few months after joining. My sales were good and kept improving until beginning of 2013. I was also promoted and took on various responsibilities. I realized that when it comes to sales, its not the product that matters the most. It was me, myself that I have to sell to my customers. When they put their trust in me, I could get them to sign up anything I want them to. My salesmanship improved from the Toastmasters training and countless of self-improvement and mentorship.

However, the signs were there, our government wanted to curb borrowing and set out regulations after regulations. Sales is not going to last forever, when you don’t hit your targets or when the pond dries up (customer base). I was pondering if I should do something else. Just last year, 30 bankers were retrenched and their jobs replaced by computers. That’s when I decided to find alternatives.

 

On Wed, Oct 16, 2013 at 4:02 PM, Goh Gilbert<goh_gilbert@yahoo.com> wrote:

Hi Ben
Sorry for the delay – attached is the questionnaire.
Pls complete and email me back.
Thanks!
We are here for you.
Silence is often the loudest cry.  Pay attention to those you care about.
Thanks & Warmest Regards,
Gilbert Goh
President
http://www.transitioning.org/ – unemployment support services
http://www.steadymarriages.com/ – divorce support services
Tel: 84920525 (hp)
Address: Incubator-Hub@NVPC – 6 Eu Tong Sen Road  04-88 National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre The Central Clarke Quay  Singapore 059817 (nearest MRT Clarke Quay). We are not part of the NVPC group. Please use shopping mall lift up.
NB: We are a registered society with ROS for the past 5 years and is non-profit in nature. We cherish any amount of donation from you and need your funds so that we can help more people in transition.

 

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