Friday, April 04, 2008

Why Malaysians Love Singapore

Go to any hotel F&B outlet, and there is high probability of the server being a Malaysian (somehow, usually from Ipoh). Or in any MNC, there will tend to be a Malaysian you know.

Recently, my friend has been sharing with me that nearly 12 of his classmates are in Singapore. This got me to count on the number of my classmates here - there are 6 of us here in Singapore. That is about 15% of the class.

My Form 6 friends - many more. Some I've chanced upon at the bus station, while there was one I met on the same bus traveling back home!

What makes us Malaysians hop over to the island-state, while there is also a huge brain drain of Singaporeans themselves? I've heard & read the complaints by fellow Singaporeans (not all), and one just need to see the other side of the coin.

There are many reasons why Malaysians come over to Singapore to work or study. But these are just some which I think are shared by all walks of life. Here's a perspective from a Malaysian residing in Singapore :)

1. Proximity
It's just the tiny Straits of Johor that separates the 2 countries. In fact, it is so near that the causeway is only slightly more than 1km (source: Wikipedia).

So to many Malaysians, especially the bulk from JB and Johor finds Singapore just next to home. Some even live in JB but work in Singapore, traveling back each day. Schoolchildren even travel each morning for a full English education here.

Even for the other Malaysians from the other states, it is still relatively near. And if we miss home - we just need to head back for the weekend.

2. Food
Many food in Malaysia is found right here in Singapore. I can safely bet that at least 50% are similar if not more. There is the nasi lemak, roti canai (called roti prata here), char kuay teow, chicken rice and lots more.

Of course there are some variations of style of cooking - like the distinct & delicous Singapore's hokkien mee which is totally different from what is offered in KL (which is very nice as well).

singapore hokkien mee
Singapore's yellow white hokkien mee by qwazymonkey

kl hokkien mee
KL's thick black hokkien mee, which also comes with its must-try sambal. By Eugene.

I admit coming here first and without knowing much food around, I found the food a lil different though they are supposedly the same. It took me a while to get adjusted at first. But once we are settled, it's easy to find where the good food are and the food is quite similar afterall (ok, maybe a change of taste buds a lil) :)

3. Language
Singapore's Singlish is very similar to our Manglish although the use of 'lei' or 'leh' is a bit more prominent than our no. 1 vocab, the 'lah'.

Then there is the Mandarin, though it does sound slightly different & again different usage of words, but it is not difficult to understand each other. And we can understand their Malay language though it do sounds like is a mix of Bahasa Indon & Bahasa Malaysia.

And the famous Hokkien, which the southern states will be most familiar with.

4. Transport convenience
This I'm sure is agreed by many Malaysians and also other foreigners. Malaysians always say that "the Singapore public transport is so efficient-lah". In Singapore, one does not really need a car, if he/ she is willing to spend a lil more time to some destinations (depending on type of job - sales may need). However, the popular destinations especially in the town or major shopping centres are all well connected with the MRT or buses.

And good news - the government is now rolling new lines. This saves money on our part.

5. $$$
I guess the no. one reason why many come here to work is also due to the higher Singapore dollar. Just cross the causeway, and earn 2.3 times more than back home!

Save the dollar earned, and bring it back to enjoy it 'like a king'! If you used to hear Singaporeans say "Aiyo that one so cheap!", now you know why.

The Singapore dollar to Ringgit Malaysia is nowhere comparable to USD-S$ itself! Ie. if we work in Singapore and spend in Malaysia is much better than someone working in USA and bringing the green dollar back to Singapore! (1USD = 1.4SGD only).

singapore dollar note
Singapore $10 notes by Michesoo.

6. Cost of living
Now that we know the value of S$, it's also good to point out that apart from the high rental & house costs, the cost of living here is relatively cheaper - for someone earning the dollar and spending it in their own country.

For example, a Honda Civic here is about S$70k and above, while in Malaysia, a Malaysian has to fork out above RM110k. That is a huge 40k difference (no conversion).

Just the other day a friend joked "hey we should buy a BMW here". Well he is right in a way as one can buy the entry level one below S$200k, which is not what you can get back in Malaysia, if you are earning Ringgit.

The most expensive MRT ride is only below S$ compared to above RM2 for the LRT in KL.

There are many other reasons - like opportunity, working environment, etc which will differ from one person to the other. Some of my friends mentioned that they want to go back after xxx years, but up to today, they are still here, and doesn't seem to be returning back. Ahh, the grass is always greener on the other side. :)

PS: For Malaysians, don't feel this as anything against the country. I still love my country - this is just a share of thoughts that I notice :)

This is a follow up to my previous post - Migration Vs. Loyalty.


  1. according to my friend working in sg, the food there is not comparable with those in malaysia.

    i'd say the biggest reason for ppl to work there is coz of the currency. secondly, it might be coz of the social order. personally i don't like sg, not even thinking to step on it, although the last time i went was 14 years ago :)

  2. haan,

    my friend have had the same mentality like you as well lol :) that was until he came here for a visit recently.

    singapore has changed quite a lot the past 2-3 years. at first it was a lil dull and boring, but it's not quite the same now.

    food wise - u gotto come & try the best they can offer. not just street food, but also their cafes & restaurants (i do admit kl has good food too) :)

    on a personal side, at first, i myself didnt enjoy beijing or for that matter bangkok when i first when there. but when i revisited, i began to love these cities. now im 'in love' with them haha!

    try a visit, with an open mind. and you may just like singapore - im very sure :)

  3. Should ask my wife (Malaysian) to read your views on food. I (Singaporean) have been trying, but yet to have much success, to psycho her to perceived foods with the exact same name as different foods.

    She was shocked when she tasted the char kway teow here, "so sweet!!" Then, getting "scolded" for ordering "qing tang mian", while the seller keep asking her "ai si mi??"

    We have to pick up the habit of ordering wanton noodle w/o chilli by remembering to specify NO ketchup too.

    About exchange rate, I have been living "like a king" in JB while working in Singapore :). The only issue is that I have less outdoor time as after 8pm is no-out time, while in Singapore you can feel very safe staying out on the street the whole night.

  4. I note that the Author focused on material comforts - money, food, transport and forgot about the intangible factors - like political governance, the psyche of the people, their ideals and values....but i wish to add that there is nothing wrong being superficial.

    I wish to also add that Malaysians working in singapore has a better deal than Singaporeans because they don't have to do national service. Hence they move higher faster than their singaporean cohorts. You would think citizenships should have perks. Well... not in Singapore.

  5. I'm from JB and studied in sg.

    About your food point, I vehemently disagree with you. =P. I think char kuey tiow in sg is nothing compared to anything u can get back here. It's the lack of the pork lard part tt makes the dish feel so empty.

    Plus their hawker food seems too healthy to be hawker food.

    But in terms of foreign cuisine (western, korean, jap etc.) Singapore definitely wins.

  6. I'm one of those Msian who love Spore too! Though I knew working in Spore is much more stressful and tough compared to Msia, but I think tat's what really challenging about it and eventually we'll be exposed to more useful working experiences. I believe Spore provides a better foundation for a solid working experiences,esp in large multi-national company =) Sometimes, I dislike the working attitudes of Msian- esp those in the Govt! :(

    Plus, Spore is very safe too! Though low crime rates doesnt mean NO crime at all, but definitely I feel a lot more secure of walking alone when I'm shopping in Spore, but here in Msia, I dun even dare to wear sleeveless or mini skirts when I'm on the street! =.=

    Not to mention, shopping and dining in Spore is much more interesting and addictive! *haha* Can't wait to finish all my things and rush to Spore for my retail theraphy soon =P


  7. dclh,
    thanks for the insight. you must be enjoying yr SGD a lot :)

    thanks for pointing out the other reasons to why malaysians go to singapore to work . there are many more, and maybe ill compile a follow up soon :)

    agree their fusion & international food is good in spore. on hawker's food, agree it is different lol - that's why must know where to hunt the best haha. talking bout char kuay teow makes me think of penang - lovely place there! :)

    on safety, yes it does feel safe here. but just to share, many malaysians tell me that they like kl for its safety as well. especially if compared to like some other bigger cities.

    on shopping, save & come over in june when they have the singapore grand sale! :) (i act prefer the christmas & post christmas sale) :)

  8. I use to work in SG to help my ex-boss in SG to expand his business. I will say cost of living is not that high as we think,but of coz renting/buy house is extreamly expensive,back then,i stay at VP's condo coz he went back to US, money.You can't believe,i spent $2 on one nasi lemak with ayam goreng-PLS DON'T CONVERT TO RINGIT,because we are earning SGD,include transport +3 meals=less then $10,if Malaysia roughly i will spend RM20.In SG ,spending power is high.One cup of Starbucks coffee cost you bout $4.50-$5,cheap manz..

  9. Hi Felex

    You are right - all the things you mention here!

    Its true that Starbucks here is not considered too costly especially even their cakes, where it is doubled in Malaysia :)

  10. i m a singaporean, married to a malaysia man when he works in singapore. we met in an IRC chatroom in yr 2000, got hitched that yr end, married in 2002, followed him back to KL in 2003.

    since then, 2003-2005, we r stayin in Ampang, had a son and a dog. den 2006, he decided to change his job and back to his hometown, Malacca. now, we r stayin in his house, n had our 2nd kid in 2006.

    from another point of view, cos i hoped over to MYS. sg's transportation is the best, cannot compared at all. mys's food taste better, mayb cos of hygiene :p

    but been a singaporean, who doesn't know malay, n no license. i m trapped in my house. totally a Stay-At-Home-Mom. my only source to the outside world is my internet. thus, i get to know more mys mummies. n 1 mys mummy is stayin in sgp. n she likes her home more den sg.

    so cast aside all the materialistics issue, nobody likes to b far away from home. our hometown is always the best, nothing can beat that feeling of 'coming home'.

  11. hi jansey

    heya we are like changing places - haha you in my hometown, i in yours :)

    oh btw, know tis a lil off topic, but nice to know you met yr husband via irc :)

    hope you can slowly enjoy malacca - the town ppl act can speak decent english :) and later on, ull be able to pick malay language up - then u can enjoy malacca better :)

  12. There's also Penang style Hokkien Mee. Which is prawn mee in KL. Will be coming down for Singapore Freeze next month.

  13. Came across your blog via Nuffnang's innit. A rather refreshing read I must say. I was back for a short visit to Singapore and had to keep on reminding myself the good stuff about Singapore. Cheers!

  14. Hi Simon
    Yes, agree there is the the Penang one as well. If I'm not wrong, the Penang Hokkien mee is actually prawn mee in Malacca :)

    Thanks for dropping by and the compliments :) Btw, if we have an open mind/ neurtal concept on a place we visit, that will make a better holiday ya? :)

  15. wahh...gar gar display S$ without the word 'specimen' in public ah...later MAS ask you go drink 'coffee' =)

    sorry...lazy to sign up,

  16. hi anonymous, that one is by a photographer in flickr. i thought as long the photo dont fully show the note is ok? (how to copy from here - its not a 'full' note) :)

  17. u visit my blog, i visits urs^^

    ya! i went to singapore for 3months work last year and occasionally i gone back to visit my sis, SINGapore still the best in terms of transportion and crime is nt a case in singapore(maybe less a case)

    Damn, im loving singapore more than malaysia... will ISA come and detain me back for a cup of kopi O??? ^^"

    ps: ur quachee website(the one with ur video on the book u wrote) there was a spelling mistake at 0.40 minutes, u might want to chk it out.

    have a nice day

  18. I think it is becoz off Singaporean hot chix

  19. hi, i am a malaysian seeking employment in singapore. mind to ask few Qs:
    1. what are the taxes need to be payable by Malaysians?
    2. I heard no CPF deducted for employment pass - is that true?
    3. where to get cheap rent place (condition not too bad la) for working there full-time?

    sincere tx in advance for replies.

  20. king
    loving another country more for some reasons should be fine im sure - there are many reasons to love a country more :) (the grass always greener on the other side?) hehe.

    btw thanks for the info.

    maybe it is. haha.

    let me help as much as i can, though i must forewarn im not expert here:
    1. tax - if not wrong, depends on how long you stay and the kind of permit you get. for more info check

    2. employment pass should have cpf if im right... its work permit that dont have.

    3. off central areas - north, east, west is cheaper. but rents have been on a high now.

    hope these helps :)

  21. Ya, Quachee had some good points of why Malaysians love Singapore. And I feel like adding some points

    I have my childhood 18 years in KL Malaysia before moving on study and work in Singapore for 8 years.

    Those Malaysian who like Singapore mainly because of better $$ and lots more job opportunities. Majority of Malaysian who lived in Singapore are Malaysian from Johor Bahru, because it's just a 30mins travel where you can get much better living in monetary term.

    Those who return to Malaysia are mostly because of the existing strong bond of relatives/friends in hometown, and more relax lifestyle where competition is not as fiece as Singapore.

    Political reason are crucial too, some Malaysian are simply can't resist cetain unfairness in current system and decided to move out for a short breath.

    For me, leaving Malaysia for short term at age 18, key reason was to pursue better education in Singapore where it's much cheaper compare to other oversea countries like USA/UK /Australia.

    gonna stop here, ijust start blogging , you may visit when free.

  22. Besides the infrastructure and development ...

    Singaporean mindset and attitude still have some difference compared with Malaysian ... where u can see NOKIA is common in MY , but iPhone leads the trend in SG...

    you can also see , the common cars which occupying Malaysian urban area is noticeably made up of just several popular model (i.e. VIOS , CAMBRY , MYVI , AVANZA , SAGA ) ... while in Singapore , you can see many different car model from different brands , ranged from toyota to Subaru , to Porsche , and even to Lamborghini & Ferrari...

  23. Malingsia always the same, want SGD but always say malaysial is the best ???? :)

  24. Hi Qua Chee,

    Was googling about how to move to singapore for malaysians and stumbled upon your blog. I am still living in KL but plan to leave, mostly because I have absolutely no confidence in the way the country is run. Also, there's simply a lack of opportunities for personal/career development.

    Just wondering, how do most Malaysian ended up working in SG? Is it through attending uni in SG then stay on? Sorry if this sounds silly, I just don't know where to begin!! Was hoping a fellow Malaysian can provide guidance!

  25. @aaron
    usually if u study here, they will give u an automatic pr. which is good. because there is this 'compulsary' 3 years to work in spore if u study here.

    but even if u didnt study here, just apply thru any jobsites. if the company likes u enough, they will hire you - applying for u a work permit.

    and if u r here long enough, ull soon get a pr, which of cos is better as there are more benefits like CPF etc, and also easier 4u to change jobs then

  26. Quachee, thanks for the helpful reply. Will start searching now, haha!

  27. Hi QuaChee,

    Just google-ing around and ended up in your blog, well it's really nice reading it..

    Lol, maybe I agree with most of your thoughts, yeah and i do really love Singapore despite being bored here some of the time.

    Last but not least, it's really a nice blog to read at, keep up!


  28. There are lots of good things that you should love in Singapore, that's why many tourist and expats wants to go there. Anyway, I enjoyed reading your blog.Thanks for sharing.


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