Ep 59: Singaporeans should live in Malaysia !

Singaporeans should live in Malaysia !

In episode #59, we go abroad, challenging the idea that Singapore is the best and only space one should settle down into. Being born and raised here has its perks, but that does not mean the world out there cannot be your playground. Malaysia our neighbor is a great place to start to embrace that excitement of living in another land while having that pseudo familiarity of home. We hope you find inspiration to dare to go out and create that life you love.

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podcast Transcript

Hey guys, welcome back! And today we’re going to talk about a topic that you guys have been asking for again and again and again! It’s like, “why got this weird Singaporean who decided to spend time in Malaysia, like why did I choose to live there?” I’m going to share with you some reasons as to what are some of the benefits that I have observed living in Malaysia and why, maybe you can consider life in Malaysia too.

To answer all your questions, I mean, you guys keep asking, right? That’s what we’re going to give you today. Three reasons why a Singaporean should consider life in Malaysia.

So good morning, everyone! I welcome you to another day with The Financial Coconut. In our podcast, we’ll be debunking financial myths, discovering best financial practices and discussing financial strategies that fit our unique life. You get it! Ultimately empowering us to create a life we love while managing our finances well.

And today we’re going to spend some time to talk about three reasons why a Singaporean can consider life in Malaysia.

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Okay! Finally, today I can do an episode that doesn’t need me to do a lot of research or objective cross-referencing. And it’s all about my experience, my reasons, and just my point of view. It’s just going to make life easier for me today. And it’s something that you guys have been asking for, right?

Like, “Why do you stay in Malaysia? What are some of those benefits?” And yeah, I’m going to share with you guys my experiences, and maybe you can consider life in Malaysia or at least life abroad. And don’t be too stuck on this idea that you need to live on this Island called Singapore. There are perks living in Singapore.

I’m not discounting that, but fundamentally, I’m just here to share with you my views and my experiences. And you can make your own decision, ultimately as to whether you want to live life in Singapore, or do you want to go out spend a few years in different countries before you decide where you want to rest and where you want to develop your life.

I definitely come from the camp that you should go out there and live life in different places, explore different cultures, different ways of life, and you get a much deeper understanding of culture nuances of how societies are structured. And then fundamentally, you will find a place that you enjoy.

I’m sure you guys heard me talk about the Ramen theory, right? But for everyone that hasn’t, I’m going to share with you this Ramen theory. Essentially, I remember there was a period of time where Ajisen was the only ramen in town. Ajisen Ramen. I don’t know why they are still in town lah. I don’t know why they’re still around okay!

But back then, Ajisen Ramen was the only ramen and everyone was like, “Oh my God, this is very nice! Very nice, very nice!” But now after many years, 10 over years, where ramen is now a thing, with more and more choices like Marutama or Keisuke, everybody is in town and you try all these other different ramen, and you look at Ajisen and like “actually, Ajisen, 你很难吃 (nǐ hěn nán chī) leh! You suck, man! You just don’t taste as good as before.”

And this is what I think is very important, because if you don’t have points of references to compare, you cannot objectively say whether what is good and what is not. So, you should go out and live your life, try different places, explore different countries, different cultures, and then you make an objective choice.

“Okay, I want to live here because of blah, blah, blah…” Even ultimately, if you decide that you want to come back to Singapore, you’re a lot more calm. You’re a lot more clear. You’re much clearer as to why you decide to spend life on this little Island called Singapore. But hor, you better don’t go to Ajisen, 我是会 (wǒ shì huì) judge 你啊! (nǐ a).

But anyway, aside from Malaysia being a bit more affordable to live in because of the exchange rates, I think there’s a term called geo arbitrage. Essentially, it just means you make money from a wealthier spot and then you go to somewhere else to live.

I think most people, when they think of me living in Malaysia, they always think “it’s cheaper loh! That’s why you go.” Which is not wrong. That was one of the main reasons why I went there to begin with. Of course, proximity to Singapore, familiarity in terms of culture and language help, it’s very important.

But I’m going to give you some deeper reasons after living there for a while and why I think you can consider life in Malaysia. So, the very first reason, and probably one of the most important reasons I think Singaporeans should live abroad, and specifically in Malaysia, is that you actually have space to retreat.

This is very important. Why? In Singapore, you don’t really have kampongs. You don’t have towns or spaces to go if you are struggling. Let’s say you’re struggling with finances. You don’t have Ipoh to go there and hang out for a while.

Or you don’t have Malacca to go there and try out some other tourism business or something, right? And in Singapore, everything is so homogeneous and you’re just on an island. Everybody works in a similar setting in the office in an engineering firm or wherever. There is a certain homogeneity in terms of your job scope, your way of life. The pace of life, in general, is the same.

So, you have no place to retreat and take a break or breather, rewire yourself and review your life. And to me, that is very, very scary, and probably one of the biggest reasons why a lot of people are struggling. A lot of people are mentally just overwhelmed because there’s just no place to take a break!

It becomes a little bit like you on a treadmill, and you’re always running on speed 14 or speed 12 (maybe I run at about speed 10 lah ah!) But, you’re always running at the max! You’re running at your maximum capacity. There’s no room to slow down, and breathe, and run at an 8 or brisk walk at a 7.

Life is just very, very fast! And one of the main reasons probably is because there is no place for you to go. In Malaysia, of course, inevitably KL (Kuala Lumpur), you get paid the most, right? And that is where most of the young people try to go to KL to work, make their money, try to strive for their lives, and gather their finances.

And that is the reality of the capitalistic system. But, you can, after three years working in KL, you can take a break. Six months, you want to live in Ipoh for a while. You want to go to Malacca for like three weeks and just hang, breathe, rethink and try a different pace of life. And I think that is one of the more important aspects of life in Malaysia, right?

Which is, they have a very convenient transport system from interstate traveling. You can go to different places very easily, and you can literally just take a break and go somewhere else. In Singapore, we don’t have this luxury. We don’t even have seasons. In some parts of China that I used to live in, people take three or four months break during the winter because it’s just too cold, you cannot work.

So, humans being humans, we all need a break, right? Which is why a lot of people spend a lot of money to travel and all this kind of stuff. But even when they travel, they continue that pace because it really takes time to slow down, rewire, breathe, and think. So, the beauty of living in Malaysia, is you have this kind of space to retreat. It’s much easier. Of course, Thailand, Vietnam, all these are the same. But like I said, language and all those things do add up.

So, it’s not unique to Malaysia, but having space to chill, breathe, think, I think that is very, very important. Of course, when I say chill, breathe, think, it’s not like just go there and chill and nuah, and then you’re just stuck in Malacca for your life like that. Of course, some people will end up finding, “Hey, actually I like the slower pace in Ipoh, slower pace of Malacca, or Kelantan”, or wherever you want to go.

Slower pace of life. It is something that you enjoy, something that you are comfortable with. Good! Do what you need to do. And if 5 years or 10 years down the road, life changes, it takes a turn, and you need to change or turn, then that is life, which is why it’s very difficult to plan 30 years, 40 years, 50 years.

But, that’s a topic for another day. On this topic of having space to go, being in Malaysia gives me that kind of choice that I can go to different places and do different things, under different pace, to develop what I need to develop. The podcast was developed in Malaysia because I have more space.

I don’t need to be too concerned about, “Wah every month you need to make money to live and blah, blah, blah.” So, you are hearing something that I developed in Malaysia, but it blew up and it just kept growing and growing and growing! And that is the beauty of having that slower pace and having their breathing space to develop, ideate, do things that you need to do, before you take on bigger challenges.

And when you are ready, you can always go back to KL. You can always go back to Singapore, or you can go further, go to New York, go to Hong Kong. Wherever you want to go, go out there and live your life. Take your challenges and do what you need to do.

But, don’t forget. One of the most important things of creating good stuff is space, time and work. Sometimes, living in a high density city, like Singapore, which is very fast paced, doesn’t give us cheap access to time, space, and resources to develop our ideas, our way of life, and us as a person. So, one of the main reasons why you can live in Malaysia probably is because you have this breathing space, which brings me to my next point. Maybe a bit biased, some Singaporeans may go crazy.

But, I honestly think Malaysians are generally more generous and friendlier. Okay, I’m not trying to stir a war here, but I will share with you my experiences when I lived there, after a word from our sponsor.

Definitely, one of the main reasons why I chose to live in Malaysia at that point in time was because I had friends in Malaysia. Of course, I wanted to leave Singapore. And I think I’ve talked about that extensively because I felt very pressured, and I was going through some personal stuff. If you meet me personally, I can tell you, but I’m not going to record live here lah.

But, choosing Malaysia was definitely because I had friends there. And I thought I have friends lah! But after I went there I realized that my friends are pretty interesting. Because whenever I travel there as a tourist, that means as a Singaporean, I go to Malaysia, they will make time for me.

They will ask me to go dim sum, “Hey, come on, let’s go out and eat.” They’ll make time for me. But, once I decided to live there and tell them “Hey, I’m living here now.” Then, they’ll be like, “Okay lah, then I’ll meet you in three weeks’ time lah.” They no longer take me as a tourist. There’s no longer a foreigner premium.

They price me the same as other friends. I have to wait for their schedule now. So, if you’re a friend, you have a Malaysian friend, I want you to know. 你要 (nǐ yào) take care of me, okay! I’m still a foreigner ah! But yeah the moment I shifted, they immediately associate me as a local and they no longer give me a premium.

But it’s okay, it’s fine. Over time, I make new friends. Of course, they’re still my friends, I’m not saying I disown them or they disown me. I realized that I needed to have a bigger social circle. It’s not just a handful of friends because they’re also busy. They have their own lives. It is what it is.

But over time I met a lot of interesting people, and I realized that in general, Malaysians are just very helpful, friendly, and a bit more generous. And I have some thoughts about it. I’m not saying that they are objective, but I think one of the main reasons why Malaysians are very friendly is that they…

Aiya, I try not to be too political, but they don’t really have a lot of government support in some sense. They have been very used to building things together because the government is not as strong in terms of their management and really being very present in people’s lives.

Like in Singapore, it sounds very normal. Oh, go ahead and get this grant, arrange for that thing, talk to the police. It’s very normal. It feels like you should talk to the government or you should interact with the public service. But in Malaysia. It’s not really the case.

People don’t really interact with public service. They don’t really even care about public services. Of course, they care about voting who into the parliament, but that’s another thing. But my view is because there is limited public services and they are very used to building things together.

They have a lot of clan organizations, a lot of private organizations that will pull money together to build a school, pull money together to build a hospital, pull money together to do whatever they need to do. And there is a lot of community-led kind of stuff. And these community-led stuff flourish to become important pillars of their social fabric.

Not like some of our community projects where it becomes just once a year, one event. It just dwindles off over time because our structures in Singapore are already very, very strong. But in Malaysia, they had to do a lot of private organizations.

And I think in general, because of that, Malaysians are a lot more cooperative and they are more willing to come together. So, they understand the power of relationships. They understand everybody has their challenges and hard times. They’re just very nice in general.

I’m going to give you some stories on my end, why I think they are very generous and very interesting, nice people lah. One of the most important thing is I don’t drive in KL. So, the public transport system is not as efficient or effective here. Imagine it was like before the circle line or downtown line existed.

You live in Tampines and you want to go to Yishun. You have to take the train all the way to Raffles Place, and then you change the train to Yishun. So, that’s the same thing in Malaysia, just maybe two or three times longer a trip because it is bigger. So sometimes when I meet my friends, they know that it’s very inconvenient for me to go to these places.

They will say, “How about I just pick you up at the nearest MRT station, the nearest train station.” And to me, that is pretty cool because they know my limitations and they’re willing to meet me and hang out with me. So, they will embrace my reality and not just expect me to get there. So they drive to places and they pick me up.

Very friendly, very cool. Also, I’ve met a lot of them at those kind of meetup events. Generally, my sensing is that they are a lot more interested in you. Or maybe because I’m a foreigner, right? Because I’m a Singaporean. So, they will be like, “Hey, actually, why do you live here?” They’re more interested to talk to me.

And that’s probably one of the reasons why it’s good for you to live in a foreign land because you are more interesting lah! Every day you talk to the same people, very sian right? So, they are more interesting and they will be vested in you. Of course, we have a lot of gatherings at friends’ places, but of course it’s very dynamic. I’m sure not all Malaysians are the same and not all Singaporeans are assholes.

I have a lot of good friends here also, and have a lot of good friends in Malaysia. Maybe because I’m a good friend also lah. But what I believe is Malaysians in general, are just more open, friendlier, and more willing to get to know you. Of course, when it comes to relationships, it’s very personal, dynamic, and tough to say exactly how it is, because it depends on the person.

It depends on where you stay, who you meet… A lot of dynamism in this. My experience tells me, Malaysians are very nice lor, in general more friendly. So, it’s for you to call, but I’m not trying to be objective here. This is my personal experience.

So, point number three why Singaporeans should consider life in Malaysia is…

There’s actually less consumerism in Malaysia. So, this is not something that is super Malaysian, but it’s more like a Singapore thing. Even I didn’t realize cognitively that it is where it is. Oh, in Singapore, there’s a lot of consumerism. There’s just a lot of opportunity to buy things and consume things, right?

And this came from a friend who lived in Greece and she came back with her kids and her kids were so excited all the time, because everywhere they went in Singapore, out of the MRT, near a bus stop, or like downstairs from your house, there’s just places to buy things, consume things, and shop, eat, everything!

So, there’s just so much consumption, or so many places for you to consume while living in Singapore. And after I heard that story, I thought about it and, yeah, actually it’s true. Because when I live in Malaysia, I have to go out of my way to buy things. I have to go out to arrange for a day to go to the supermarket and buy things.

I have to go out somewhere to buy certain things that I want, that are not easily found everywhere. Of course, delivery services help. But it doesn’t feel like at every corner I’m being bombarded by Bubble tea shops, or Watson’s, or bombarded by just tons and tons of shops and activities for me to consume.

And to me, why is that very important? Because when you live in Singapore and you have all these shops and easy access to consume, a lot of times you’re consuming out of an emotional spur, right? Suddenly you feel like, “Oh, actually I feel like having a bubble tea and you buy it.” And you walk past sales, sales, sales. All these sales sign, everywhere got sales, neon lights. The worst is The Dollar Shop ah, always sale one, never end one!

Okay but anyway, there’s so much attractiveness that keeps trying to get you to buy and consume. You end up buying so many things that you don’t need. You end up consuming that extra curry puff that you don’t need, or that extra cup of bubble tea that you don’t need. You actually don’t really need it.

But, this small urge, and being triggered by all of these kinds of consumption, attractive marketing ploy and that attraction lah! So, it’s just they’re trying to get you to consume. They open shop ah. So, when I look at that, it’s very, very unhealthy. Because maybe more than half of your purchases are emotional, rather than you actually being aware of why you want this, why you are buying it, does it really have use in your life?

So, you get trapped in this endless consumption cycle, right? And you always feel like you need more, you need more, you need more. A lot of problems happen from there. But when I live in Malaysia, you can see because it’s not convenient. There’s a central market. Everybody has to go there like. Of course, there are major markets and major clusters of shop houses everywhere in different parts of the state.

So, you actually have to plan your purchases. Like okay, I want to get this, this, this. You know you got to plan. On a weekend, you go to there, or you want to avoid the weekends, you go on Wednesday afternoon or something. I specifically have to go out to a certain bread shop at this particular place, because I like their bread and the different, different things I need to buy there.

I become very cognitive about, “What do I like? What do I enjoy? What do I not like?” I’m not every day getting like, “Eh, you want an extra bubble tea? Eh, you want to eat Old Chang Kee?” So to me, because there’s less consumerism or because it is structured in a way that there are less easy conveniences for you to consume, I become a lot clearer, so what do I actually like, what do I actually need? What do I really enjoy?

And all the time I become a lot more, a lot more comfortable. What do I need to create a life that I love? And to me that is fundamentally beautiful and important, not unique to Malaysia, but it’s a serious problem in Singapore that I don’t think a lot of people see from this angle. But, I hope it helps you to be more aware. Even if you don’t live abroad, after you listen to this podcast, don’t tell me suddenly you want to live in Malaysia, but you should be more cognizant or aware that every other day, when you leave the MRT or where you go on your way home, there are a lot of shops. A lot of retail outlets, a lot of makan places trying to get your attention. And sometimes, or many times you are buying out of emotional triggers, and not because you actually need it.

Okay, so we’re going to sum up today. Some three reasons why Singapore should consider life in Malaysia. Number one is because you have space to retreat. Malaysia is much bigger. You got different paces of life in different cities, different towns, and you can just kind of go in and out. Well, you want to fight, you’ve got to KL.

You can also come back to Singapore to pursue whatever you want to pursue. If you take a break, you’re on an ideate on something, you can always go to a smaller town, a slower town to do what you need to do. So to me, that is very important.

Number two, Malaysia in general, I think the people are a bit more friendly lah, more willing to share.

And yeah, that is, that is my view. Of course, it may not be the truth. Feel free to share your perspective.

And number three, is that in general, there is just less consumerism, less easy convenience consumption. So to me, that helps us to better understand our lives, what do I need, and how do I create a life I love.

So, I hope you learned something useful today, see ya!

Hey, I hope you learned something useful today and truly appreciate that you took time off to better your life with The Financial Coconut. Knowledge is more powerful when shared, debated, and discussed. I hope you share what you gained with people you love. And I want to hear from you. Give me some questions and help me along with building our community of financially savvy coconuts.

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With that, have a great day ahead. Stay tuned next week and always remember, personal finance can be chill, clear and sustainable for all.

Test test. Okay, hope you guys learned something useful today. Head over to Malaysia. It’s not too bad of a place. You could maybe find a different life, but I think more importantly, it is not about staying in Malaysia, but it’s really about going out and explore. The beauty of being a Singaporean is that many of us do have the resources to go and explore, and don’t be in a rush to decide that you want to stay here.

Ultimately, if you want to come back, good for you. If not, the world is your playground. And being born in Singapore has that advantage. So go out and try and do what you need to do. Don’t need to die die stay here, just being here for being here like that. Ultimately, I hope you can find a place that you can settle down and create a life you can love.

And if so happens it is in Singapore, okay cool. If it’s not, somewhere else, okay. If it’s in Malaysia, reach out to me. (laughs) Maybe, by then I’m not in Malaysia anymore, but yes. So that’s that. Next week, since we are on the topic of being in Malaysia, one of the biggest challenges I had when I was there, the first time was, where do I rent? Where do I stay? How do I find a place that I can afford without being too crazy. So, I’m going to share some tips for first time home renters. It’s very personal in my view. It is based on my expectations and my experience so far.

It’s not objective, ya lah tired of objective stuff lah. Anyway, yes it’s my experience being a first time home renter. I’m going to share with you some tips, you know how to be a good first time home renter now, because the understanding is you have no experience and you don’t know what you want, or you think you know what you want, but actuality is after a year, you will know yourself much better.

So yes, see you next week as we talk more about some tips and tricks for first time home renters. See ya!

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