The first question an old (in terms of age, not length of friendship) friend asked me when we met for lunch after I returned from my first visit to Melbourne last month was:
“Do you think it’s true Singaporeans migrate to Australia because of the cost of living?”
Hah? Didn’t think I heard right. So he cited cheaper transport. Accommodation. And food.
Where transport is concerned, I haven’t a clue. The friend I stayed with in Melbourne doesn’t drive. As for the cost of riding trams, I’ve no idea either, since my hostess had purchased us multiple journey stored value cards and refused to talk about reimbursement.
What i do know was that the taxi fare between Tullamarine Airport and my friend’s home was heart-stoppingly expensive on the way in (there were two of us to split the fare) and even more heart-stoppingly so on the way out (there was just me).
We paid AUD70 each way (which included a tiny tip and some highway toll we were told, tho I’m not sure where the toll gantries were) and the journey took no more than 40 minutes.
As for housing, all I can say is that Australia’s city centre/near city centre homes are fast catching up with the prices of homes in Singapore.
Ten years ago, my friend paid about S$500K for her narrow (width wise) long (depth wise) terraced home, with front and back yards and a cute picket fence and four tram stops away from Chapel Street; today, the market price would be about twice that.
I’ve no doubt far cheaper homes could be found elsewhere in Ozland but if it means living with the dingos then I think it’s pointless getting away from S’pore, just to go deep into the bush.
As for food prices, I won’t say they are cheap or even affordable for long term stay, judging from my 8-day experience which admittedly saw us rather indulgent, eating out practically all the time and never settling for anything less than a restaurant.
The cheapest meal we had was invariably in a Vietnamese restaurant; the first on the first afternoon we arrived; on another occasion, I went solo as I had to make a repeat visit to North Richmond for a uniquely Viet product (that alas on return to Singapore, I was informed, could be got at Giant already, man).
Above is the pho that was my first meal in Melbourne as it was LW’s. It was an undainty helping, more hearty than tasty. LW coudn’t finish hers but TK and I lapped up ours, since it was way past lunch time and all were tired, hungry and dehydrated by the 37-degree heat.
I went for a bowl of noodle when I ate solo in Richmond a few days later. Again, the size of the dish was not for the faint hearted, especially the “wonton” which was each the size of a golf ball, the meat filling hard and stringy.
What made up for the meal was the friendliness of the waitresses and the owner, despite the packed restaurant, chatting away in Cantonese that would make them right at home in Hongkong, despite declaring that they are all Vietnamese well and good!
On TK’s suggestion I also took away some roast meat and a tofu salt fish dish that the restaurant is famous for. Just as well that I did because that night with the sky opening up again, the food formed the basis of a great meal tossed up by TK, with a little help from the suckling pig left-over from our most expensive meal for the trip at la Da Noi.
While the Viet food tasted OK and is reasonable in price as measured by Singapore standards, I’m sure no Singaporean would want to migrate and live like a peasant!
Back in Singapore, I discussed with friends who are frequent visitors to Australia and all agree that Australia isn’t cheap, especially with the AUD now about 30% higher against the Sing$.
But it isn’t just Australia that isn’t cheap any more, when compared to Singapore. Even China ain’t as cheap as it was even a few months ago– as testified by another friend who had just returned from a few weeks travelling thru the by-roads of the Middle Kingdom.
Fact is, Singapore isn’t just home but great value for money, especially for its citizens.