Life in Singapore vs. USA

Hi folks,

I’m almost a year into my current job (LinkedIn profile to view more). Wow, that was fast.

It’s my first corporate job and I think I got it at the right time. I had different priorities in my early twenties and wouldn’t have enjoyed a corporate role at the time.

I had an outpatient surgery in early August. My recovery has been mostly smooth.

Now that that’s out of the way, I’ve decided to continue blogging for mental stimulation and self-expression:

  1. This blog (SG-related topics; decided to do a personal/reflective post for today)
  2. Dragonsinn.net (website turned 23 y/o this year)
  3. JessChua.com (my personal/portfolio blog; might try a paid newsletter option to share some exclusive content)

Living in Singapore vs. USA

As a lurker on Reddit and some other places, I’ve occasionally browsed others’ responses on migrating.

It’s a truly fascinating thing to do no matter your age or where you’re coming from / going to.

Now that I’m a bit older, I realise that it truly is subjective (i.e. not “one size fits all”) and heavily dependent on one’s values and personal preferences. There are SO many things to think of.

Here are the Top 10 “big things” I’ve thought about over the years.

P.S. A little bit of background info: I was born in and grew up in SG. I completed primary and secondary school education there, and the first half of a degree (which I later completed in the U.S.). I migrated when I was 19 or 20 through a green card that my U.S. aunt had applied for us many years ago.

1. Food

Photo from Honeycombers

When I lived in Singapore, I took the ease and availability of food options totally for granted.

In fact, I only started to like chili, curry, and spicy food once I was no longer living in Asia!

I live in a small city in Florida (population = approx. 60,000) and there are actually quite a few food options here for a smaller city. Still, it’s not close to the array of hawker centres in Singapore and it isn’t easy to find more specific dishes like lotus root soup or bak kut teh soup.

This has made me cook more often at home to eat more nutritious and Chinese / Southeast Asian style meals. I regularly look up recipes on Rasa Malaysia and Woks of Life, and have been using my Instant Pot more frequently.

P.S. If you like burgers, I really like Culver’s. There are two outlets in my area.

2. Public Transport

This is the second big thing that I took for granted.

Many places in the U.S. are car-dependent. It’s hard to find a city that’s walkable and also affordable.

I got my driving license when I lived in Calais, Maine (which is a small town with approx. 3,000 residents). It was great to drive there as it was low-stress, but not good in the sense that I didn’t get enough experience driving around in scarier situations.

It’s something that has a huge impact on one’s mobility and independence.

I look back fondly on my late teens where I spent many (many…) afternoons and evenings at a Singapore library or aimlessly wandering around some malls. It may have been aimless, but I appreciate that I had the option to safely exercise some independence then that way.

3. Work Life Balance

I did some tutoring jobs in Singapore and don’t really have enough work experience there to make a good comparison.

While it’s partly dependent on your employer, I think work life balance (for me) has been easier to achieve in the U.S.

I like the options here and feel like there’s more room for self-expression and mental explorations in my free time. Working from home is a big priority for me, and I’m grateful for the range of remote work roles. It takes some planning to make working from home a long-term reality and it’s something I try to stay on top of.

My fur kids 🐾

I’m able to keep pets like a cat (technically not allowed in HDBs?) and my partner’s energetic black lab, which would probably be a lot harder to manage in SG if we didn’t live in a private or landed property.

4. Mental Health

One of the reasons I accepted my job offer last year was due to their mental health benefit (offered through Spring Health).

I’m happy to see that some companies in Singapore recognise the importance of mental health and well-being, too.

I currently get one free therapy session per month. It’s been very useful when I’ve needed some help dealing with anxiety or venting in order to think more clearly through something.

5. Used Books Online

OMG I am a total book hoarder now and then.

I’ve gotten tons of books at great prices through Amazon and other online sellers throughout my time living in the U.S. This is a big deal to a bibliophile like me.

6. Geography

This is yet another poignant factor.

I always found the small land mass and population density to be very stressful in Singapore.

According to knoema.com:

“Population density (people per sq. km of land area) of Singapore increased from 3,212.54 people per sq. km of land area in 1972 to 7,691.91 people per sq. km of land area in 2021, growing at an average annual rate of 1.81%.”

I’ve visited the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument and would like to visit more U.S. National Parks.

There are LOTS of different types of landscapes, weather, and population densities (rural vs. small town vs. small city vs. big city) in the U.S., so this is a good situation if you like to experience the four seasons or try something new in terms of where you decide to call home.

7. Health Insurance

Health insurance is extremely scary in the U.S.

It gives most people anxiety, and the U.S. generally doesn’t rank well in healthcare studies.

Maybe I was lucky—I had a fantastic medical team when I was at HealthPark Medical Center in Fort Myers. Along with my surgeon, the team was friendly, professional, skillful, and caring.

8. Housing

While the housing prices are quite crazy everywhere now, I recently read about 13 Housing Estates That Have HDB Flats More Than $1 Million.

In comparison, my first condo purchase in Florida back in 2016 cost $62K (!).

I found the cost of housing in SG to be another very stressful thing to have to deal with. While the property taxes will probably cost a bomb, you can get very lavish and beautiful properties in the U.S. for a million dollars.

9. Safety and Education

If you’re fearful of getting randomly gunned down, then Singapore is definitely the safer option. I recall many nights in SG where I could walk around at midnight without much trouble, and I could safely take public transport to and from school as a pre-teen.

Here’s an interesting essay on why gun control works in Singapore but will not in The United States.

Readers who have been on this blog for a long time may recall that my first socio-political post was on Singapore’s education system.

After seeing the two extremities between SG and the U.S. on this topic, I think the following quote says it best:

“A problem with the Singaporean (and most Asian countries) education system is that it relies heavily on rote memorization. . .I once had dinner with a guy in Shanghai and we were speaking about the education systems in China vs. the U.S. He wisely pointed out that a system based in in the exact middle of the Shanghai and US systems would be an ideal educational system.”

Avery Penn via Quora

10. Politics

I couldn’t not mention politics on a socio-political blog, right?

Perhaps it’s most diplomatic to say that every country has its unique pluses and problems in this regard.

I won’t go on at length about the political situation in the U.S. as it’s very complex and layered, and it would take me another whole blog (not a post; an entire blog) to research and reflect about it. Race, religion, political party, and education level are all “sources of significant social disunity in the U.S.”

I do donate to non-profits and causes that I support, like Earth Justice and The Guttmacher Institute. Two causes I feel strongly about are:

  • environmental rights, and
  • sexual and reproductive health and rights

Because the planet and wildlife shouldn’t be decimated by homo sapiens, and because people should have a choice when it comes to their sexual/reproductive decisions.

I occasionally donate to education/literacy type non-profits too. I use sites like Charity Navigator to read up a little bit on the causes and ratings.

Conclusion

So, is it better living in SG or the U.S.?

It depends on your personal values, preferences, and definition of happiness.

For me, the “big ones” (like housing, career options, intellectual freedom, and population density) make living in the U.S. a better choice so far.

Thanks to the wonders of Facebook, I just read about Singapore’s new work pass to attract global top talent with a $30k monthly pay amongst the criteria.

As the following quote puts forth:

How many locals [are] on $30k a month? Lol.

IvanThePohBear / Reddit

Thank You’s

I’d like to give a small shoutout to Singapore Internet Directory for including my website under their “Civil Society” and “Writing” categories.

I know I sometimes disappear from blogging for months (or even years) at a time, but it’s still nice to know that people read my blogs and I appreciate that a lot :)

I’d also like to thank Felix Lee, co-founder of ADPList.org, for doing so much for the online mentorship and UX / design spaces.

Speaking of Felix, everybody should check out Felix and Hyunjin (Hyunlix stan here) from the K-Pop band Stray Kids. I like the whole band regardless, but those two are my biases.

Seriously, that band and their dance choreographies made the first week of my post-op recovery much more bearable and enjoyable.

Damien Sin

Apparently, I forgot to mention my Damien Sin book review post here. His Singaporean horror stories are fantastic and authentic.

I’m very satisfied that I have those out-of-print books sitting in my home library.

Reading Soon

I’ve had The Media Enthralled by Francis Seow for a number of years. Mine was a fresh copy “printed on demand” just for me and in brand new condition.

I’ll make a note of it on my calendar somewhere so that I feel more accountable with reviewing it in a reasonable time frame (aiming for 3 months).

Birthday

My b’day is in September. Any Virgos reading this post?

I’m planning on relaxing with a home-cooked meal and movie at home. 🍲🎬

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