Why Johor Baru?

When I first broke the news to friends that I would be relocating to Johor Baru, they was an outcry of concern over this decision. They asked first, ” Have you finished your studies?” which of course is not true by any stretch of my imagination.

The invariable follow up was, “So you are going to commute back and forth to NUS and Permas Jaya (which is where I live)”


” Oh my gawd!!!”

I remember Maureen exclaiming, ” Ho mah fan a!!” (which means, ‘very inconvenient!’)

There were disappointments with my decision as well. Of course staying in JB means I won’t worship in Singapore lah, which means I can’t play in the choir any longer. I understand that William was quite sad that I was leaving.

The commuting time between JB and NUS is about 2 hours. That includes waiting for the bus, crossing customs and immigration and travelling itself. That is a lot of time.  I will have to wake up at around 5.30am just to be ready to leave, say about 615. If I’m lucky, I would have arrived in my office by 800. Otherwise, it would be 830-ish…

Waking up at 5.30am isn’t a problem really. It’s just a matter of getting used to. Standing (I would have struck 4D if I found a place to sit) in an MRT for 20 mins to reach Clementi also isn’t a problem. I’m young, only 25.  Won’t it be tiring, you bet…that’s why we have weekends.

The point is that certain sacrifices have to be made for certain things that I want. It’s whether or not I find the sacrifice worthwhile. In this particular juncture, sacrificing convenience of a proximate workplace is worthwhile. At the very least a reminder that while work is a big part of our lives, I don’t have to make decisions that orbit around it.

But what do I gain? Obviously the cheaper standard of living. Even by dollar to ringgit  comparison, rental in JB is so much more cheaper compared to Singapore. While inflation and travelling costs reduce the savings from this move, it is still very hard to fight the feeling that paying $450 for a small common room is just not worth it.

I guess I also gain a measure of freedom from the Singapore government’s ‘hidden’ agenda of enticing me to continue to live in Singapore.  I think the 3-year bond is more that just fair exchange for an affordable university education: How many of my cohort-mates have the underlying assumption that they will LIVE in Singapore after graduation.

Think about it, many Malaysian students in Australia or UK consider COMING back to Malaysia as a GIVEN. If they wanted to live in UK or Aussie (entirely possible) then it becomes a DECISION.  This is entirely reversed in the case of Singapore. Coming back to live in Malaysia becomes a DECISION.

This is simply because of the bond with MOE. But what does the bond say? It merely obligates me to work for a Singapore registered company wherever that may be. Hence it is possible that I work for OCBC in Malaysia (for instance.)

Admittedly I didn’t think things like this when I first graduated. But thanks to rental prices in Singapore, my eyes have been opened.

Not that living in Singapore is bad. It’s a nice place to live in, but certainly not the only nice place to live in. So I go to live in JB. It’s Malaysia, but it’s home.

(Obviously I can talk like this because I’m Malaysian lar…the whole argument doesn’t even apply for other international students. )


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About me

moogleBorn and bred in KL, Malaysia. Now studying for his Phd in Singapore. Learning to walk one fall at a time.
November 2007
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