How are Malaysians Really Doing in Singapore?

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Photo courtesy of Connie Lee

Ever been envious of that colleague, friend or family of yours who moved to Singapore to start a glorious career? Or your next-door neighbour who seemingly found the perfect opportunity to settle in Singapore for a new job right after graduation?

Here’s the thing. Sometimes, it really is not as glorious as it seems. In fact, they might be leading an even more miserable life than the average Malaysian.

My ex-colleague, who managed to secure a job in Singapore four years ago and have since settled there described it as a place for the ‘soulless’.

She seemed to be doing well at first. Then she broke down months later, calling some of her closest friends to rant about her misfortunes. And there we were, envious of her for living in such a slick, clean place with better facilities and a pay cheque with an exchange rate that screams ‘SPLURGE’!

The truth is, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Here are some of the uncensored confessions of Malaysians who have been living and working in Singapore for the past three years.

We experience a greater amount of stress compared to Malaysians on a daily basis

“I remembered how angry I was back then when I was unable to do anything.”

According to Jule, it’s easy for Singaporeans in the company to curi tulang. But for Malaysians, we must have something to do all the time.

We are expected to perform decently at our job, which most of the time means doing more work compared to our Singaporean counterparts. But, we receive no appraisals or appreciation for it.

There was once, my colleagues (who are all Singaporeans) simply breezed through their tasks for a rather important project we had for a client. And during the project, some of them don’t even reply emails from clients!

When it came to me however, my manager called me into her room one evening and told me off for not doing enough and helping my colleagues in replying emails on behalf of them.

When I told them the email was directed to a specific colleague, so and so, she simply said “So? Can’t you just help them if they’re busy? We all working in the same floor. If they are busy just help them.”

But from what I see they were always on their computer browsing through social media or WhatsApping one another. Talk about them being busy. Pfft.

We were boycotted sometimes

Most Singaporeans have somewhat of a prejudice towards Malaysians, and dislike mixing with us. This was true for Moh Seng, when he moved into a flat at new neighbourhood in Tanah Merah. His housemates were all Singaporeans and treated him badly.

He was asked to put his toiletries in his room, to separate his from theirs. They were also always gossiping about him behind his back, sometimes asking him if he will go back to Malaysia in a mocking way.

We work longer hours

As a carefree Gemini, JW loves his spare time and had always dreamt of life in Singapore. When he was first there, he was so excited about landing his first ever job which promised to help him obtain his PR status in the long run. After two rounds of interviews and a short chat with the enthusiastic boss, who agreed to a starting salary of SGD2800, he decided the company was too good to be true.

And it was. His nightmare began soon after he started working there. He worked longer hours, with less break time. Whenever he goes out for lunch, he was greeted with unhappy faces when he returned. His manager even asked “Do you really need to eat out?” whenever he went out for lunch and stated that it’s best if he brings packed lunches.

He later called it quits when his boss wouldn’t budge on his OT hours. The company refused to let him claim for OT but expects JW to work till the wee hours of the night. His boss even said it was ‘normal’ to work OT in Singapore, when most of the time he and another few Malaysians are the only ones in office after 6pm. He loathed that he had to work six days a week, 7am to 9pm every day after his first month. “I’ve never felt this worthless in my life,” he recalled.

It is hard for us to fight for our benefits

As an employee who filed a lawsuit against her company in Singapore two years back (2016-2018), Ming said it’s hard for Malaysian to exercise their rights there as many Singaporeans feel more entitled towards better benefits than Malaysians.

It is also a norm that Malaysians are expected to contribute twice as hard as the average Singaporean before negotiating for a raise. “It’s not fair, I have worked this hard and right before I left, they wouldn’t even pay me my bonus and the-month’s-worth salary because we did not ‘sign’ a real contract,” Ming said.

Connie (third left) and team in Singapore

Singapore is actually alright, although Singaporeans are quite ‘kiasu’

Connie Lee, who works in the hospitality industry in Singapore enjoys the work there and the clean environment she lives in. Though she admits having to keep her performance on par or to exceed her colleagues’ because Singaporeans are typically ‘kiasu’ (afraid of losing). She enjoys the competitive scene there as it helps her perform better.

According to Connie, Malaysians seem to think that working life in Singapore is stressful. But to her, all is good as long as she juggles her priorities right and work hard enough within her own time frame.

In these years, many Malaysians have moved overseas to work, and many are happy to experience life on the other side. Although Malaysia might be lacking in some ways, there are still pros in working at the local scene. For one, the rights and respect you get as a Malaysian can sometimes be hard to come by in foreign lands. But then again, strive right and you’ll go far.

Now that you’ve heard enough from our fellow Malaysians what are your thoughts? Have any of you worked long enough in Singapore to experience certain issues? Let us know!

For more articles on Career & Skills, read 4 Lessons I’ve Learned After Switching from Government to Startup and Here’s 7 Things They Don’t Tell You About Grad School.

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