When I was a little girl, I was told by my aunt “Girl ah, you better find a way to migrate and get out of this country lah.”
I used to listen and nod obediently, dreaming childishly of moving to a new and exciting place.
As I grew older, that dream died off.
The idea seemed too far-fetched, too troublesome. After all, I was happy in Malaysia. It’s not perfect, but it’s my home.
But I’d still dream from time to time, especially when I’d started working and wanted to earn a stronger currency than the Ringgit.
Few years later, I met my current partner who is an Australian permanent resident.
Things got serious between us and now I’m migrating on a partner visa to be with him in Australia.
It sounds exciting, and I guess it is. But it’s not the ‘happy ending’ that everyone thinks it is.
Migrating seems awesome and great, until you actually do it.
Let’s start with the best parts of my migration.
This country is quite simply: Great.
Aesthetically, the country is a beauty. The skies are unrealistically blue, and the weather is cooler than Malaysia.
Well, except in the summer months when it gets above 40 degrees hot and you just want to die in the heat. The recent bushfires generally have been affecting the rural areas instead of metropolitan areas which most Asians migrate to, although it has also caused weather changes such as brown rain in Melbourne.
I love how liberal this country is. Gay marriage is legal, and festivals and concerts are a norm.
People are less conservative because they do not mix religion with leisure, lawmaking, and their daily lives.
The result? You get a country with freedom of speech, highly inclusive, and many cultures minding their own business.
The working culture is also superb. If a company’s working hours are from 9am-5pm, most people start packing up at 4.45pm. By 5pm they are out the door.
I once went to a bar on a Friday at 3.30pm, and it was packed with people in their work clothes having a pint of beer. While work is important, there’s plenty of time for play.
Life generally moves slower, with people living more fully instead of rushing from one day to the next.
It’s like seeing quality of life in action.
It’s been a few months, and I still struggle to call this place home.
I miss my country, SO. EFFING. MUCH.
Here are a few reasons why.
First is the food. If you’re an avid foodie like me, every Malaysian food in Australia is average at best.
I miss my roti canai at a Mamak, I miss tau sar pau in the kopitiam, I miss mak cik’s nasi lemak by the roadside every morning.
These are luxuries which you can never get anywhere outside Malaysia.
Don’t get me wrong, you can get Malaysian food in Australia, but it will cost you at least AUD 10 (around RM30) for it.
At one point, I remember walking 15 minutes in 39-degree heat, just to have a bowl of RM32 chicken rice because I was craving it so much.
What’s worse, I could think of 10 other place that sells better chicken rice in KL than the one I had.
Oh, and did I mention that banana leaf is non-existent here?
Also, moving to a different country gives you a fresh start in life, but the downside of it is that you’re alone without your social circle.
Leaving my family and friends was painful, and difficult.
It’s difficult waking up on a weekend and realizing that you’re unable to ajak your friends for ‘yum cha’ or go shopping with your family.
I’m starting from scratch in building my social connections here. Not exactly the easiest thing to do as an introvert.
In fact, I am lucky to have my partner here with me. For migrants who move here alone for a better future, and there are plenty in Australia, I can only imagine how lonely it is.
Lastly, Asians here work REALLY hard.
Migrants have to be willing to work extra hard just to prove themselves. Racism is somewhat rare here, but migrants do have to show the government that they are contributing to the society and the economy, especially if they are on a working visa.
I know Asians here who work several jobs just to support themselves and send money back home.
It’s not a walk in the park. But hard workers are rewarded, it’s a pretty fair society.
It’s certainly better than how we treat our migrants at home.
So was it worth migrating?
Yes for me.
To me, the short-term struggles are worth it in the long run.
Migration is not for everyone. I know of many people who migrated but couldn’t adapt to the culture and decided to move back to Malaysia.
It takes a lot of hard work, mental strength, and perseverance to live in a different country.
But to those who manage to do it, life is pretty amazing.
Malaysians living overseas, is the grass really greener on the other side? Let us know in the comments!