Sunday, June 18, 2017

Filipino Foreign Worker in Singapore - Part 1

What is it like to live in Singapore? This was a question that has been answered for me since moving here the start of 2017 for work. I am now officially an Overseas Filipino Worker or OFW for short. Although I have only been here for a short time to give a really comprehensive assessment, I believe my short experience so far has given me a lot of insights as to what I can reasonably expect in the long run.

I have to say that it was not a totally new experience when I moved here. I was coming over every now and then for about two years prior to my permanent transfer. My trips were rather short since I was based in the Philippines and still reported to our Clark office. Still, several one-month trips had served as preludes to my eventual residency. I knew what I was getting into and I knew what Singapore had to offer.

I have read people saying that Singapore can be compared to a well-maintained garden. And they are not wrong. Singapore is neat and clean! It is a city of order. Everybody follows the rule and most people seems responsible to ensure the orderliness of the city. For sure there are significant penalties for violations. This was what Lee Kuan Yew learned during the Japanese occupation. Imposing discipline will be effective if done right. That means, considerable punishment and consistent implementation.

I like that I don't need to drive in Singapore. Not because cars are super expensive (they are) but because public transportation is well-designed, efficient and comfortable. I can take one bus ride to my work place or I can ride the MRT to catch the company shuttle. Both are no-hassle options. These buses have designated pickup locations and can't get extra passengers just anywhere along the way. You would think that that is plain common sense in a public transportation system but wait till you see how it's done in many parts of the Philippines and you’ll be surprised.

Another good thing about Singapore's public transportation is the use of tap to pay cards. This facilitates the payment system and does away with a conductor. I have the impression that the government designed and refined the transportation system and that they don't stop trying to improve it. They know that they need to determine the optimum number of buses to serve the needs of commuters without causing too much traffic congestion. Such an analysis is not beyond the brain power of Filipinos. But unfortunately the culture of excellence is not valued in our own government. That's not how the Philippine government operates. It is frustrating but we are resigned to it.

I rent a room here because a whole apartment is just too expensive. Housing is generally expensive in most cities and Singapore is no exemption. However, house prices can be influenced by the government due to its considerable housing involvement. Unlike say Hong Kong where most residential properties are built privately which is not good for supply, Singapore is comparably cheaper with the government willing to reign in housing prices by building more. On top of that, houses built by the Singapore government cannot be owned for speculation. You can only buy one for your family. So a market bubble is less likely to happen.

Nonetheless, I pay 650 SGD for a common room which can be considered average for the price. That same amount (equivalent to 23k PHP) will afford me a big beautiful house where I live in the Philippines.

The food options in Singapore are second to none. At least with respect to all the places I have ever been to. And if you are budget conscious like me, there are plenty of places to offer you food for reasonable prices. As such, it wasn’t a big deal that my landlord doesn’t allow cooking by tenants. I don’t need to cook with so many places that offer good food. I also don’t really want to cook since I really don’t know much about it. Moreover, I would really prefer not to work on the mess cooking leaves behind. Ten dollars per meal should be more than enough to cover food expenses for most people. Unless you are the type who likes to experience fine dining on a regular basis, then that would have to be taken into account when budgeting for meals.

With so many things to be said, I realize that this article can be rather long. So I will stop for now and continue the rest on a succeeding post. Honestly, I like writing about this to remind myself about my experiences which I could easily forget as time passes by. I find this exercise worth doing because of this so I hope I will find the time to keep at it.

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