Having lived in Malaysia and Singapore for at least 7 years each, I thought that I would pen down some glaring differences between the two living environments:
1. Because in Malaysia there is freedom
Law enforcers are not only lax in Malaysia but also easily swayed with money, so you can avoid them most of the time and pay them off, should you get confronted with them. This situation basically means that the law does not apply to you, as long as you have enough money, which relegates the law to nothing more than a mere cost of living. I value freedom a whole damn lot; there is no amount of security and comfort that I would trade for a high level of freedom: the freedom to speed, park illegally, litter, trespass, indulge in anti-social behaviour, etc. Freedom is crucial for happiness, period. Of course, the lack of law enforcement also means that your own rights may be compromised, but complaining about that is just being overly-dependent on the government to secure your own well-being. Crimes and infringement of our rights in general only happen because we lack skills of self-perpetuation, such as negotiation, situational awareness, and street-smartness. The correct way to address the problem is to develop self-preservation skills, not cry to the government for protection. You will be a stronger person as well, and more like an independent, hardened adult, not like little children in a school who go reporting to authority anytime anything small happens. Take the law into your own hands.
2. Its f*cking cheap in Malaysia
Relative to the average wages of both countries, the cost of living in both countries is high. However, given how strong the Singapore Dollar is compared to the Malaysian Ringgit, Malaysia works out to be much cheaper, if you can put yourself in a situation to earn foreign currency regardless of where you live. In other words, if you can earn US Dollars or Euros either in Malaysia or Singapore (e.g. by owning a software company serving international customers), Malaysia will feel like heaven for you. Malaysia has a lot of bullshit going on, but consider the fact that the cost of living in Singapore is not 20% or 30% higher; it is 200% or 300% higher than that in Malaysia. There are also peculiar costs in Singapore that make no sense: S$500,000 99-year leasehold shoeboxes in the air and S$80,000 license to own a car (not the car itself), just to name a few. A very important fact of life is that you can truly own a house and car (no time limit whatsoever imposed by HDB or COEs) with literally less than RM100,000, or S$40,000. Anyone knows having a car at your disposal grants you an uncanny freedom that most public transport commuters can never understand.
3. You can choose the lifestyle you have always wanted in Malaysia
The entire island of Singapore is the same shit over and over again: HDB flats, heartland hubs, private condominiums, shopping malls, office buildings, night spots, schools, and the occasional park/nature reserve/beach. If you hate that, tough luck, buddy. In Malaysia, if you are sick of the shitty traffic and rude people of Kuala Lumpur, move north or south to quieter suburban or outskirt areas. If you are sick of city life, move to one of the beach towns. If you are sick of the swelteringly-hot weather, go upwards and live in Fraser’s Hill or Cameron Highlands. Sometimes, the further you move away from your comfort zone, the more it feels like a different country altogether. Using the same logic, USA, Canada, and Australia should offer a greater choice of living environments than both Malaysia and Singapore combined.
4. Its colorful in Malaysia
Diversity comes from within, but, if we define diversity as the observable differences among people and things, Malaysia is more diverse than Singapore, and it is the little things that make the most difference. For instance, Chinese, Malay, and Indian dialects actually survive in Malaysia (not just Mandarin, Standard Malay, and Tamil), depending on which part of Malaysia you go to. There are definitely more things to do than shopping, working/studying, and food-hunting in Malaysia. You can even send your children to different types of schools: vernacular schools, independent schools, private schools, home-schooling, real specialised technical schools (none of that “ITE” umbrella nonsense), or, hell, even the School of Hard Knocks, since Malaysia is not exactly a safe playground for kids. Malaysia is more interesting, less monotonous, and interesting environments tend to produce interesting people. People who have lived in Malaysia and then went on to live in Singapore for an extended period of time eventually become more one-dimensional in their personalities over time, and vice-versa.
5. Surviving in Malaysia is easier
Both people in Malaysia and Singapore live hectic, fast-paced lives, at least if you compare the urban areas of both countries. In Singapore, almost everything is done for the money: doing well in school, doing well in the workplace, not driving out during certain hours of the day, and even marriage and child birth (since you get to buy HDB flats and get baby bonuses for getting married and having children, respectively). You know something is wrong with a country when the government has to pay its people to have sex and bang each other. People in Singapore are too busy surviving to actually live. It takes a lot of effort to even have a low standard of living in Singapore. In Malaysia, if you are lucky enough to inherit a small home and pay off a motorcycle early on in your life, you can literally grow your own crops, hunt, or fish and survive day by day. A lot of villagers do just that. In Singapore, if you ask people to name two things that they do regularly outside of work/school that they consider hobbies, you would get a lot of blank faces. They are too busy working and studying to have free time to even pamper themselves by doing things they like or even think about their actual dreams (that would be too audacious). The sad irony is that a lot of people in Malaysia work less and play more and still make way more money or do better in their academic pursuits.
6. You’ll be happier living in Malaysia
Both people in Malaysia and Singapore have to put with an awful amount of bullshit. In Singapore, you have semi-competent yet greedy politicians in charge, making life a living hell for everyone with price hikes, non-sensible immigration policies, and even more new laws to curb personal freedoms or scare people into voluntarily surrendering their freedoms (CPF withdrawal age, anyone?). In Malaysia, we have lazy, blood-sucking, idiotic, racist politicians with no sense of good governance whatsoever, hopelessly-inefficient everything (bureaucracy, legal system, public transportation, education), and a lot of social crime. Empirically, however, people are complaining less and smiling/laughing/joking more in Malaysia. People in Malaysia also commit suicide not as often as people in Singapore. People walk slower in Malaysia, and you can even see people sitting down in coffee shops for literally the whole day just chatting happily away in Malaysia. My personal experience also revealed that it is much easier building rapport with a stranger in Malaysia than in Singapore (in Malaysia, just call the other person “boss” or “bro” or “leng lui” for starters; you cannot do that to strangers in Singapore – they are too damn stuck-up). In short, people in Malaysia have not forgotten how to relax and take things easy. Try going out one day in Orchard Road and in 1 Utama Shopping Centre, look at the first 100 faces that you come across, and then compare the proportion of smiling faces, and you will feel what I feel.
7. Social Discrimination
Malaysia is known for its xenophobia and racism, no doubt, but so is Singapore – to a larger extent. In Singapore, you get discriminated for virtually anything: for being Malay/Indian (jobs with Mandarin literacy as a prerequisite), for being a neighbourhood school student (scholarship applications), for being an academically-weak student (Special/Express/Normal streams), for being a fat student (TAF Club), for being an able-bodied Singaporean male (National Service), for being a local tourist (Singaporean casinos), for being an MOE foreign scholar (the Sun Xu incident), etc. “Meritocracy” my ass.
8. Numbers is not really important in Malaysia
Singapore is all about the numbers and only the numbers: GPA, CAP, L1R5, PSLE T-Score, GDP growth rate, GDP per capita, median income, net worth, crime rates, and even IPPT timings. People in Singapore are not bothered by anything that cannot be measured by a number: creativity, music/art, quality of life, and happiness (fuck the happiness index crap). It is a sick, toxic culture; people who do not perform well in these numbers are treated like dirt. I have personally received the better end of Singapore’s brand of favouritism in secondary school, and I felt sick to the core. If kindness from others to me is driven by admiration of my CAP/L1R5/whatever useless number, you can stick that kindness straight up your ass.
The only reason that Malaysians would choose to work and live in Singapore is the higher wages across the causeway. Their modus operandi has always been to work long enough there to save enough Singapore Dollars, and then come back to spend the money like a king. We already have our own clean, green, efficient, and economically-successful (and, hell, even Chinese-dominated) island-state; it is called Penang. What do you think about living in Malaysia as compared to living in Singapore?