I have just received an email from a soon-to-be resident to this country. He asked me a long list of questions from racism to everyday living in Australia. He reckons that I am able to help just because I am a "Singaporean uncle" and have "lots of experience as a migrant" who has been living overseas most of my life. Well, I must admit that I wear the honorary "Singaporean Uncle" badge given by fellow Singaporeans, as an age-given right. But the immigrant experience may not be quite the same for the young ones. I am afraid it has changed in many other ways since I first arrived in Australia. Advances in technology (I can now call someone in Singapore from my PC) and cheaper budget airlines mean that today's immigrants are less likely than their earlier counterparts to sever all ties with their homelands. Maybe, the only common factors are - getting a job , finding a place to live and so on - but maintain vital ties to their homelands was quite a different story during my time. It took nearly a fortnight for me to receive a letter from Singapore via air-mail.
Unlike many parts of Asia, especially in South Asia, it is not a common practice for an average family to have a live-in maid in Australia. Not only it is not customary, it's just beyond the financial mean of an average income Australian family to have a full-time live-in maid. A maid may often be seen as a necessity rather than a luxury in present Singapore. In many Singaporean homes it is necessary for both parents to work in order to lead a comfortable lifestyle and sustain a family. The financial strains of living in the highly competitive society have made it difficult for young couples to survive on only one income. Due to this, live-in maids are becoming the norm and the image of the "traditional" family - where Papa goes off to work and Mama stays at home to raise the children. - does not reflect reality for most people today. Nevertheless, for the most part our social institutions are still built around the outdated belief that only one parent (typically the father) should be working and the mother stays at home. Some people think that women with children simply shouldn't be working even at part-time jobs. Some years ago, an English doctor, whose son died while under the care of a nanny was severely criticized in the newspaper and on radio talk back shows because she allegedly put her career before her family. Sound too familiar in Singapore? In its recent past, Singapore too has had its fair share of headline news of children deaths and abuses while under the care of maids or paid care takers. Horror stories such as these force many working parents to agonize whether their financial well being and personal independence are being sold at the cost of their families. These are important factors to consider when young children form part of the family to migrate.