Malaysians Living in Singapore Tell Us 10 Differences Between the Two Countries

Malaysia and Singapore are neighbouring countries, and inevitably, we always get compared. Though Malaysia and Singapore have a lot in common, we are two separate countries, so there are definitely differences as well. To find out what they are, we gathered information from the horse’s mouth, and spoke to two Malaysians who are living/have lived in Singapore to find out what they think of their home country and Singapore. Here’s what it’s like living there!

For context, both interviewees are female. Cassandra* has just been there for nearly a year, while Annie* lived there for 11 years before recently deciding to return to Malaysia.

*Names changed.

1) Safety and Security

When asked about one of the biggest differences about Malaysia and Singapore, safety was one of the first things both girls mentioned. Both girls actually got job offers there, and Cassandra mentioned that safety was one of the factors that influenced her decision. Annie added that “I can walk on the streets at midnight and not feel scared.” In fact, she “leisurely strolls back home” regularly, and we’re afraid the same can’t be said here.

2) Cleanliness

You might have heard of this, that Singapore is really clean, and both girls attest to this fact. Cassandra feels like besides being clean, they do a good job taking care of the environment as well. Annie laments the state of public toilets in Malaysia, which again, we’d have to agree with, and says that Singapore’s public toilets are all very clean. She compares their shopping mall toilets to our 5-star hotel toilets here. Clean public toilets is something we’d definitely like!

3) Efficiency

Annie says that Singaporeans are very efficient and organised, and they get things done very quickly. Cassandra agrees, and says she notices it especially with the Singaporean government. Annie adds that the government systems are all integrated, so anything that has to do with the government is convenient and organised. On the other hand, as she’s trying to find out where to remove her quarantine band, Annie had to call three different numbers to get an answer. I have my fair share of complaints too, but let’s not go there. Speaking of complaints, Cassandra noticed that Singaporeans do tend to voice out their dissatisfaction a lot, but she thinks it could be a good thing, as it’s a motivator for all to improve.

4) Currency

The most obvious difference, probably. Singapore’s currency is stronger than Malaysia’s, and therefore, it’s not so painful when you convert to other currencies such as Euro, AUD, or USD. Annie says, “It’s so painful when you think about converting Ringgit.” I couldn’t agree more as I smile through the pain. With a strong currency, travelling is made more affordable, and the purchasing power is better as well. Furthermore, without converting, Annie says that the cost of living is cheaper in Singapore. Food and public transport is cheap, with houses and cars being the exceptions. Cassandra agrees.

5) Property Prices

Property prices are apparently sky high in Singapore, and they’re only made affordable if you’re married, because Singapore is all about procreation of the next generation. Annie bought a 800 square feet, two-room place there, and it cost her SGD 1 million. She was also quite shocked at how small the houses were there, which makes sense because Singapore is a small place. Cassandra notes that you’d get a discount if you buy a place near your parents though, because Singapore is promoting family values. In other words, property is definitely more affordable in Malaysia.

6) Parks and Outdoor Amenities

Annie says that one of her favourite things about living in Singapore is actually how aesthetically pleasing it is. She asked if I’d walk on Jalan Ampang. My answer was no, and she said the same thing. She went on to elaborate that Singapore’s CBD is very walkable and nice, and there are many parks to balance out the concrete jungle. Also, there are no potholes on the roads in Singapore, which is different from Malaysia’s roads.

7) Activities and Hobbies

Cassandra notes that it’s easier to see Singaporeans engaging in other hobbies and activities besides work there. She admits that it could be because Singapore is smaller and therefore easier to see a crowd or gathering of like-minded people, but the government is also actively organising events and providing subsidies for the citizens to try out certain activities and promote hobbies. In contrast, she thinks it’s harder to see in Malaysians, or perhaps because the population is more widely spread, it’s not as obvious.

8) Proper and Strict

Both girls agree that you gotta follow the rules and go by the book in Singapore. They’re very strict, and they have all the procedures and measures in place for you to follow. There’s less flexibility in the way to do things there, which again, could be a great contributing factor to efficiency since all you do is follow the steps. In Malaysia, most things are… flexible.

9) Public Transport

Annie didn’t own a car in Singapore, and she got around by way of public transport, mostly buses and the MRT. It’s frequent, convenient, punctual, and the entire system is well-connected. The walkways to buildings from stations are sheltered, and even primary school kids take public transport to go to school by themselves, something you probably won’t see in Malaysia. She does note that it’s probably easier to build and connect since Singapore is a smaller place. In Malaysia, the LRT is up and running, though getting to the stations could still be a little difficult, unless you drive to the station yourself.

Kallang Station, Singapore MRT
Image Credit:

10) Food!

We saved the biggest debate for last, because it will definitely spark conversation. It’s most likely due to growing up in Malaysia and being used to Malaysian flavours that they find Singaporean food a bit of a letdown. Both girls gave examples of bak kut teh, which is more of a herbal taste in Malaysia, but Singapore uses a more peppery soup base. Annie also says that their char kuey teow is sweet. Of course, there are other types of good food you could find in Singapore, but as true blue Malaysians, they still think Malaysian food is the best!

Would you consider Singapore your home?

Both girls answer yes. Cassandra says it’s similar enough to Malaysia, and close enough to home and family that she can visit anytime, brushing aside the COVID situation. Annie says it will always be special to her, since she’s been there for more than 10 years. To her, home is where family is, and she’s returned to Malaysia to settle down. For Annie, Singapore represents a new experience, and she can’t wait to see what she finds there next!