Singaporean living in Sweden for past 5 years explains why he prefers to live there instead

TL;DR: Guess it comes down to what your priorities are in the place you want to live in.

By Jeanette Tan | March 1, 2017

You might’ve seen a couple of videos produced by a Swedish man, who introduces himself as Stefan, explaining the reasons he prefers Singapore to his home country:

And this:

One Singaporean, who has been living in Sweden for the past five years, decided he should explain the opposing view — why he prefers life there to here — in a post on Swedish indie website Buddha Mag.

The writer, Kai Teo, says he spent his National Service in Officer Cadet School, got his degree at Singapore Management University and worked in the Central Business District. Despite these traditional Singaporean experiences, he decided to move to Malmö in Sweden, following an ex-girlfriend of his whom he met in India.

Interestingly, Malmö was the one city named in Stefan’s videos on crime levels and safety, one which Teo terms “the most ‘dangerous’ city in the country”.

In quite a balanced manner, Teo lays out the differences between Singapore and Sweden, based on his personal experience – or in his own words:

The reason why I’m writing this is not to say whether Stefan is right or wrong, because he’s definitely got his valid points, nor is it to argue whether Singapore or Sweden is a better place to live in. I just hope that I can paint a picture of the differences I’ve seen, through the perspective of a Singaporean, so you can make your own conclusions.

1. On prices and salaries

Photo by Kai Ho, from Buddha Mag
Photo by Kai Teo, from Buddha Mag

Teo says fresh graduates in entry-level marketing firms, for example, make S$3,500 a month — after a 30 per cent tax. Cleaners? S$2,500 after taxes.

A five-kilogram bag of rice may cost S$15, but rent for apartments can actually be pretty comparable, if not maybe even slightly more affordable, depending on where in Singapore you rent — S$1,500 – S$2,000 per month for a three-room apartment, or S$800 for a studio, like the one he lives in (photographed above).

In terms of food prices, he acknowledges that a McDonald’s meal, for instance, would set you back by S$15 on average, but he points out it is possible to get affordable food, like a falafel roll at S$4.

2. Violence and crime

Teo says in the five years he has spent in Sweden, he has read reports of “gang shootings” and “the occasional targeted grenade blast in the media”, but personally, he hasn’t experienced any incidents of this.

He also says he saw just one burned-up car in his time there thus far, as compared to what Stefan made it sound like, which he was happy to snap a photo with:

Photo from Buddha Mag; Kai Teo
Photo from Buddha Mag; Kai Teo

Teo also notes that like living in Singapore, it boils down to who you hang out with, where you go and if you know how to avoid potentially dangerous situations.


3. On taxes and pensions

Teo says taxes are high in Sweden, but he doesn’t mind paying them because he believes in the idea of “everyone sharing in the costs of taking care of the society”. On people who take advantage of the system to leech off it, Ho says the number of those people is quite small.

Since in Sweden, there exists a system of unemployment insurance which you pay monthly for when you are employed, choosing to quit a job that doesn’t bring you happiness is an easier step to take because you’ll still earn 80 per cent of your original salary for up to a year in the time you are looking for a new one.


4. On gender equality, norms and same-sex marriages

These, Teo says, are viewed far more liberally in Sweden than in Singapore. Same-sex marriages are recognised as equal to heterosexual marriages by the state, for instance, and a man could paint his nails, put on lipstick, wear a dress and keep long hair to go grocery shopping and no one would bat an eyelid.

5. Environment-consciousness and cleanliness

Teo admits that Sweden isn’t as clean as Singapore, but argues that even with rules in place, it’s inevitable that littering will still happen.

Sweden’s recycling culture is much more established and sophisticated than Singapore’s in his view — with a common practice of sorting trash for recycling, returning used aluminium cans, charity shops for old clothes and organic sections in supermarkets (although in fairness, we do most of these things in Singapore too).


But perhaps our key takeaway from this, as well as Stefan’s two videos, might be best expressed in his concluding paragraph:

“What I’ve pointed out above are the issues that I value in my personal life, and what I would like in the society that I live in. Malmö’s model, mentality, and way of life is more in line with my personal beliefs. And I prefer living here. Before you decide on whether it’s actually better or not, try living at least a year in another country if you can, and then you can make a fair comparison. And for those who haven’t had the opportunity to doing so, what’s good or bad, is after all, a mere perception. Wherever we are, as long as we count our blessings, love one another, and make the best out of it, it’ll be the best kind of life that we know.”


Some food for thought.

ForTeo’s full article, click here.

Since you’re here, how about another article?

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Top photo from Kai Teo’s Facebook page

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About Jeanette Tan

Jeanette takes pride in her ability to sing the complete lyrics to Hakuna Matata and a host of other Disney songs. She holds out hope to someday be talent-spotted to do voice-overs for documentaries, lifts and automated telephone answering systems.

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