From The Straits Times    |
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Curious what it would be like to work or study abroad? My Life Abroad is a column by Her World that gives a glimpse into the lives of women from Singapore who have pursued their dreams and ambitions overseas. If you would like to share your experience, please email us at magherworld@sph.com.sg with the subject “My Life Abroad” in your email header, and one of our editors will get back to you.

Having an employer who is open to remote working arrangements has made the transition of relocating overseas easier, according to Lin Yanqin, a senior producer for a Singapore-based content platform. The 39-year-old made the move to Melbourne last year so that her husband can be closer to his family. Here, she shares what life is like in one of the world’s most liveable cities.

Senior content producer Lin Yanqin moved to Melbourne with her husband in 2022. Photo: Lin Yanqin

My husband and I moved from Singapore to Melbourne in 2022 because we thought it would be nice to live in the country of my husband’s birth for a change. He had worked in Singapore since 2016, and though he loved it, he wanted to be closer to his family. Meanwhile, I had never lived outside of Singapore, and I was game for new experiences. We are very lucky to be able to move countries without much difficulty.

With my husband being Australian, I was eligible for a partner visa, which is relatively straightforward to obtain compared to the other visas. Financially, we do not have dependents, and we had the resources to pay for a move and buy an apartment in Melbourne.

Plus, the Covid-19 pandemic has made companies more receptive to remote work – my employer in Singapore offered me a contract role that allowed me to work from Melbourne, which cushioned the impact of moving.

The biggest change about moving to Melbourne is that I’ve become someone who pays A$16.80 ($15.03) for a plate of Penang char kway teow at Lulu’s Char Koay Teow. Sometimes, I fork out A$19.90 ($17.60) for a bowl of Penang prawn mee. I can already hear the collective gasps of Singaporeans reading this, but I will do it again because I don’t live near a hawker centre anymore, and it is really, really good.

A typical day in Melbourne

The lack of affordable hawker staples aside, a typical weekday for us feels strangely like our days in Singapore. We both work from home, which is terrible for making new friends, but great for getting to know our neighbourhood, Brunswick. Brunswick is a gentrifying inner-city suburb where stalwart Middle Eastern and Mediterranean eateries sit next to self-consciously cool cafes and vintage stores. The area has a reputation for being inclusive, and once you settle in, you notice the little things: people dressing in gender-fluid ways, flyers rallying around causes like climate change, refugee rights and various social justice issues.

Melbourne can be very car-centric. I live in a relatively accessible area near a tram and train line, but many parts of the city are not well-served by public transport, and without a car, life can get isolating.

Melbourne is surrounded by natural attractions, such as the Mornington Peninsula. Photo: Lin Yanqin

What my weekends look like

Weekends are great for exploring the outdoors. Mornington Peninsula, a 90-minute drive out of Melbourne, has gorgeous beaches and hiking trails. And I’ve warmed up to scuba diving in its 15 deg C waters, where I can see the prettiest weedy sea dragons, googly-eyed dumpling squids, friendly seahorses, and once, thrillingly, a little swell shark. We’ve also dipped our toes into camping.

There’s Wilsons Promontory, a national park about a four-hour drive away, home to granite mountains and the spectacular Bass Strait. Another favourite is Gariwerd (the traditional name for the Grampians) with its sweeping mountains threaded by swift streams and waterfalls. International travel from Australia is expensive – I finally appreciate Singapore’s geographical advantages! – but on the upside, there’s much to explore without crossing borders.

Melbourne is surrounded by natural attractions, such as the Mornington Peninsula. Photo: Lin Yanqin

I don’t know yet if our move is permanent – my husband and I miss living in Singapore, and we agreed we would go where life takes us. However, I think living abroad can take many forms and still be enriching. Anything from one month to 10 years can help us appreciate the world and our place in it a little more.

My favourite spots in Melbourne

1. Little Bourke Street and Hardware Lane

Home to some of my favourite places in the CBD, such as Downtown Studio for pilates, Brother Baba Budan for coffee, +39 for amazing pizza, Hardware Club and Tipo 00 for modern Italian, and of course, Lulu’s Char Koay Teow. On the other end of Little Bourke is Chinatown, where you’ll find Shandong Mama tucked away in an unassuming building, serving up dumplings and chive pancakes.

2. Sydney Road

Check out consignment stores with well-curated pieces (Mutual Muse and Goodbyes), vintage shops (Still Good and Retrostar Vintage – the latter holds regular warehouse sales at its Brunswick location), and op shops (SaversVinniesDon BoscoSalvos), which are thrift stores. And then fuel up at Good Days with its amazing beef pho, or head to A1 Bakery, a Sydney Road institution serving excellent pitas, falafels and kibbie (Lebanese meatballs).

3. A fun activity you shouldn’t miss… The Australian Open

Fun even for the most casual tennis fans – for A$50 ($44.50) you can buy a ground pass to watch top-notch matches at the free-seating courts, or just wander around soaking up the buzz and summer sun.