By: Cheryl Chiew
At 25, I moved out and rented a flat with my best friend and her boyfriend. While this isn’t a big deal to most American adults, it is a surprising move for unmarried Singaporean millennials.
Land is scarce in Singapore which means it’s really expensive to rent or buy a home. Culturally, we’re expected to stay at home with our parents until we’re married. And since the median ages for men and women to get married are 30.2 and 28.5 respectively, we’re staying at mom and dad’s for a really, really long time.
Despite some reservations from my family and not having a ton of savings, I decided to get my own space. These are three main reasons why I went against the grain and moved out.
Hitting adult milestones at your own pace
For Singaporeans, the ability to access affordable housing is largely tied to being married. So, getting married, owning your own home, living away from your parents and living with a significant other for the first time are big milestones that happen all at once.
I know I’m someone who doesn’t like change. Taking things slow and eschewing the conventional route of marrying someone just to have my own space seemed like preferable options.
In school, I already had some practice with living on my own during my semester abroad and staying in University dormitories on weekdays. So, renting and moving out ‘full time’ seemed like a natural progression to me. That way, I could learn to manage a home and individual finances in small incremental steps without feeling overwhelmed. I am also afforded financial flexibility as I do not have to repay a 20-year bank loan.
Having control over the cleanliness over your living space
When I lived with my grandparents, I was grateful to have a roof over my head. However, it was difficult to maintain the cleanliness of the old flat as my grandma didn’t like me touching her things. My biggest issue was with the cockroaches; they were everywhere. I was afraid to leave my bananas out or to cook food on the stove. Sometimes, I’d find a cockroach in the shower with me or their shedded exoskeleton in my cupboards.
Moving out meant I could control how often I cleaned and what I cleaned. Direct control over my living space did wonders for my happiness. I no longer had to constantly worry about germs and cockroaches. For the first time in a while, I felt like I was in control of my life.
The increased autonomy then led to an improvement in my mental health. Instead of battling my environment, I could channel my energies toward developing my hobbies and investing in my personal growth.
“Taking things slow and eschewing the conventional route of marrying someone just to have my own space seemed like preferable options.”
Having an emotional safe space
In Asian culture, respect for your elders is extremely important. Even if my grandparents or father upset me, it would be rude to display my displeasure. And because I was using their water, wifi and electricity, it would seem doubly ungrateful if I behaved unpleasantly towards them.
And though they never made me feel unwelcome, I was mostly left alone. I did not feel like I had a support system and constantly felt I was taking up space. Moving out with a friend and paying my own bills removed these feelings of guilt, loneliness and indebtedness towards my grandparents and father.
I could get all up in my feelings and not suppress negative emotions. Now, I’m thankful I can come home and say “I’m having a bad day, I would prefer to be left alone” and have people understand that it’s okay to be sad.
Moving out in Singapore
Personally, I feel renting before marriage is a big step towards being a self-sufficient adult. I see this move as a signal that I’m learning to make good choices for myself, and not benchmarking my goals against what society tells me is right.