Working five days a week is the norm in Singapore. In fact, it’s quite common for work to spill over into the weekend here. But Muhammad Fadhil Abdul Latiff, 34, received quite the culture shock when he started work in Melbourne.
Almost three months ago, Fadhil and his family relocated to Australia to start a new chapter in their lives.
Moving to a new country would naturally mean different cultures and norms. And apparently over there, “nobody works five times a week” at his workplace.
“When I tell [my colleagues] I work five times a week, people [laugh] at me. They call me a unicorn,” the registered nurse told AsiaOne during our chat.
Making the big call
Fadhil tied the knot in 2019, and even back then, he’d already had discussions with his wife about moving abroad one day.
It was something he’d “always wanted to try” and would seriously consider should the opportunity arise.
As it happened, the stars aligned as both husband and wife received offers from Melbourne.
Fadhil’s offer was a work opportunity as a registered nurse while his wife received a PhD scholarship to study Public Health at Monash University.
After some deliberation, the couple took a leap of faith.
“It was kind of crazy. A lot of people didn’t expect us to make the move as we were doing quite well in Singapore, at least according to what our family thought,” Fadhil shared.
They were aware of the risks tied to making such a major life decision, but it was one they were willing to make.
It wasn’t long before the couple, along with their two-year-old son, packed up for Australia.
When in Melbourne…
Given his profession, shift work was almost a given but Fadhil noticed a stark difference between the work culture in Singapore and in Melbourne.
“[Supervisors at work] ask whether you’re comfortable to do night shift and if you can’t, they’ll respect that,” he said.
When asked how this compares to his work experiences in Singapore, Fadhil simply chuckled and kept tight-lipped.
“I’m not painting with a broad brush, but in my [current] company, they have the mentality that ‘I have a life outside work’,” the father of one added.
This has led to some light-hearted jokes at his workplace, where he is seen as a workhorse.
Colleagues would tease him and have given him the title of ‘unicorn’ — for being open to a five-day work week.
With a flexible work schedule, Fadhil is afforded more time to be together with his young son.
Being present and available for his son is something the 34-year-old greatly values.
Fadhil comes from a single-parent family and, in a separate TikTok video, he explains how his upbringing influences his parenting style.
“I’m going to make sure that my son is going to get the father’s love that I didn’t get,” he said.
Fadhil has lived through the struggles of growing up without a father figure and doesn’t want his son to “experience what [he] did”.
As the father-son bond blooms, this affords space for his wife to focus on her studies.
Amid all the positivity surrounding this move, one blip (albeit an expected one) has been having to adjust to higher food costs in Melbourne.
Eating out is now a luxury, and even settling on food delivery isn’t the same as before.
Food delivery in Melbourne is likely to cost twice as much as it does in Singapore, Fadhil explained.
But sometimes, he does give in, especially when he’s feeling homesick and missing home-cooked food in particular.
“I go to Malaysian restaurants to remedy my homesickness and get something that gives me more familiarity,” he told us.
It’ll be four years before his wife graduates so Melbourne is home for the foreseeable future.
What happens beyond that is still a question mark, but Fadhil sees no need to rush this decision.
To any Singaporean thinking of making a similar move, the 34-year-old advises them to do proper and diligent research on their destination city or country beforehand.
What many don’t see are the financial sacrifices Fadhil and his family have had to make.
There was a conscious effort to not head off for a vacation for two years before they started their life in Melbourne.
Also, both husband and wife were aware that their savings had to be sufficient to tide them over “for any rainy day”.
Despite all their sacrifices, the pseudo-unicorn nurse is grateful to be able to focus on balancing the two key aspects of his life – work and parenting.