“I just fit in,” Alvin Tjipto says, when asked why he’s putting down roots here. The Indonesian has swapped his Australian Permanent Residency for a Singaporean PR, and is hoping to gain citizenship next year. It wasn’t a decision he made alone – his fiancée, a Singaporean who had been living in Australia, also returned home to work.
Exploring greater horizons
“It’s partly about the better opportunities in Singapore, compared to Indonesia or Australia,” Alvin explains. “After my studies in Melbourne, I just couldn’t get a job until I received my PR, and even then the only job I worked at wasn’t in a relevant field.”
Alvin is an IT Auditor, currently with the local chapter of Malaysia’s leading bank, Maybank, after holding a similar post at Ernst & Young here the first couple of years.
Returning to Asian roots
“Perhaps it’s also that, being Asian, I’m more comfortable with Singapore’s culture, her people, the food...”
Alvin feels right at home in the country where he spent his early teens, and still keeps up with his old school friends. “I came to Singapore in Primary 4 (at age 10) with my twin brother, and my elder sister came two years later. We stayed until we finished secondary school and completed our education in Australia. I didn’t want to go,” he recalls. “All my friends were here!”
Alvin’s siblings are still in Australia, while his parents have remained in Medan. “What I really miss about Indonesia are my relatives and the family home. It’s really convenient to be so near them now; flights are just an hour long and quite cheap.” His parents fly in regularly on Silkair, Singapore’s regional airline, and his extended family will be jetting in for his wedding coming up at the end of the year. He himself doesn’t fly out often. He admits, “I prefer to stay here.”
Nurturing connections, old and new
Did his attachment to Singapore draw him to his future bride, who is Singaporean? “We met at a church youth camp when we were both in Australia. She wasn’t even from the same state,” Alvin recalls, laughing. The couple now attend a church in Pasir Panjang, where they are active in the Youth and Young Adults ministry, which keeps their weekends busy.
On coming back to Singapore, Alvin wasted no time getting together with his old school mates. They play football every Saturday morning at the National University of Singapore’s pitch, sometimes also during the week, after work. It’s not all serious training. “Sometimes we end up talking more than we play!” Alvin says, “I connect well with Singaporeans.”
Adjusting to a new pace
Settling in to work in Singapore was a slightly more difficult process. “Work here is competitive; it’s more challenging. I feel the pressure on my time, but I’ve learnt to deal with it.” The 27–year–old likes the work culture, though. He points to the family–friendly practices of his company, such as its Family Day outings, and movie treats for the whole family.
Alvin lives in a private apartment along Farrer Road, in central Singapore, together with a cousin and two friends. He is a 15–minute drive away from his fiancée, and enjoys her mother’s cooking several times a week.
Owning a car gets Alvin around on weekends easily, from soccer pitch to fiancée’s side, but he finds public transport more convenient for getting to work, by catching a bus and train. His car holds a weekend plate, meaning it is licensed to run on weekday evenings from 7pm to 7am, and on weekends. “Just right for rushing to football after work, or going to my fiancée’s for dinner,” Alvin notes.
It is probably also just right for the couple, who enjoy dinner dates and attending the many plays and musicals which the lively arts scene offers, as well as quiet walks by the beach. Alvin smiles, saying, “I try my best to be romantic!”
Certainly, he’s in the right place to fulfil his dreams.