Why this Malaysian left

I read Dzof Azmi’s piece To go or not to go (Contradictheory, Sunday Star, Feb 3) and it resonated very deeply with me. I left Malaysia in 2008 to pursue a tertiary education and after graduating, decided to stay put where I was instead of returning. My pursuit of a research job led me from the sleepy little town of Peterborough, Ontario, to the vibrant (but alwaysrainy) city of Vancouver, British Columbia, in Canada.

The question of whether the grass is actually greener on the other side depends very much on what you seek, what your comparison level is, and what you’ve previously experienced. Having lived in both Malaysia and Canada, I can say that both countries have their green pastures. However, just because the grass is green doesn’t mean you get to enjoy it.

Healthcare is something that is split down the middle. I can see good and bad in both systems. In Canada, to see a specialist, you absolutely need a referral from your family doctor. There is no such thing as walking in and deciding you want to see such and such a specialist. Waiting times can also be notoriously long.

What Malaysians see is “wow, they have wonderful healthcare,” not realising that healthcare is technically not free here. For example, in British Columbia, where I live, I pay about C$600 (RM1,848) a year for my basic health plan. My employer, the University of British Columbia, pays close to another C$10,000 (RM30,800) in benefits for me (healthcare coverage and systems are different from province to province).

Jobs, in general, definitely do pay better here in Canada. The minimum wage in British Columbia, for example, is C$10.25 (RM31.57), which is substantially higher than Malaysia. But do Malaysians know that Canadians pay between 5%-15% in sales taxes for almost everything they buy (think household items, think clothes, etc)?

Do you know that to put your infant in a three- to four-day fulltime quality daycare place per month, it will set you back about C$1,200-C$1,800 (RM3,696-RM5,544)? By the way, if your child is born in Canada, there is a tax deduction/government support – but you’re still footing a substantial amount.

Also, did you know jobs are not the easiest to come by? The unemployment rate is currently about 7.1%, with the hardest hit being the youngsters because there are more young people needing jobs and more young people who are more qualified.

I myself heard a group of HR associates at the lunch table next to mine who decided to not call the Russian-trained Malaysian doctor for an interview (not for job in medicine) because they have had bad experiences with hiring Malaysians.

There are countless doctors trained overseas in Canada driving cabs and manning the cash registers in the grocery stores. Why? Because their qualifications aren’t recognised in Canada, and either 1) the education that they had in their home countries were not “up to standard enough” for them to get into an equivalent programme here, or 2) they don’t have the resources or time to study because they have a family to feed.

What does this all tell you? A few things. Sometimes, people who run and uproot their family to emmigrate don’t necessarily have happy endings. But we don’t always hear of these stories.

So why did I stay then?

My reasons for staying were abundant, but it wasn’t monetary gain. After all, research is notoriously poorly paid. I stayed because I have found something I am very passionate about, and the avenues available in Canada for me to pursue my passion are just too good to pass on. It was in Canada that I discovered that I actually really enjoyed school. And I knew that to go home would mean giving up something that I truly enjoyed.

I also stayed because it was a Canadian university that gave me the opportunity to pursue higher education by giving me a scholarship worth almost a quarter of a million ringgit. Just like our JPA scholars should rightfully give back to the country who gifted them an education, likewise, I’m now doing the same to the people who supported me. The only difference is, my scholarship was unbonded. I believe it comes from a sense of gratitude, and I think deep down, there is a part of me that feels it is the right thing to do.

Daphne Ling Canada

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