A "sampan", a local version of river boats in this laughable recreation of Venice within the Marina Bay Sands. In the background, you can see the trappings of a consumerist society, Swarovski Crystals and a Victoria Secret lingerie boutique.
I am sure this is a story that is repeated oft number of times. A local boy returns home after so many years studying and working overseas in a western country, returning and experiencing culture shock in his country of origin.
Well, this is my story of Hai Shiang (Bill) Tng. This is continuing saga and thoughts of a Singaporean who had been studying and working in Vancouver, BC, Canada for the past seven years only to return to Singapore finding the landscape changed but the underlying culture and attitudes have not changed much.
Lets begin with job hunting. Obviously the first step in any person stepping in a different country is to look for work (unless you are a student in which there is a different set priorities). Just like everywhere, job hunting these days is done digitally. If you do not have a resume done on MS Word or any digital form to submit through email, it is extremely hard for someone to look for jobs in Singapore. You will need LinkedIn profiles, making sure your Facebook profiles is cleaned up as well.
If you want to be spontaneous or show some initiative by showing up at a company's HR department or Recruitment agency, you can try but usually do not even bother. I have tried walking into one of the recruitment agencies or Headhunting firms. They do not interview or meet with applicants directly. It is pointless to meet them face to face because they too only expect you to submit in your resume digitally.
I have gone for some interviews and a few recruiters have warned me that the pace of work and life in Singapore is far faster paced than in the Western world. Everyone rushes to get their job done usually with a very short turn around. Everyone is expected to put in overtime hours no matter their titles. Press releases, events coordination, newsletter articles has to be completed sometimes overnight.
When it comes to the culture and society of Singapore itself, I have forgotten how incredibly mercantilistic, consumerist society Singapore has. Almost every single idea I have for a franchise is useless. Opening up a Tim Hortons? Pointless. There are several local donut and coffee chains, offering far more varieties of donuts and at cheaper prices than Tim Hortons. Cupcakes? There are also several chains offering more varieties and more designs than even the Cupcake girls themselves can think of. Hell, there is even chains that just offer macaroons, Meringue pies, french pastries of all sorts, hell, even the local BreadTalk chain is offering Danish cinammon bread sticks which I never even heard of! There is an explosion of coffee and toast shops that offers sandwiches, toast, and coffee of all flavours, shapes and sizes. There are queues outside the local Luis Vuitton or Prada shops. Almost every shopping mall have premium brands selling their wares. The local MacDonald's chain of fast food restaurants are designed to be trendy and upscale, competing with the likes of restaurants proper. For those that live in Vancouver, Canada, you will understand if I even dare to compare the interior of Singaporean MacDonald's to be as trendy as the "Earls" chain of restaurants.
Now for the best part which is great for my job, almost every local retail brand is more brand conscious and utilized a PR or communications company to be on Facebook, Twitter, and all avenues of social media. There are local versions of Groupon now becoming extremely popular. There are online portals that are selling from electronics to kitchen wares that are getting popular. The online shopping in South East Asia is certainly taking off in a big way at least in Singapore.
The public transport system in Singapore is definitely one of the part of Singapore I love to praise. Efficient and cheaper than Vancouver's public transport, the public transport system makes use of Japanese designed underground metro system and SCANIA/MANN/VOLVO designed buses to ferry passengers around the country. Fares are debited according to distance and not zones. Fares can be paid by cash but are more commonly paid by electronic cash cards called EZ-link cards that can be electronically credited with cash, and then used by tapping the card on an electronic reader on the Fare-Gates of the Train stations or at Fare-readers on Buses. The readers uses a radio wave technology to read the cash balance in the card without the need for the passenger to insert such cards into the Fare-readers or Fare-gates.
I have explored some new projects that Singapore developed to attract the tourists. The Marina Bay Sands as well as the Gardens by the Bay. I shall continue my saga on my blog at a later date...
To be continued...