Friday, August 31, 2018

Things Dave Taught Me About Moving To Singapore





We’re all different, right? We’ve all got different aims, aspirations, backgrounds, hopes, dreams, weaknesses, strengths, genetics, fingerprints, fetishes - all of it. And yet we’ve all thought about upping sticks and fleeing to a faraway place to start over in some way or another. It’s that niggly thought of wondering what life is like on the other side of the world, what it would be like to throw yourself into the deep end of a totally mad adventure, move to another country, immerse yourself in the unknown where absolutely everything is a bit alien and all of your senses are assaulted on a bi-secondly basis.

Well, a year ago today, one of my best pals gave into that thought, made his “out of office” permanent, through two fingers up to the humdrum of doing the same thing every day and moved to Asia or, more specifically, Singapore. And he pretty much did it without a plan (which is classic Dave, really). That said, I remember speaking to him on his first night and smiling as he regaled the love at first sight relationship he had with that place. He said, “The moment I stepped off that plane and into a taxi headed for the city, I knew I was gonna be chuffed living here.

Now, I’ve only been out to visit him once, but I can confirm that place has a certain something-something and you get hit by it the moment you arrive. From the heat to the humidity, the buzz, the culture, the buildings and the food - it all hits you hard and fast, sort of how I imagine it must feel getting in a ring with Mike Tyson.

Anyway, to celebrate Dave’s move and to help anyone else considering what life must be like on the other side of planet earth, I’ve pulled together a list of things no one tells you about moving to Asia based on my conversations with Dave after the last twelve months. Good luck.

1. Singapore Is THE Place To Be
As far as moving to Asia goes, Singapore is the best place to begin because it’s what the locals call the ‘Gateway to Asia’ or, as Dave now refers to it, ‘Asia for dummies’. Oh, it’s still going to be a crazy adventure and totally hectic and all that, but the transition is just that much easier because there is a huge European influence merged in with the Asian way of doing things, while the common language is good old English. Basically, it’s an easy place to live. But it’s not just got this name in a metaphorical sense because Singapore really is perfectly placed for you to explore so much of the world. From the centre of the city, you can be at the airport in twenty-five minutes and then it’s up to you where you go. Malaysia in 40 minutes. Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam - they’re all within touching distance.

2. There Are A Lot Of Rules For A Reason
The hardest thing for a westerner to wrap their heads around seems to be the rules, regulations and laws, of which there is 12 trillion. But it doesn’t take long to realise this is just some jumped up bureaucracy and that they are in fact in place to benefit the overall society. It’s strict, but it’s understandable. Buying one of the HDB flats here is riddled with complexities for foreigners, which is why it makes more sense to rent (at least at first), but that’s to make sure inflation doesn’t ruin the market for locals. Another example is only being able to buy gum from a pharmacy, having to present ID to purchase it and getting slapped with a super-hefty fine if you spit it out anywhere but a bin (or litter in general), which doesn’t go unnoticed because this city seems to be spotless. So while Dave found this abundance of rules pretty weird at first, he conceded quickly because these rules bring with about an almost unprecedented sense of safety, while keeping the city looking and feeling its best.

3. You’ve Never Been Somewhere So Diverse
This place is smaller than Estonia, and yet it is home to more than five-and-a-half million people from all over the place. There are four official languages, including English, Mandarin, and Tamil, as well as unofficial ones, such as the local version of English, which will boggle your mind faster than your first attempt at a Rubik’s cube. They call it Singlish and the twang is infectious (Dave speaks Singlish - it’s odd). But unlike so many other places, Singapore actually tries to make the most of this diversity. There’s a quota system when it comes to housing so that segregation doesn’t happen, and the same goes for religions too, which is why most areas have a mosque, a church and a temple. It’s so refreshing. It’s so forward-thinking. It’s so clever.

4. Startups Don’t Survive - They Thrive
Dave went out there without a job lined up and, although it took him a few weeks, he finally landed a job with an ecommerce and logistics startup that has boomed in the last year alone. It has offices all over south-east Asia. And they are no one-off. There are so many huge companies overhear and super successful startups, especially in the e-commerce, insurance and FinTech sectors, all of whom seem to share a love for disrupting the norm (I’m now quoting Dave, which is scary). Anyway, the growth opportunities seem to be insanely awesome. Enough to make me a dollop jealous. But then who wouldn’t be jealous of someone working in an inspiring environment, where innovation is key and taking risks is the norm? It’s the best kind of place to work and the best kind of jealousy that radiates from me.

5. Community Is A Big part of Singapore
The last thing that needs to be mentioned is that sense of community. I felt it when I was there. Even with the western way of doing things creeping into the local culture, the Singaporeans value family and community higher than anything else (except maybe food - they talk about food more than Brits talk about the weather). And that’s rubbed off on Dave. He talks about his friends almost like they are his family, with pride and love. It’s amazing to hear.

Sod it, I’m gonna move out there too.

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