Wednesday 14 November 2012
When I asked these well-traveled professionals which city they enjoy working and living in the most, their answers surprised me. They all said "Singapore".
My curiosity was piqued. I turned to Julien, who grew up in one of the most popular cities in the world, "You pick Singapore over Paris?"
His reply was affirmative. According to him, Singapore is clean, vibrant and well run. It's a cinch to set up business (he owns a restaurant). While his rent has increased over the years, it is still reasonable and he is happy with our public transportation.
At this point, Desmond from Barbados chimed in with his two cents worth, " I can't understand why people here get so upset. Trains break down in Europe all the time and the stations are filthy, yet nobody complains. You've got one of the best subways that is clean and running efficiently."
I shared my findings with a fellow Singaporean and she was just as surprised. We both conclude that they must be making a decent living, so they are enjoying the good life here.
My condo is full of expatriates like them - young professionals with small kids who are enrolled in the kindergartens nearby. They do seem to fit in very well.
Just down the hill where we live is a HDB estate with a few dozen shops. In the last four years, I have seen more and more shops being taken over by foreigners.
There are at least 5 hairdressing salons run by Chinese women. I used to have my hair trimmed at a regular shop for $6.80. Recently I paid for a $4.50 haircut at another salon few doors away.
Yesterday, I sent in a pair of jeans for alteration. The lady owner of the shop charged me $4 and said I could collect the next day. When I asked about the opening hours, she said "7.30am to 9pm ".
Now 13.5 hours may not seem like a lot but this petite woman runs the shop crammed with jeans, dresses, evening gowns and sportswear singlehandedly. She sews and does alterations too. As if not enough, she sells prepaid phone cards. When I was there, people were coming in and out, buying phone cards and getting clothes altered. She never lost her cool. Imagine doing this daily all year round. I doubt many Singaporeans are willing to work that hard.
This is the same scenario in the provision shop next door run by a Chinese lady. When I found her speaking to her teenage daughters in Hokkien, I asked if she's from Taiwan. "No, I'm from Fujian."
I should have guessed. This new wave of immigrants are finding their niches here. They have taken over businesses that Singaporeans are no longer interested in.
Having said that, the Singaporean entrepreneurs are here in the same HDB estate too. The gleaming new ice creamery for example. And Yummy Soy that sells the kind of soy pudding that has taken the market by storm is run by a few young men. You can spot them a mile away because for them, it's all about the image.