08 May 2011


When I worked in New Jersey, my boss and I flew into Columbus for work on occasion. On one particular trip, he informed me that he accidentally left his sunglasses at home and realized his mistake in the car on his way to the airport. He then advised me that he just kept going because he realized he was going to Columbus, so sunglasses were not going to be necessary. The sun is often hard to find in Ohio as many of the state’s major cities are victims of clouds and precipitation. Cleveland, Akron and Columbus are all relatively close to the weather data collected for Seattle, Wash. When we moved to Singapore, we found the sun.

Though some are certainly aware, others may be interested to know that Paul had been looking for work outside of the U.S. for some time. While working late one night, I received a phone call from a whispering Paul wanting to know if I could talk discretely. When I looked around and confirmed that I was the only one on that part of the floor, he advised me that I should start looking for jobs in Canada. He was looking for jobs in Canada, so it made sense that I would need one as well. After being sworn to secrecy, I immediately walked into my boss’ office and said, “Just in case something happens…Paul wants to move to Canada.”

While there are many good reasons to get out of your own country and experience an entirely new one (even if it is just across the border), the catalyst for this endeavor was the failing U.S. economy. With the value of the dollar dropping, the debt levels rising drastically and Washington’s inability to manage the government workforce, there was no doubt in my mind that we could do better. Now, we are both proud American citizens who believe in our country, but when it comes to protecting yourself, your family and future family members from another drastic economic downturn, it makes one think of other opportunities. For Paul, that meant moving on for a little while.

So we began looking at other options. I looked into the Canada visa requirements and the year-long process. Paul looked into New Zealand, where I told him we could be sheep farmers, but he could not figure out how to obtain a visa. Costa Rica was selected as the ultimate get-out-of-the-country-tomorrow-if-we-need-to location because they do not offer visas. A person may enter the country on a visitor’s pass and, as long as he or she leaves the country for four days every three months, the visitor’s pass will continually be renewed.

Then, one day in January when Paul had been sick for weeks at home, I received a message saying that he had applied for a job in Singapore. And then he got it. And here we are. Singapore’s economy is one of the strongest in the world, which says wonders for a country that started from the ground up in 1965. The population is currently around 5 million people and the government only wants to see that number soar. Currently, one-third of the jobs available in Singapore are reserved for foreign workers, which is why there are roughly 36 percent of foreigners living within the republic. The unemployment rate for people over age 15 is 2 percent and there are still nearly 11,000 available jobs posted to a popular job search website right now.

The annual report for Singapore’s postal service reflects a net profit of S$161M with increases posted in all business areas. Mail increased 4.3 percent last year. The U.S. Postal Service Annual Report shows a decrease in mail volume and a large deficit instead of a profit. I have a lot of faith the proposed changes outlined in the 10-year plan, but the Post Master General/CEO and the Chairman of the Board came right out and said, “without significant productivity improvements and changes to our current business model, the Postal Service could face a cumulative $238 billion shortfall in the coming decade.” Ouch.

Singapore’s economy is not the only sparkling area of interest – the entire island and nearly everything on it is quite clean. Singaporeans take great pride in their country and that includes its appearance. Trash is not typically seen on streets, dirt is rarely seen on cars or on buses. Paul thinks the buses are cleaned every evening because there are never a lot of fingerprints on the windows. There are large fines and sometimes caning slashes for littering, spitting and any defacing of public property.

I certainly do not miss America’s court system set up to slap the hands of most offenders when harsher punishments should be implemented. How many more times do I have to see Lindsay Lohan in court, paying fines, sent to jail for three days and then let off because there is not enough room to hold any more people? Take a note from Singapore – charge people outrageous fines, cane them and hang them for having half an ounce of marijuana and watch your crime rates go down. Take people’s iPhones away when caught talking and driving at the same time like they do in Singapore. Throw paparazzi in jail for stalking. Take out drug traffickers like you just took out Osama bin Laden. Turn the government into the loving parent protecting its children and stop worrying about birth certificates and school transcripts.

Sorry, rant over.

I like that tax and tips are included in everything. When we go to a store and see a price tag, we know we will pay that price. When we go to a restaurant and receive a bill, the tip is already included. Taxi drivers charge exact prices and give a person exact change when more than the amount is offered.

Surprisingly, I do not miss my car. There have been one or two times when I wanted to just get in my car and drive like I used to. It would be nice to have a car when shopping for large items or lots of things at the grocery store. If I had a car yesterday, we could have a TV in our living room right now. Instead, it will be delivered on Tuesday between 4 and 9 p.m. The public transportation options in Singapore are great, so I prefer taking the bus to the thought of driving anywhere on my own.

Though the level of technology is about the same as it is in the U.S., Singaporean businesses are using it more to their advantage. Taxis have lighted signs on the top of the cars that read, “HIRED” in red letters, “TAXI” in green letters if available and “BUSY” or “ON CALL” if empty but unavailable for any reason. We use one plastic card that looks and feels like a credit card for buses and trains; the card may also be used to pay for some taxi services. The card is pre-paid and we just tap it onto a machine inside the bus or train station to state our position. The machine then reports the balance on our card and, if we have fewer than S$4 on the card, a message indicating that we need to “top off” will display. We tap out on another machine when exiting so that the correct fare may be deducted from our card. At that point the screen will show the cost of our trip and our remaining balance and any indicator regarding topping off if necessary.

We can add money to our cards at MRT stations, 7Elevens and some banks and ATMs. To top off, as they call it, we simply place our card on a tray just bigger than the card itself – no swiping, no losing the card in the machine, no barcode – just set it down, put the desired amount in the machine and walk away. It is so easy!

Paul and I went to a mall earlier this week and, when we could not find the restaurant, we stopped at a directory for assistance. The directory was a giant LCD screen that allowed us to touch the category (Dining), touch the restaurant (South Coast) and then the screen showed us not only where we were, but drew a line showing us how to get where we needed to be. Amazing.

Paul is also a fan of the Asian-area airlines. He has been on quite a few flights since our first from the U.S. He is amazed by the customer service, the smiles, the professionalism, the attractiveness of the crew (Paul’s words, not mine) and the amenities. I believe we had four full meals plus snacks on our flight from New York to Singapore. We had pillows and blankets waiting for us in our seats, seat-back entertainment, free headsets, socks, a toothbrush and toothpaste, hot towels three times. Paul was even offered dinner on a two-hour flight from Bali to Singapore at 10 p.m. An airline pilot himself, Paul is continuously blown away.

On a final note, I would like to sincerely apologize for any confusion while reading these blogs. From time to time, paragraphs shift or, sometimes, are deleted in entirety during the posting process. As soon as I am alerted, I find the errors and correct them, hopefully, before too many people have a chance to read the post. I am now creating and editing these posts outside of the Blogger program in hopes that the blogs I post moving forward will be error free. Please feel free to contact me if you find any errors. One of my readers sent me an e-mail when she found a typo. Thanks Mom.

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