Singapore’s position is quite special in that it is both city and state, all packed into a tiny island. By car, you can travel from one end to the other in half an hour. When friends from Germany come over to visit me, the first thing that strikes them is just how efficiently everything runs here.
Everything is orderly and everything is clean, with rules for everything, followed by all. This astonishes many visitors. At the airport, for example: anyone who has ever stood waiting in front of a luggage conveyor belt in Frankfurt will know that you sometimes have to wait for your suitcase for up to half an hour. In Singapore, your luggage is usually already there as soon as you have gone through passport control. And everything here runs just as efficiently.
As far as the life and behaviour of the people are concerned, Singapore is very strongly influenced by Europe and America. It is actually ‘Asia light’, although there are Asian quarters which could be a bit of a culture shock for some Europeans. It always amuses me to observe the reactions of people when they walk along the street and suddenly find themselves in an Indian neighbourhood.
There are certainly many nationalities at the Singapore site. When I look around, there are six people in my office from five different countries. China, India, Philippines, Singapore and Germany – all in the same room. There are of course cultural differences. However, as I emigrated from Germany eight years ago, I don’t really know what work is like over there any more. Some things I do still remember, in particular the direct way of communicating.
Asian people certainly have a different approach at work. It is not customary here to address things directly, they prefer to paraphrase. In particular, negative topics are never communicated in concrete terms. If you come out with a typically German announcement, such as: ‘we’ll do it in this way, for this and that reason’, it might well alarm colleagues. Even internal communications covering all topics openly are unusual here. I have therefore got used to being less direct than I would be in Germany, and try to phrase my requests in a friendly and positive manner.
Expats in Singapore
Almost 40%of the population of Singapore are foreigners, which has made it very easy for me constantly to make contacts and get to know people. The only problem is, if you live here for a long time, that most people leave again after completing their three to five year assignments from their companies. The expat life prevails here. I am therefore so pleased that I made many local friends, after initially arriving in Singapore as a trainee, that I will not have to say goodbye to. Through my circle of friends from all around the world, I also met my current husband, who is Indian.