Regarding income levels in Singapore and Asia in general

Image

Let me share two things – first the photo attached this message.

Secondly – an article on Yahoo

Quote: ‘Firstly, the pay is really good. For SQ, we can easily hit S$4,500 a month’

Now, one if the striking features of Singapore life for a person who moved here from US (excluding NY’s Fifth Ave) is a drastic difference in income levels. Gini coefficient for Singapore is way higher comparing to US. Translating into plain English – there are people who make awful amount of money and the rest, for them $4500/mo is ‘really good’.

If you read expat forums, especially opinions of those coming from US, you will get a conclusion – relocating from US to Singapore one should earn no less $180 000/year to afford same quality of life.

If you read further you’d see that 180K is not that high. A recent article showed that >50% of Western expats are earning $220K/year or more. In those forums you will see people with income $15K-20K/mo AND their rent is paid by the company.

Yet again, among locals $4500/mo is ‘really good’.

There should be no surprises that this situation generates anger and resentment among locals. Last week 4000 people protested against government plans for possible increase of population to 6.7 million in 2030. In online forums ‘white trash’, ‘foreign trash’, ‘white baboon’ is a common titles addressed towards foreigners.

Yes, obviously there is income discrepancy but there is something in Singapore society (and in Asia in general) needs to be fixed first than pointing fingers towards foreigners.

Let me share one more quote from the article: ‘Within two months, she had bought her first S$3,000 branded bag‘ (emphasis mine)

Now, I have a conviction that for an _average_ US consumer/household, even when you are 26 years old, would not spend 2/3 of their/her/his income on a FIRST (SIC!) handbag. I have above conviction because I have not seen $18 000 handbag in my whole 13.5 years of life in States. And here shops selling those are commonplace, one of them is right next to my office.

Second detail to add to the picture is that here in Singapore (and generally in Asia) older generation lives on allowance of their children. Situation is more paradoxical taking into consideration that for Singapore citizens and permanent residents have mandatory contribution of 1/3 of their income into retirement fund

While it was always the case in any poor society, this situation is common in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan too, in addition to Singapore which would be no way considered as poor countries. And the same time older generation is broke while in US and EU order generation is the the one who has highest amount of disposable money.

I think that explanation of this paradox is that consumerism manifested itself much uglier in Asian society than in States/EU. Again, spending 2/3 of the income on handbags in Singapore or 50% of income on designer dress for 6y old in Japan (as it was mentioned in Economist) is pretty normal and acceptable.

And at the end – something is really wrong with the society where one is considered to be a better person just because he or she has more money.

Well, there should be no surprises with the end result. Look at the mirror first before starting blaming others.

IMHO

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The new begining

It has been one year since I’m ‘officially ‘living in Singapore. I used quotation marks because I actually spent almost 1/4 of the year outside of Singapore. Now it is time to have some year-end summary.

First – financial: my income clearly went down after relocation. Singapore’s tax rate is half comparing to my overall pre-relocation US tax rate, however now 1/3 of my _pre-tax_ income goes to pay rent. If anyone would tell me 1.5 year ago I’d end up in a situation like this, I would not sign the contract. But I did and I did it before I arrived in the country first time (that was my first mistake). But at the end, not everything is measured in monetary terms – I made some interesting discoveries and got confirmation of some of my own theories and ideas. Let me outline them:

I discovered that my ability to adjust to a different climate is way better than I thought. One thing is sure right now – I have no problem with heat or humidity or combination of both (which is killer for most of people) I can adjust to both of them quite well. After arrival I had to spend most of my time in air-conditioned room, now I turn aircon only couple times per week for several minutes. The only problem with climate/temperature I have is cold environment – I will get sick when air temperature drops below 10C/50F for more than several days.

I also confirmed that I do not have a problem living in different cultural/language environment, but taking into consideration that it is fourth time I am moving from country to country that should be normal now.

Now I work slightly more – before I was working 10 hours a day, 5 days a week, now I work >10 hours a day, often including weekends. However this is purely result of (as my team lead correctly pointed) my inability to delegate tasks to other people and desire to do everything on my own. This is something I clearly need to fix, but don’t know how I can do it taking into consideration of my stubbornness…

However the greatest discovery/affirmation to me was regarding all the things we take as granted and not noticing them. Now I can write whole essay about this. See, we – human beings – strive for familiarity. We get used to good/nice things _very_ fast and it is getting extremely difficult if familiarity in conjunction to good things goes away.

I’ve been living in California for 13.5 years – this is the longest period I’ve lived in one place of my adult life (since I turned 16). And at the end of those years I really wanted move somewhere else – I got bored. What I did not released that living in California/Bay Area in general is much better place to live if you compare it to the rest of the world.

That realization came only after relocation, which again was confirmation of what I wrote couple of paragraphs above. After moving to a new environment initial excitement goes away soon and we are looking for familiar things which would give us some confidence. And if you don’t find those things, then it brings anxiety, rejection of the new reality (‘how do you like the new reality? – I am totally against it!’)  and desire to back to old familiarity.

But if I look at my own situation after a year… well, I gained more, which could not be quite expressed in monetary terms. And because of this I think my decision to move to Singapore was right and at the right moment

I managed to travel to seven different countries: I’ve been in Germany, Switzerland, France (if one considers Strasbourg a part of France), Turkey, Georgia, back in States tree times. I’ve been in Japan three times and was able to practice my elementary Japanese (and completely failed doing so).

I was able to personally meet most of my colleagues, connect with them and gain/reaffirm their trust.

I was able try amazing variety of local food and witness cultural events.

I was able to see my family again while I was on road and now it seems that I could see them more often than before.

I do not take all this as granted – I do release that I am extremely lucky to have life experience like this and less than 1% of people even in First World counties can afford or are able to live like this.

I am also lucky to have (so far) good health, to be fit (however there are different opinions about my weight and how ‘normal’ it is)

I have the job which I do love – no doubt about this, otherwise I would not do it. I have team members who are smart and hardworking.

I have people at work I consider as role models and try to be as good as they are.

I am looking forward into future with optimism, no matter how challenging it could be. I’ve learned that success is to go from one failure to another with enthusiasm (as Sir Winston Churchill put it) – this is what life in US taught me and I am really thankful now to have this mindset.

However I want to say one thing at the end – all of this would not happen without uttermost support from my wife who clearly suffered much more during the whole process and sacrificed a lot than I did.

Thank you Connie.

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About 10 mintues of world fame

Well, it seems that I am on my way to this.  Do not pretend that to have a ‘world’ fame yet, but yesterday’s case definitely was a right step on that direction. At a corporate holiday party my wife and I were dragged on stage by band when they were playing Bee Gees’ ‘Stay Alive’.

And for next 10 minutes we danced mix of Salsa, Hustle, Cha in front of roaring crowd of several hundred well educated/paid white collars.

Damn it felt good.

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About countires and airline reservation systems…

Singapore Airlines website reservation system does not know that country ‘Georgia’ exists. Here is the proof:

But they do know that Armenia and Azerbaijan does exist…

And when I was speaking with their reservation agent (an Indian guy of course) over the prone I had to assure that such country does exist, no, it is not US State I am talking about and finally asked him to go and look at google maps.

Well, they did update my passport information, however on my request when the country which passport I have will appear in the list I got an answer that management must confirm my claims.

Nice…

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Hello world! Well, acctually hello to the new place

Welcome to WordPress.com.

and yada, yada, yada…

Anyway, I’m moving to WP from LJ for the various reasons. One of them is that I hope that I will have a new beginning soon. If that happens details will for sure follow.

My previous LJ journal will stay for some time but I intend to delete it eventually. When – no idea.

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About recruiters, part 5

Got an email with the fascinating subject line today:

We want you to come back to India

The best part is word back. Seems my cover has blown.

Damn.

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About expenses

Last month I spent more on Starbucks than on groceries… go figure.

P.S. Starbucks expenses were $23.32 and groceries – $20.79

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