The world is full of beautiful places with some amazing people. Some of us are lucky enough to be able to travel to these amazing places and experience the cultures and people. To truly immerse yourself in another culture is one of the most exciting adventures a person can have but for those of us who cannot afford to travel and have these experiences, like myself, there are ways we can still learn about the culture and have an experience. I was lucky enough to meet someone from another country a couple weeks ago and for this entry, we will be “traveling” to Singapore!
Singapore is an island city-state of southern Malaysia founded as a British trading colony in 1819. It is a global financial center complete with a tropical climate and diverse population consisting of 74% Chinese, 13.3% Malay, 9.2% Indian, and 3.3% other. The most common religion is Buddhist.
Shawn Ho works as Technical Sales Support for ABB, a Swedish-Swiss multinational corporation operating mainly in robotics, power & automation technology areas. He previously worked out of the Lewisburg, WV office and between meetings on a return business trip, I was able to meet him and learn more about this amazing place he calls home. The following are the questions and responses from this interview:
Where in Singapore were you born?
I was born and raised in Singapore (country is really small and it's an island-city; you may have probably already found out that the city, state and country are all the same). Singapore is a densely-populated country with a small land area so there are many high-rise buildings which include not only commercial buildings but also residential housing estates. Main language is English and this seems to be a common surprise to many people I speak to in America that do not know our history (we were previously occupied by the British) or where we are geographically located.
What was it like growing up there?
Singapore back in the 80s was still developing and there are not as many skyscrapers as there are today so growing up as kids gave us plenty of opportunities to enjoy the outdoors unlike kids nowadays who are so immersed in the digital age.
What was/is the housing, school system and food like?
Housing is expensive. This meant smaller houses, compact neighborhoods with a common scene of high-rise apartments clustered together in residential neighborhoods. The school system is Singapore is considered to be one of the well-renown education systems in place and the consequence of this title means kids have high expectations to do well and are often required to have "mandatory" extra-curricular tuition outside of regular school hours. Singapore is also well-known for its food. There is a common saying that the pastime of every Singaporean is eating. We have good street food, and it is very affordable. A typical meal with a main and a drink at a food court would set one back a mere US$5 and dining at a slightly upscale restaurant would cost around US$15 per person.
Why did you choose to go into the career you're in?
My career choice was not planned, as with most of my friends. It just fell into place based on the path I opted for during my tertiary education years. I took up Chemical Engineering as that was the best course I could qualify for. After which, I applied for this job at ABB after graduating and have been at it since. First job, 9 years and counting.
When did you first visit the United States and what was your first impression?
My first trip to America was when I was really little, cannot remember the details but would see pictures of it in family photo albums. The first trip may have been to Disneyland in California. America has always impressed in my younger days as a fun holiday destination.
What was your deciding factor in relocating here for the short time period and what was the major factors in your decision to move back to Singapore?
In 2012, I was offered to relocate to the United States as an international expatriate for two years. It was a good opportunity for me and my wife to experience what it was like living and working overseas and grabbed this opportunity in a heartbeat. Two years flew by and we were at the crossroads on whether to extend or return home. The major deciding factor to returning was mainly for our son. We were probably 3-4 months into pregnancy and decide that we would bring him up with family surrounding him so moving back home was the logical choice.
Would you ever consider moving back here?
Last year, I was again offered to return to the United States to work as a local employee and after much thought, decided against as the key factor remained with family in mind. Lewisburg being a small town is often tagged by us city dwellers as "nowheresville" but I definitely enjoy this unique town and perhaps in the future may consider again.
How has living here influenced your impression of the United States?
As age catches up and having the exposure to live in the United States, the impression from when I was younger has obviously developed. Don't know how to express it but it is definitely more complicated than before.
In conducting this interview I realized that Singapore is one place that was not on my bucket list that definitely is now. One day I would love to visit and experience this culture first hand.