I couldn’t help but wondered whether there will be a place that is warmer and more humid than Singapore until I came to Wuhan, China on a sunny summer afternoon yesterday.
I am glad to represent a Singaporean educational centre as their China representative and will be looking for partnership opportunities for them here.
The thermometer recorded a temperature of around 34 deg C which was pretty normal for the summer period here. I must have downed at least four water bottles yesterday as I struggled with the heat and I am living in tropical Singapore!
Not only is it warm but it lacked vegetation so if you are on the road, you are literally baked in total glorious sunshine.
I reached Wuhan after 9 hours on the air and road – six hours in the air from Singapore to Guangzhow to Wuhan, an hour by cab from Wuhan domestic airport and two other hours in transit wait at Guangzhow for the domestic flight. It also didn’t help that Tiger Air took off at 6am from Singapore to Guangzhow and I have to wake up at around 3.30am…
I spent the rest of the day resting and then went for a long dinner in one of the cafe nearby. I have re-visited Wuhan two other times after that lecturing stint three years ago here and it has never amazed me how the city changes every time I came by.
Skyscapers dotted the 10-million strong second-tier city and similar to Singapore – it has construction projects going on all over the huge province. Many young Chinese people from the outskirsts of Hubei arrived here to look for work – often putting in 10-hour work days for less than 1200 RMB (S$240) a month.
It is no wonder that many of them preferred to work in Singapore as they are paid close to S$1200 a month – around 6000 RMB – salaries that even managers here could not dream of. The average pay for a manager here is around 3000 RMB (S$600) a month.
Despite the unbearable weather, I always felt energised whenever I am in China as four years ago, I got my big break of wanting to work abroad by lecturing at an international school here. I taught business English in a provincial university and got more than I could chew.
Life took on an adventurous streak for me after that and I have never looked back since – spending another three years in Sydney after the China stint and stood for election just three months ago.
I guess when you took the first step into adventure land, your life will never be the same again as you won’t want to settle for anything less later on in life.
From then on, I told myself that life is short, actively seize the day as it comes and learn to treasure whatever things you have right now – not always thinking that life will be better if you have more of this and that.
I was feeling jaded, bored then and perhaps it was the start of a mid life crisis of which I am trying to shake off. I ran marathons, took on courses and even went on exotic holidays – nothing satisfied me.
When someone offered me to lecture in China – I jumped at it. I was right about myself as I was searching for something that is challenging and thrilling and working abroad seemed to fit the bill.
Like many people , I also harboured the thought that living in China is somewhat similar to Singapore as we are still Chinese and speak Mandarin – how difficult can it be in terms of adaptation?
However, I was totally wrong as I struggled with the harsh wintry winter – it snowed for three weeks nonstop, the food was spicy and saltish and they spoke more dialect than Mandarin. Culturally, we are also different as we are more Western minded but the Chinese people are still somewhat traditional and closed up.
I remembered also how some of the lecturers never returned to teach after the Chinese New Year break as the experience was simply too challenging for some. The fact that school term only starts in the winter month of November also did not help as most of us find the winter too cold and harsh.
I carried on after the break and the weather improved alot though it still snowed on the first day when I arrived on my second lecturing stint in late February. Things became better as somehow, I adjusted better after experiencing a rough time during my first school term.
Nevertheless, I still find the culture and food challenging and continued to struggle throughout that second school term but it was bearable.
More significantly, my personality was totally transformed as I struggled to adapt to the uncomfortable situation and through that tough period, I grew to be stronger and tough-minded.
You grew to adjust to tough environment and learned to rough it out when the chips are down – elements that could prove crucial when you are going through a stormy period of your life.
That is probably why I always encouraged my fellow Singaporeans to work abroad for a while – if your family permits. It will change your paradigm and probably your life. You also learn to take calculated risks in life – elements that are important as you move on with whatever opportunities life provide you.
The lack of a risk appetite has robbed us the self belief that what we venture in can bring us benefits. Though we may fail once or twice, we may succeed on the third time if we don’t give up too easily. The precious lessons we learned on our initial endeavours will help us to succeed later on. Nevertheless, too many of us give up when we fail once or twice – often hanging our head in shame.
Perhaps, Singaporeans have all along live in a very comfortable and sheltered environment – devoid of any sharp changes that require them to adapt. Our personality thus becomes used to comfort and passivity making us rather uncreative and boring.
I found that during the period that we are unemployed, it is tough for us to think out of the box and we also have little entrepreneurial DNA with us.
The lack of creativity within us is probably one of the main reason why our entrepreneurship spirit is so lacklustre.
Despite the ease in doing businesses and the abundant opportunities provided, many Singaporeans simply do not have the funds and more importantly the zeal in wanting to do something on their own. They prefer to ekk out a living even if the wages border on the ridiculous.
I will stop here lest I am lamblasted for being too critical of Singaporeans…
I will also be blogging more of my trip here as time permits.
If you are a Singaporean working in Wuhan and wants to touch base with me, do email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will contact you for a chat if possibe. I promise that the drink will be on me…