I’ve always maintained that travelling is educational and recently my visit to Singapore for the first time taught me many new things. It also stimulated thoughts that would never have been exposed whilst in London.
You see, when at home in London, it is extremely easy to embrace routine and continue to base life around that routine. I personally dislike prolonged routines. It’s okay to maintain a routine, but that routine must also evolve with the times, I believe. Sometimes that is easier said than done. That’s why travelling expands the mind and provides the stimulation to change. It is education as I say.
As a technologist, I once tried to embrace video conferencing in a bid to lower travel costs and of course to be greener, but with that comes a hidden trade off. It is the ability to touch and feel other cultures. There really is no substitution for that face to face experience.
On my recent trip to Singapore I experienced what I can only describe as a Geo-Fusion. Many cities claim they are multicultural and cosmopolitan and most are, but Singapore has a visible harmony to their mix of cultures. The fusion provides a friendly carefree environment that I do believe is an example to the rest of the world.
During my MBA studies I exchanged many discussions with students across the globe based around a topic and I learnt a great deal. It was an excellent transfer of knowledge, but it wasn’t quite the same as experiencing the same topic through the eyes of the students around the world. I took this opportunity to do just that.
A stark difference I noticed was their attitude to technology. Whist Singapore is awash with technology, their consumer habits are not the same as say the US and the UK. E-Commerce is not there yet and yet still they are thriving without it. I say this with little research but simply on the face of my visit.
There is no comparable returns policy in the shops and very little evidence of online shopping and I believe there is a reason for that. There is a rich market environment in Chinatown, Little India and throughout the HBD (council estates) areas. Where the people spend the day socialising over a meal/snack or simply a cup of coffee (as we do in the our cities).
Walking through the HDB areas (which are not visibly segregated in any way they simply blend into the landscape), it was evident how trade continues to thrive with very little change. Singapore historically was a trading port and to this day that culture is stronger than ever. From the Samsui women making a living the only way they know how, to the affluent professionals also making a living the only way they know how, through trading they live side by side in what I can only describe as harmony.
If you ever wanted to experience time travel, Singapore provides the machine. I witnessed supplier, wholesale and retail in one glance at the side of the street as one man cycled up to a weighing station with his wares, exchange his goods for money and another exchanging money for goods to sell to the consumer through the wholesaler. It was simple, effective and fast; golden rules for anyone in business.
Another inspiring sight I witnessed was the business of reflexology. A very successful chain called My Foot provides employment for many local people with disabilities in particular visually impaired individuals that are skillfully trained. These talented therapists provide the most relaxing environment and effective reflexology in the country. My Foot provides an opportunity to an otherwise limited community to earn a good living by developing the skills that are in demand. Having experienced reflexology, it can be quite addictive, particularly if it has cured an otherwise tired pair of feet as it did in my case! I need to find an equivalent in London.