Singapore Swing

As seen in a trade publication for the speaking industry...Sharing Ideas

It's a city, it's a state, it's an island! No, it's Singapore. After a record breaking 18 snowstorms where I live in New England, I was delighted to be invited to return to this tropical paradise. However, their humidity gave new meaning to my already "big hair".

Singaporeans are delightful ...........they love to make money and enjoy life. Not a bad philosophy. Their society is characterized by a diversified population of Singaporeans, Chinese, Malays and Indians. The lush landscape is contradicted by the modern high rise apartments that are the main living accommodations. It's very costly to own a car so it's not unusual to see Singaporeans walking on the street talking on their cellular phone [as opposed to Australians where everyone drives and is always on their car phone].

As we are all acutely aware, Singporeans strictly enforce their laws from littering, jaywalking, gum chewing or vandalism to death for any drug involvement. Therefore, it is an extremely clean and safe place for the business woman. On my first trip to Singapore, I took my Marketing Director. The flight on Singapore Airlines was the epitome of customer service and a credit to my friend and NSA peer, Ron Kaufman who heads their customer service training center in Singapore. The 20+ hours flight was forgotten when we arrived at the luxurious Oriental hotel and the warmth of not only the Singaporean climate but the people as well. Everyone we encountered spoke fluent English in addition to their many other languages. In fact, my concern about all the humor in my speech was quickly dissipated by their keen sense of humor andunderstanding.

I was speaking to the insurance industry annual convention and each U.S. presenter was assigned a host for the week. As I was the only non-industry speaker, I felt even more of their gracious hospitality. Our first night out was a dinner in our honor..... resplendent with a Singaporean feast and the traditional karaoke indulgences. Singaporeans are addicted to karaoke, the sing-along craze. Although the food is a bounty to behold, be prepared for the unexpected and your reaction to it. I was sitting across the table from my assistant when they placed a whole cooked chicken in front of her. And I mean whole! The expression on her face will be one that I can conjure up for a long time to come. Be prepared.....food is often tied to a religion or custom and your reaction can be interpreted in the wrong way and could be insulting to your host. Fortunately, we had done our homework and were prepared yet "orally challenged" at each meal. In between engagements, our host Martin Cheong showed us the three S's of Singapore..........sights, sounds and shopping. We took pictures at the famous lion for which the city is named. We stared in wonder at the Komodo dragons in the open air of the Singapore Zoo. We looked more like Japanese tourists in New York City as we snapped, angled and captured every precious too soon to be memory on film.

Singapores diverse cultural climate affords one the opportunity to indulge ones taste buds in a variety of cuisines. We cooled our hot palates with beer as we enjoyed Thai food, spent an evening around a Mongolian Hot Pot and topped the week long culinary odyssey with an Indonesian Rijstafel at the magnificent For the gastromically challenged, a Rijstafel is a feast of many different dishes with very aromatic spices including beef satay, nasi goreng (a rice dish with egg) and served with sambals which is akin to chutney.

Coincidentally, during one of my nine careers as a gourmet caterer,The Happy Cooker, I learned the intricacies of making one of these feasts. Little did I realize that many moons later, my significant other to be would be a Dutchman. As Indonesia was a Dutch colony, I believe love at first took on a whole new meaning when he saw my pantry filled with all my Indonesian spices and condiments, signaling the woman of his potential dreams probably knew how to make a Rijstafel.

We took a day by ourselves and Susie and I went off to Sentosa Island, the resort spot for many Singaporeans to sun and not surf. I tried as I too often do, to live my life in one week and "do" Singapore. However this fascinating island like much of Asia has much to offer. So many yen, so little time! Shopping! Ah the word alone brings tears to my pocketbook. Not the sightseeing stuff but the unique experience of buying clothes and jewelry from around the world. And of course the requisite gifts for those at home and the challenge of finding perfume atomizers and lips (yes, I did say lips!)in various parts of the world to add to my unique collection.

On my second trip to Singapore to keynote a convention for the fitness industry the new shopping center was open and it was dazzling. I had more time to catch up with old friends and spend more casual time since I did the tourist bit the first time. This time I stayed at the magnificent Upon my arrival at the Singapore Airport (reminiscent of Mom's kitchen in that you could eat off the floor), I reveled in the beauty of the architecture and the tropical plants. I was greeted by the hotel concierge by my name and with flowers. Much to my amazement, every time I passed through the lobby, everyone from bellman to doorman greeted me by name. The hospitality industry in Singapore certainly has elevated hotel management to a high art form.

My travels to Singapore has opened tremendous doors to all of Asia and the oppportunities abound. I'm entertaining offers from Thailand, Malaysia and Hong Kong and hope to fulfill and expand them. There is a tremendous amount of interest in speaking and training and availability of product sales in Asia, and Singapore is a great place to begin. Don"t pack your hair voluminizer!

In many parts of Singapore, there is so much similarity to American culture you almost forget that you are in a foreign country. In fact, when many of the attendees at the convention came up to me at the end of my speeches, I was amazed at their names; Jason Fong, Samantha Chew, Ray, Martin and all the western first names combined with the eastern last names. I must admit that sometimes I miss the cultural heritage of the many exotic places I visit as it becomes too 'westernized'.

I know that I will return to this tropical island many times and there will be many more meetings scheduled as their magnificent convention center nears completion. It is already a pleasure doing business with Singaporean companies as their telecommunications systems are so sophisicated. As in most Asian cultures, negotiating takes longer then usual as the relationship building is extremely important........but well worth the time and effort. The Singaporeans have a word for it.......kiasu! In other words, don't be lazy, don't put other people down, take a risk, be pro-active! Isn't that what the speaking profession is all about?

Mikki Williams,CSP is an inspirational humorist and business motivator. Her company, Mikki Williams Unltd. specializes in speaking, training and consulting in business dynamics, professional development and personal growth. 

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