Who are your trusted (business) people?

Fried oysters @ Katanashi An.

Do you trust your hair always to the same hairdresser? How many years you have had your current bank account? Or insurance package? Do you buy your groceries online or from the nearest corner shop? How many times you have asked for new tenders from aircon maintenance companies, telcom operators etc.? Take a minute, how many service/ product providers and business partners are your trusted ones, year after year?

I realized to have quite many trusted service providers, partners, when I moved from Finland to Singapore nearly three years ago. I had had the same hairdresser almost 20 years, the same dentist since mid-90’s, the same masseuse at least 18 years, also the same physiotherapist from 90’s… I had negotiated my mortgage a couple times between years 2001-2013 and changed the bank last time 2008 (still the same). When working on B2B I had excellent help from the department store to buy easily my suits and business clothes, otherwise I mainly bought my clothes online (mail order).

We were (I and my spouse) in Finland eight days in the beginning of this summer. I devoted almost the whole day just to visit my dentist. A horrific surprise to be informed my dear dentist had retired!! Ohmy. The new dentist seemed to be nice fellow, and I thought okay, I’m here, let’s give a try. I shouldn’t, truly. Long story short, but I have faced too many problems with my teeth since my teen-years. When I was 17 years old, I faced malpractice: the dentist conducted root canal treatment for two teeth, even though nothing infected, teeth were intact. This malpractice has followed me years, and during my university years I finally met the “proper” dentist, who diagnosed my real problem (night-time bite). Since then he has been, well was my dentist. Back to the new dentist’s chair. He checked my dental equipment, some x-rays etc. Standard procedure. The result, the one of those maltreated teeth was infected, the root of the problem lying somewhere back in my teens. Treatment: to remove the tooth. I was terrified, of course. But said yes, okay. I am not going to face another root canal treatment for already dead tooth, so let’s take it off. Easier decided than done. I sat in the chair mouth open over two hours, the result some of the pieces of tooth still inside my gum. And I was directed to the specialist, dental surgeon. Bleeding, hurting, numb, annoyed. Next morning a new drive from our cottage to the town, again new specialist to meet. He got the pieces out in five minutes, my problem hopefully eternally vanished.

But next time having holiday in Finland I will not book an appointment with the dentist, who replaced my dear, but retired one…  Any lessons learned? Is it good to have years, decades even, the same, trusted person to treat you, to have business with, to buy services from? Sure, I say yes. I just need to find after 20 years or so new service providers for teeth, muscles, hair, to fill my wardrobe .., because it is just impossible to manage all these from Singapore, and more over just too expensive to fly to Finland to have massage or haircut.

To the businesses it is not nice to know, how volatile we consumers are, but as a sole proprietor I also think that, whenever I truly can build the bridge of trust, consistence, the bond with my customers, they probably could become loyal as myself I am to my service providers. It is only a very thin sample, and not at all objective, but somehow I assume to be quite a standard consumer, when regarding big picture of common life issues: banking, health care, electricity, groceries, shoes.

FTHe Intan, some of so lovely hand amde shoes.
Embroidered shoes @ Intan.

So what features make someone, something to be trusted?

 

For me, the most obvious is the trust. It means listening, understanding, engaging, saying no sometimes, being consistent time after time. For instance anything to do with my physical body and especially, if there is need to touch me, it really takes time before that bridge is built. (I acknowledged that being middle-aged Finnish I am different from the most of the globe’s population.) So it is huge, when you can find the trusted person, who provides exactly what you need, what you want, and even has subtle way offer you more. I found an excellent masseuse years ago, happily also the physiotherapist, who could read my muscles plus listened to my own opinions (and understood the creative exercises/ treatments I conducted). Banking is of course based on mutual trust, and not too pushy offerings – my bank knows all  my financial information from salary to my depths; information you rarely share with your friends, family, spouse.

Here in Singapore I needed to push the envelope. I have found good hairdresser near to my home. We share only a few common words, but after a few of times he started to trust me, and even more to trust himself to take care of very odd hair type, we have managed well indeed. I was also lucky to find excellent GP (she knows me, and my spouse, so we have a family doc), I have the trusted neurologist too to help me to manage my muscle conditions. And after one mistake, we found suitable banking services. We have changed our grocery shopping habits: mainly online (three different e-stores), but we also do shopping on several physical stores (here are plenty of them!). And positively something very different from our Finland life: we visit nowadays a couple of corner restaurants, where the staff know us and greet us friendly, with smile and take a moment to chat with us. Brilliant, never knew, how extremely important it can be.

In our supposedly very digital world I bet that many of us still prefer human contact, specifically the same human bond year after decade.

 

Being foreign

Before I moved to Singapore, my longest period abroad was autumn 1997, when I spent 10 weeks in Senegal. Now I have lived in Singapore 20 months, and at the moment we don’t have any intentions to return back homeland, to Finland. Of course staying here is not only our will, Singaporean government has a lot of to say of the issue. But at least we try to stay here (legally).

Our life is now here, our home is here, my spouse has permanent job, we are more or less adapted the way of life, how it is in Singapore. There are of course differences between Finland and Singapore, but quite a lot of similarities as well. Human being is human being everywhere.

I have always moved a lot, so I have no childhood or teen home like most of the people I know have. In Finland I lived in 30+ locations including 8 towns, several different types of housing. So moving was not the issue for me, when we decided to leave Finland and start a new era of our lives abroad. Of course there were several issues to consider, for instance what I shall do, can I ever get a job, what kind of job etc. Work has been very important to me, also it has defined me, perhaps too much. ( I blogged of this before, my writing On leisure).

My main subject in the university was cultural anthropology and I have always been interested in different cultures. But probably had never dreams of living in another culture than Finnish one. Moving here has been super! Totally incredible, I have no regrets (even though getting a job has been more difficult I assumed). But being foreign is something I am struggling a bit, still. I managed, but there are so many cultural nuances that I am not deeply aware of. Especially in Singapore there are loads of Hokkien or other Chinese manners, habits, but also Malay and Indian etc. And me being Caucasian it is always the subject, where ever I go.

My most common discussion with locals begins always “Where are you from?” And it continues with a series of questions and comments, most usual are “It is too hot and expensive here, isn’t it”, “Why you are here?”, “Do you like Singaporean food?”, “Oh, you live here, for how long, when you go back?”, “What is your rent?”, “Do you have children?”, “Why you want stay here, wow?”. After living here for a while I have gotten used to these questions. In Finland we do not speak to strangers, sometimes not even with our beloved. And surely we compare Singapore to Finland. In Finland the most common discussion is to talk about weather. Of course weather is important issue here as well, but due to not have four totally varying seasons, so talking about Singaporean weather is just forecasting rain or thundering – a bit of exaggeration, but more or less.

I feel home here in Singapore. I speak both Finnish and English every day. I don’t remember being different from locals, when walking in the streets and buying food from hawker centers or grocery shops. What frustrates me is that when speaking English I cannot properly, deeply express myself as I could in my native language. New challenge has also been to start to study new language with foreign language, meaning we started to study Mandarin, but not the help of Finnish, but in English. My notes are both in Finnish and English, it has been interesting to browse them. Sometimes it is easier to write Mandarin (pinyin) translation down in Finnish, sometimes it is easier in English. Quite often I think in Finnish when trying to learn new phrase in Mandarin – our teacher translates or explains it in English and I try to understand it in Finnish. I haven’t ever been good to learn foreign languages, so learning Mandarin is not exactly simple. When I started to write the blog, I wrote it at first in Finnish, but even though I cannot write English especially well, I chose English, because it is my daily language and writing of Singapore in Finnish doesn’t exactly suit so well.

My status in Singapore is foreigner. I belong to minority, under 4% of population (Singaporean or PR) are Caucasian. At the moment I qualify only traveler, tourist, temporary resident before we get our PR. I myself consider already being more or less permanent resident, our permanent home is here and we travel to Finland, it is vacation, not going back home or returning home. We return home, when we come back to Singapore. Whenever you live abroad as non-local you need to consider living in the country the way the country itself exists. That’s why I have been amused to read one blog article, which has been shared several times in social media. Especially comments have been hilarious. But I am not to comment the article. Just like to remind myself, perhaps others at the same time, that living in peace and seeing others through tolerant lenses leads to more content life.

My recommendations of the week:

FOOD: buckwheat noodles

BOOK: JP. Koskinen: Kuinka sydän pysäytetään (only in Finnish so far)

PLACE: Pulau Ubin (it is so great that I will probably again and again recommend)

SOMETHING ELSE: Tolerance

Friends visiting in Singapore

Last week I was lucky to have friends visiting in Singapore. They landed here after traveling 10 days in Vietnam. Two totally different countries I imagine, more or less. Friend thought Singapore to be such a surrealistic, futuristic place. Very safe, very clean, very warm, very friendly, very easy. Quite many very.

I have lived in Singapore about 17 months now. Every morning it surprises me to notice it is sunny, sky is blue, it is still 30+ degrees. And the most of all city view is still green – trees are always green, blossoming and there are plenty of palm trees. Nothing like in Finland. Well, I love Finnish forests, a lot. But still, fresh greenery every morning, every day. In Finland winter is long, and cold, and no leafless.

Again it was amazing to observe that there are plenty to see, to do, to explore in SG. Quite often I have heard Singapore is tiny, too hot and moist, nothing much to see. The most common question is probably where you fly, when your friends, relatives come here. Well, nowhere, staying here. Very upraised eyebrows, really, staying here, why.

Last week my friends spent five days here. And it was absolutely just too short time. Of course they managed to see Marina Bay Sands, who doesn’t. But what to see really, when there is only a few of days to wander on the streets of Singapore. Merlion is very popular, even though my friends had only a chance to glance it from opposite side of Marina Bay. Is it obligatory to run around quickly to see (all) touristic attractions or is it possible to feel SG atmosphere by its own? We did a bit of both.

We entered Flower Dome, Cloud Forest, had drinks in many places (at Marina Bay, at home, at Chinatown, at 1-Altitude, at Boat Quay etc.), ate a lot of good food, walked in Mac Ritchie Park over 10 kilometers and had picnic there and managed to see many macaque families plus fairly big monitor lizard and lots of turtles of course, went to Sentosa, where my friends experienced also Universal Studios and S:E.A World. Lots of walking I need to say. And that is indeed the best way to become familiar with new places, any places actually. Maybe too much of sparkling wine, but when friends meet after long time no see it is not to be counted, hope you agree. And a twist of Finnish we had sparkling wine at sauna, no snow though, so we were content to have bath in jacuzzi and the view for Chinatown.

Photo by P.Jaervinen
Boat Quay from North Bridge Road. Photo by P.Jarvinen

My memories are full and happy from last week. It was splendid, hope my friends agree. And I truly hope them to return, and explore more. Before that I need to do research, what is true Singapore, I mean for a tourist.

My recommendations of the week:

FOOD: giant oysters @ Boat Quay

BOOK: Mo Yan: frog

PLACE: Mac Ritchie Reservoir

SOMETHING ELSE: Nature and wild life in Singapore