In May I also managed to expand my range of work with a global trainer position, which promises to be a very interesting challenge, learning and experience. I have to travel the globe, deliver soft skill development trainings for the company’s employees around the world. Doing all this as a member of a very experienced, inclusive and multicultural team of trainers from whom I can learn a lot.
My first trip led me to Singapore. I must say that I have never been to Asia before. My experience so far with any Asian culture or people has been limited to those with whom fate has brought us together here in Europe. I started this journey with tremendous excitement, I knew a whole new world would open up for me and it indeed did.
I think Singapore is a very special place even within Asia. About 50 years ago it belonged to Malaysia, after which it became an independent country. At that time, Singapore was not very much developed. However, what they have managed to do over the last 50 years is breath-taking and almost unbelievable. Currently, Singapore is one of the continent’s financial centres, with the world’s largest companies all present there. At the same time, there are plenty of European and American people living there, the expats. At first glance, I would say that half of the residents are expats. In this wonderland, everyone speaks English (this is of course also due to the English colonial past), everything is written in English as well and it was the most natural thing in the world to be there as a European.
Public safety and the feeling of security is incredibly high. An interesting story for me was when I was talking with a colleague there and I asked her if she had already been to Europe. She said not yet, but isn’t Europe a dangerous place? There are pockets there! I think this show us, Europeans, how safe Singapore is.
The city is hypermodern, full of skyscrapers, the streets are clean, the people are helpful, the public transportation is fantastic. You are also in need of a good public transportation as it is very difficult to get a car there. Actually, they are so expensive that you can only get them at auctions, if you are lucky enough and can get into an auction. And even so, you can get your four-wheeler for 3-4-5 times the price. The car is a luxury item, so you cannot see many of them, therefore you can never really experience a traffic jam. They are very environmentally conscious, have zero waste, use renewable energy wherever they can.
Some other interesting facts are that you can’t buy chewing gum in the stores, in an average restaurant there are no knives just spoons and forks (good luck with chicken legs, haha) and you can very rarely find cheese anywhere. However, there are various kinds of food substituting meat, sometimes it happened that I didn’t even know what I was eating. I would have sworn it was meat, by the appearance, taste, texture. But it wasn’t, because on the menu it was highlighted that it was a vegetarian food. Plenty of fresh fish, all sorts of things that live in the sea and of course due the expats you have easy access to a wide variety of American and European food as well.
All in all, Singapore is a huge multicultural melting pot, where – as I’ve seen – people from different countries get along well, just like the Buddhist temple, the Hindu temple and the Christian Church as well. The key to this can only be acceptance and respect, about which I had a very good personal experience.
And what is it like to deliver a training in such a distant place?
Challenging and interesting experience, for sure. In the people’s everyday life there – compared to Europe – is not so much embedded to express their feelings, opinions, give each other feedback or ask for it. So far, it has been natural for me that the participants in such a training have been active from the start, sharing their experiences and opinions on the given topic. It definitely took more time in Singapore. By the end of the first day, I felt like they were starting to open up, thanks to the great work of my trainer colleague. I took part in the program on the second day as a trainer, by then it was already a little easier, they had already “got into the party” on their own once or twice. When I asked them by name, there was no resistance at all. They shared, talked, became active.
What really needs to be paid attention to in such a training in Asia is the joking, I believe. In my trainings delivered in Europe, I have already got used to the fact of how many jokes are digestible in the different countries to loosen the atmosphere. In Asia, however, the culture is completely different. The level of respect is very high, so you must be extra careful in order to avoid a joke being taken as something disrespectful. I think it takes practice, a huge amount of attention and being able to tune on the audience.
The biggest appreciation was when the participants came to me at the end of the second day to say thank you for the training, even though I was only involved in a smaller part of it. In a culture like this, where it’s not a basic thing to give feedback, they still came to us and shared with us their positive opinions and gratefulness. One of them then wrote us such an incredibly good feedback in email, that we were amazed by it.
I honestly feel that it was an honour to deliver this training in Singapore. It was a fantastic experience to see how things work in this far-away part of the world, what they expect from a trainer, what things from my current toolbox don’t work so ideally there. Also, what those things are, which motivate them and how grateful they can be for the help, attention and positive reinforcements.
With this new job, a very intense development process has begun for me, I look forward to my future travels and to see what other experiences those will bring to me.
The next stop is Africa, where I will surely discover again new things about the world, about the cultural differences and about myself. I will also bring you this personal experience in writing when I return home from there 🙂
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