13 Oct How to Rock Your Internship in Singapore
Singapore has seen remarkable economic growth in the past years and has become one of the richest countries per capita in the world. So, if you have, or will have, an internship in this bustling city-state, congratulations are in order. You’re on the track to building your CVs up in a unique way that will make you shine to future employers. However, that sparkle will turn dull if you don’t rock out your internship and take full advantage of every great opportunity Singapore has to offer. Let’s work under the assumption that you are going to cover your bases: keeping organized, doing your job, staying open minded, etc. Here are some specific tips geared toward Singaporean culture that will surely help you get off on the right foot.
1. Working Culture-Work Hours
Think about it: Singapore is a small, successful country with very few natural resources. How did it do it? Definitely not by slacking off. Singaporeans work long and hard, and as an intern, it would do you good to follow that example. Typically, working hours run from 8:30 to 17:30 Monday through Friday, and it’s not rare that you’ll find those incredibly dedicated employees who stay overtime. Of course, the hours will differ from company to company. Either way, get ready to work hard and play hard.
2. Working Culture-Conduct
It is implied with an internship in Singapore that you hold yourself to a respectful and somewhat formal standard. Keep in mind that Singapore has deep roots in the Chinese culture, so when you refer to your superiors, make sure to use the person’s title followed by his or her surname. For your Malay counterparts, their names include their own personal name followed by bin (son of) or binti (daughter of) before their father’s name. This is very similar to the names of your Indian co-workers, except instead of bin and binti, they use s/o (son of) and d/o (daughter of). Also, Singaporeans make a habit out of being punctual to meetings, so in order to stay on top of your game, here’s a quote to live by: “If you’re early, you’re on time. If you’re on time, you’re late.”
3. General ‘Singaporean-isms’
One thing Singapore is noted for is the Singaporean queue. If you see a long line, especially when it comes to food, you know that is the place you need to be. In addition, Singaporeans use the term “kiasu” which is a Hokkien term meaning fear of losing. In other words, being the first at everything. This idea is deeply embedded in the culture and even if being kiasu isn’t in your nature, it might be fun to try it out at least for a few months.
4. Following the Rules
As a Singapore intern, it’s obviously expected that you hold yourself in a respectable manner, but you need to make sure you stick to your good behavior, especially while in Singapore. Sometimes, to be crude, Singapore is labeled as the “fine” city. No, this is not “fine” as in “that’s a fine sweater you have on, Jane”, but “fine” as in “you broke the rules so now you pay a fine.” This doesn’t mean you can’t have the best time of your life in Singapore, but it does mean you’ll be held to a certain degree of responsibility while doing it. Here’s a list of some things to be weary of:
• Chewing gum
• Dancing on public tables and counters
• Smoking indoors
• Public drunkenness
• Doing drugs (especially doing drugs)
The MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) is one of the main methods of transportation around Singapore. At all metro stations, there are easily readable maps showing the stations that can get you most anywhere around Singapore. In addition, can get yourself an EZ-Link card, which runs for $12 to be used for transportation and oddly enough, you can now use your EZ card to pay for your midnight meals at McDonald’s. You can also use the bus; they’re comfortable, air-conditioned, and very cheap. Taxis are also very convenient around the city and can be hailed off the street or at taxi stands. While taking taxis are much easier, you’d be surprised to find how much of your income taxi fare would chew up. For some professionals, they say that half their income goes towards funding taxi companies.
Singaporeans love to eat. And with the food they make, who could blame them? The food is delicious and rich in flavor from Chinese, Malay, and Indian cuisine. If you find yourself being a picky eater, you need not worry because Singapore, as a modern city, has food from around the world. On your food breaks, you can go out and find the nearest hawker stall, large open-air complexes with several stalls selling a variety of food, to find one of the best inexpensive meals you’ll have.
7. Learning Singlish
Although not used too often in business situations, you’ll hear and experience Singlish, which is essentially English with generous amounts of Chinese, Malay, and Tamil added into the mix. You’ll find that this ‘language’ is among the most efficient, in that sentences aren’t grammatically correct or even complete, but they fully convey meaning. Some phrases and terms you’re bound to hear include:
• “Can lah”- it can be done
• “Cannot lah”- it cannot be done
• “Ang mo”-a term for Caucasians
• “Makan”- food/eat
• “Makan already?”- have you eaten?
• “Don’t need to be so kiasu”- Take it easy!
Singapore has a tropical rainforest climate and located one degree north of the equator, so expect warm, wet weather all year. It might be exhausting traveling around the city-state in a suit or business clothes to go to your internship, but when you’re on the MRT, sweating from walking a few steps to get to the station, just think about how fantastically smooth your skin will be once it’s all said and done.
Depending on where you have previously lived, you might want to invest in some adapters. Singapore uses the Type G plug, meaning 230 Volts, 50 Hertz, or the Brtish-style plug. This should not be too big of a problem, but it’s just something to be aware of so you can more easily charge your phone and computer (must haves for your internship in Singapore).
10. Weaving Your Web
Part of the beauty of having internships is that you can make those important connections and friendships for the future. Part of the beauty of having an internship in a multicultural community like Singapore, is that your web can expand across the globe. Make sure you take advantage of the opportunity you’ve been given and rock your internship in Singapore.