09 December 2006

A Peek Into The Life Of A Foreign Talent

Last Monday, I was at my office canteen for breakfast. After buying my food, I sat down at the same table where one of the canteen staff was also having her meal. She had served me several times before. From her accent and her fair complexion, it was obvious to me that she hailed from China. She appeared to be around 25-year old. I started a conversation with her in Mandarin. It went like this:

Me: You are from China aren't you?

She: Yes.

Me: Do you need to apply for a work permit to work here?

She: Yes, a two-year permit. I've been here for 6 months already.

Me: Do you have to pay any agency fee to come here?

She: I paid almost $10,000 in Sing dollars in advance.

Me: Wah, so much? By the way, what is the minimum education level for applying for a work permit?

She: All levels, from primary level to university graduate also can.

Me: How about yourself?

She: I am a university grad.

Me (quite surprised): Really? What did you study?

She: Hotel studies.

Me: Then why didn't you apply for a job in a hotel.

She: Gain some working experience first. Maybe later.
After talking with her, I felt very lucky but at the same time, very humbled. She could very well have been my superior, if only she had been a Singaporean.


Anonymous said...

If I not mistaken some of the Myanmar staff looking after old folks at Lentor are also U grads.

Victor said...

So are many domestic servants, I heard.

Anonymous said...

When I was in secondary school, I heard a story that some Indian bus conductors are U graduates. Recently I heard a joke that should a coconut fall at a busy place in Hainan, it would probably land on the head of a graduate's head. Is the power of an U education in Singapore losing steam ? I told Chun See that, from my observation, if a person is average in his working skill or other endeavours, he will find making a living extremely tough in Singapore, not forgeting the influx of foreign talents.

Unknown said...

I think Singaporeans must wake up to the fact that the Asian region is changing at an astonishingly fast pace. Some of our neighbouring countries are now very advanced, and their citizens are a lot more hungry and willing to work hard than us. If we choose to be like the grasshopper and sing and dance during summer, we have to be prepared for the winter of discontent when it comes upon us.

me said...

i have another view though... maybe she is lying? maybe she just wanted you to look up to her instead? i mean, you are a stranger and she need not tell you who she really is.

of course from another point of view, she do not have any reasons to lie to you either. maybe you give her a benefit of doubt. but i was cheated a few times before, so i am not reserved when it comes to conversations with strangers because unlike last time, nowadays the culture is different.

Victor said...

I believe that what she said is true. Jobs are hard to come by in their home countries and most of the time, they could earn much more here than what they could get in their own countries. One thing against their favour is that the high cost of living here erodes away much of their earnings. Still, they try to save as much as possible here so that they could spend whatever savings back home where things are much cheaper.

I heard that the nursing profession here has a lot of graduate Filipinas too.

Anonymous said...

I am not sure if the authorities handed out work permits for canteen staffs or helpers at hawker centres. Like it or not, foreign workers are here to stay. Just hope that they stick to what they have to do and not sidetrack.

Chris Sim said...

You never miss an opportunity to chat up SYT, do you? Tsk... tsk.. tsk..

I'm not sure if you classified canteen helpers as foreign "talent", Victor. More likely the case of the kinda of job shun by Singaporeans who are getting better educated these days.

As for filipinas in the hospital industry, a lot of them are actually qualified doctors, some even consultant. But when the come to Singapore to work, these qualified doctors are employed as registrar. Why? Maybe it's because our gahmen don't quite recognise their credential lor.

bossacafez said...

err actually i had the same sentiments as elaine. my first impression is that she's lying and i totally agree with elaine abt the culture thing. moreover its only human nature. but of coz, uncle vic, you eat salt more than we eat rice, so we might be wrong afterall =)

Victor said...

Ganging up with Elaine to counter me eh, Evan? :)