It has been nearly two years since I have moved to Singapore. Time flies and things change at a really high speed. I remembered two years ago when I was stuck in Luang Prabang, Laos for a month waiting for a replacement Atm card for the one I have lost. I was far from expecting that this bad episode will developed into something that changed my life for good.
My first Singapore annual income tax
Fast forward to two years later and I just received my first annual personal income tax. I held my breath, I was too afraid to open the envelope, I thought about how much the tax would have been if it was in Canada. Wow! My annual income tax cost me 782 SGD. Here in Singapore, all products have a 7% tax included in the price with the exchange rate of USD .80 for 1 Singapore dollar.
Most people think that electronic products are cheap in Asia but no that’s not true. It’s about 20-30% more expensive. It is hard to understand why that is so as we know that the majority of electronic items are made here in Asia. I imagine that with the increasing standard of living in China, Malaysia and Indonesia, the trend will be reversed in a few years.
For now, I do not miss my Canadian taxes as 50% of our revenue disappears without even letting us touch a single cent. I agree that free school and free health care need to be funded somewhere. Here we have more money left in our pockets. It’s up to us to be smart and invest it in something important like medical insurance. I will return to the true cost of living in Asia soon in another article.
All the faithful readers of “GLA” know that I am now married to a Singaporean. In fact, it all happened very quickly. Having met a wonderful woman from Singapore after asking me, “why don’t you can stay here ? I’m sure you can find a job”. I updated my resume and sent as many out as possible through the many Singapore job search sites (www.jobstreet.com.sg, http://www.jobsdb.com/ ) .Although most positions were only opened to local citizens or the permanent residents. In total I sent out almost a hundred applications. I was called for three interviews and was made an offer in one of those which I accepted. My employer applied for a work permit on my behalf and once it is approved, I was required to go for a medical test that included AIDS test in an accredited clinic. When everything was in order, I was asked to take an official photo and my thumbprint was recorded. I received a card which was my work permit. With that, I can work legally and enter and leave the country without a problem.
Time for personal review – I have no regrets about my past. I attended plenty of shows, took part in some crazy projects, had uninhabited dreams and hosted many parties. But if I had to start over, I’d go on trip earlier in my life. The fact that my brother had lived 10 years in Asia has piqued my curiosity. This encounter with Asia, its culture, its people, its religions and foods has opened my mind and was able to exorcise the demons that had haunted me. I have not found all the answers and the meaning to my life, but I found a whole new system, new roads to explore, a new wisdom and peace of mind.
When I first started traveling I left most of my belongings stored somewhere with family and friends. At the end of each trip, my baggage became lesser and lesser until it finally got to the size of an average backpack. The equipment and comfort became secondary; the freedom to leave without asking anyone had surpassed it all. When I was traveling with just a backpack, it was like the wind. The day of the week, the city or the people around did not make much difference. I explored and I took advantage of the moment without thinking about tomorrow.
I met many people and fantastic places. At every new place, I would tell myself that it’s not bad here, and probably I could stay here for a while. Alone in the crowd we quickly forget our origins. You end up following the parade without asking any questions. Especially in South East Asia, everything is on the bright side. The temperature is sweet; the islands offer white sand and turquoise waters. Everything seems easier in Asia. You want to open a restaurant in your backyard? No problem! There’s nobody who is going to stop you. You want to drive your five children on your motorbike to a children’s party? No problem!
Many places I visited did not appeal to me totally. Koh Chang is a fantastic island of Thailand, but it was too nice and relaxed. Bangkok,the New York of Asia is too fast and crazy, Vientiane is not bad, but a bit isolated and too calm. Luang Prabang is idyllic, but it is almost impossible to find a job that pays more than what I had to pay for rent and food. There are so many wonderful places with all their advantages and disadvantages. This is all well and good, but i must still be able to stay and make an acceptable source of income. I need something sustainable instead of having to return home every 6 months.
I was dreaming to settle down somewhere, but not in Canada. I need to start afresh somewhere new. For me it was better to die discovering the world and its many possibilities than wait and complain down at the local bar. I’m sure tomorrow if I was back to the same places that I was hanging out at before I left, I would see the same people and hear the same songs and with a little luck, in a shuffle order.
Without planning, inadvertently lost in Laos in a $ 5/ night guesthouse in Luang Prabang, I met people who would change the course of my history forever. Add the essential parameters to reformat the hard drive of my life and reinstall everything new; install critical applications and backup files from my useful past experience. 5 years have passed since I first came to Asia, I am now married and we’ll be having a little girl very soon and I’ve never been happier. Everything can change quickly and it happens like that when you least expect.
I encourage all my readers to explore, to travel and find new horizons. The greatest adventure is what lives in the back of the mind of anyone who goes out of their daily comfort.
Go discover the world South East Asia why not?
Do not wait for tomorrow or wait for the perfect time. Try the unknown ,you will not regret it I guarantee you. More than ever the world is a global village. Your present, your past and your future is perhaps the other side of the planet where the street has odds of you to discover if life does not suit you where you are now.
To everyone I love and I shared a piece of life, I miss you. I have not forgotten you. If your hearts tells you to discover the world and if it is close to Singapore, let me know, we could have a drink
This post is also available in: French