S'pore or HK: Which is the better place to live?
By Yeoh Siew Hoon ~ SHY Ventures
Wednesday, 5th April 2006
So which is the better place to live if you were an expatriate? Hong Kong or Singapore? Yeoh Siew Hoon gets asked the six million dollar question.

There I was, observing Ching Ming quietly in Penang when I got a telephone call from Radio Television Hong Kong on Monday evening.

Would I please be part of a panel on the "Backchat" radio programme to discuss a recent survey that puts Singapore as the number one place that expatriates would choose to live in?

Hong Kong, I was told, had dropped in ranking in this new survey, done by ECA International, a membership organization for human resource professionals.

In three rankings, ECA compares cities' living standards for west European expatriates, Asian expatriates and Asians living within Asia.

Singapore was voted the top place to be in both "The best locations in the world for Asians to live" as well as "The best locations in Asia for Asians to live" while Hong Kong came in at 32nd (from 20th last year) and 5th respectively.

When it comes to cities' attractiveness to west Europeans, Hong Kong is ranked 66th (down from 60 in 2004), compared with 58th for Singapore (51). ECA's lower ranking for Asian cities in this category was due to their cultural and climatic differences for West Europeans.

Rankings are based on scores calculated for 15 categories of objective data such as air quality, climate, crime rate, recreational facilities, infrastructure, health risks and natural disasters.

Anyway, I knew I'd be in for some controversy during the programme – it is always a hot potato comparing Singapore and Hong Kong.

The interviewers did not waste any time asking me where I'd prefer to live.

I said, I am lucky that I have the best of both worlds – right of abode in Hong Kong and permanent residence in Singapore and really, I call both cities my home and I commute frequently between both places.

I know, I know. It wasn't a straight answer but truth is, it's hard to choose.

I think where you choose to live depends on what you are looking for in life and what stage of your life you're at.

If you want to build your career, and you're a go-getter and ambitious and you love a fast-paced, competitive place, then Hong Kong wins thumbs down.

But if you want a better life-work balance – peace of mind on all fronts while building a career – then Singapore wins.

There were the usual comments made about the lack of excitement in Singapore and its proliferation of rules.

One panelist, an American who worked in the media industry, said he found less willingness in Singapore to accept new ideas.

"In Hong Kong, you never feel foreign," he added.

I am not sure I completely agree with that. There are times when one is made to feel very foreign in Hong Kong and Singapore, for that matter.

Truth is, no matter how long you've lived in a place that is not your home, you will never really be a local, always an expatriate.

Anyway, I was disappointed that I did not get a chance to slip Penang into the discussion.

But then I realized the producers would not want to talk about a place that has just introduced a new bus system which, on its first day, caused so much chaos that the authorities urged commuters to "find your own way to work" until the new system has time to settle down.

The timeframe? Six months. I suspect if it takes six months for a new bus system to work and commuters have to find their own way to work in the interim, one might ask, do we really need a bus system in the first place?

But I digress …

As a footnote, I'd like to say that Singapore deserves its top ranking in the ECA survey because it is among the few countries in the world which is allowing the Australian "So Where The Bloody Hell Are You" commercials to run on television.

The TV commercials, which were frowned on even by the Brits and Americans, and caused confusion in Japan because the word does not exist in the Japanese vocabulary, will get their run on Singapore TV although the print ads are still subject to approval.

Apparently, the phrase "bloody hell" is too overpowering in print.

Which led a Tourism Australia spokesman to say, "We're not meaning it in an offensive way, that's how Australians are. It's called taking the piss."

The what? Now, what's the Japanese word for that?

The SHY Report
A regular column on news, trends and issues in the hospitality industry by one of Asia's most respected travel editors and commentators, Yeoh Siew Hoon.

Siew Hoon, who has covered the tourism industry in Asia/Pacific for the past 20 years, runs SHY Ventures Pte Ltd. Her company's mission is "Content, Communication, Connection".

She is a writer, speaker, facilitator, trainer and events producer. She is also an author, having published "Around Asia In 1 Hr: Tales of Condoms, Chillies & Curries". Her motto is ‘free to do, and be'.

Contacts: Tel: 65-63424934, Mobile: 65-96801460

Check out Siew Hoon's new website, www.shy-connection.com, which features a newly-launched e-zine with a difference.
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