6 things to note before traveling to America

I am asked to go to the US for a conference at Bethesda, Maryland. It is my virgin trip to the United States of America, and there are plenty of things I learnt from this trip. I thought I should write them down and let those who are also traveling for the first time to gain some basic knowledge.

  1. Coins
    It was quite confusing at first. There is Dime, Penny, Nickel and Quarter. I have to do some googling to know that a Dime is 10 cents. I still find it weird that the size of a Dime is actually smaller than Nickel (5 cents coin). More information on US coins.
  2. Left-hand Drive
    Knowing this could prevent you from trouble. Singaporeans are familiar with right-hand drive. When we cross the road, we look to the right side of the road to lookout for traffic. But it is important to look to the left side of the road instead in the US.
  3. Tipping
    We don’t practice tipping much in Singapore. Or at least we’re not expected to tip. In the US, especially in cafe or restaurant, they expect you to tip. In one incident when I forgot to include a tip, the waiter actually asked, politely, “aren’t you tipping us?” :)
  4. ESTA
    It stands for Electronic System for Travel Authorization. We Singaporeans are lucky as we do not need to apply a VISA to travel to the US, but we need to apply for ESTA. You can apply for ESTA here.
  5. Fahrenheit, Miles and Pounds
    I know that the US is using a different measuring units than what we’re familiar in Singapore. But I thought I should remind you to familiarize with these before traveling there. It is good to know the difference and get some perspective on the weather, distance and the weight. Download an app into your phone would help before you travel.
  6. Bring your own bag
    Be ready to bring your own bag when you go shopping. This includes boutique store, 7-11 stores and supermarkets. They normally don’t offer shopping bags unless you ask for it and you might have to pay for it sometimes.

Are there anything else you might want to add to this list? Let me know.

Cost of owning a car in Singapore

A year ago, when I’m pondering whether I could afford a car, I realized there isn’t much concrete information. Yes, I could find some rough estimates but such are too vague.

Today, my ownership of my Mitsubishi Colt turns one year and I actually recorded all the related expenses throughout the year. I would like to share this information so that whoever considering a car could use this as a reference. Of course, use it only as a reference/guide as they doesn’t represent every car and every kind of usage.

Before the information, I thought I should cover some background of my car usage. I bought this car with only 2 year and 8 months left before the COE expires. My work requires me to drive and meet my clients at least 2 – 4 times a week. I paid for my house season parking, and I’m lucky that my company paid for my season parking at my work place.

Once you own a car, there are a few costs that, even if you don’t use the car, you would have to pay for it. Below is a list of them and how much it cost me last year.

Car Depreciation – $6,930
[ (Total cost of the car – the minimum PARF benefits) / total number of months ] x 12 months.
Insurance – $1,634
This cost varies with different cars, owner’s driving experience and many other factors.
Loan Interest – $400.08
Unless you pay the car in full cash, you would definitely incur interest for your car loan.
Road Tax – $570
Again, this costs differs based on the car models.

Next, you would need to prepare for expenditures based on your usage. This car has an average of 400km before the empty tank light/signal appear. In the past one year, I’ve driven 22,943km.

Car Accessories – $56.10
I’m sure you would buy some car accessories to “change” your car. Some might spend thousands but I’m quite easy on this.
Maintenance & Repair – $1,428.05
As the car is rather old, I’ve expected some repair work needed. I have sent my car for two regular maintenance work (each costs around $200-$300) and my air con compressor spoiled which cost me almost $500 to change and repair. This cost also include some car wash expenses.
Parking & ERP – $2,658.08
I joined this two costs together because both uses Cashcard (so recording is easier).
Petrol – $3,544.98
I pump Esso initially but after some experiments with SPC, I realised that I could drive further per tank. Esso was about 380 per refuel but SPC could last me until 400+ per refuel. SPC discount was higher too since it does not have points system like Esso; which I find it troublesome.
Traffic Offence – $119.50
Yes, traffic offence. Unless you don’t drive, but my bet is you’ll bound to break some traffic rules from time to time.

To sum up all the car expenses, I’ve spent $17,340.79 last year. That is $1,445 a month. Are you ready for such expenditure? Think again, and again…

Thinking about car cost in Singapore
© Bandu | Dreamstime Stock Photos

From networking to government grant, I’m back with more.

Four months into my new job has been a challenging period; or at least it was challenging enough to prevent me from doing what I enjoy, to write. Looking back, my last blog post was to wish everyone a happy Lunar New Year. Regretful. Especially when I’m noticing that my blog visitors have increased, but having no new content for the past four months just isn’t a wise thing to do.

My new challenge

Yes, I have a new job after the Chinese New Year holidays. I was given the opportunity to work as a Senior Account Manager of Maxias Pte Ltd. In a full digital agency, I jumped right in to what I do best: to develop and manage websites. Apart from getting used to the new company’s culture, processes and policy, I was expected to take over ongoing projects from my predecessor. The lucky thing was the chance to work again with Art Director, Farik Osman, whom we have worked together for a couple of years back in Ad.WRIGHT. Nothing beats working with someone you know, which reduces the time to understand each other’s working behavior and strength. Continue reading From networking to government grant, I’m back with more.

How social is Singapore? Part 3 – Conclusion

Conclusion - How Social are we Singaporean?In Part 2 of the series, I’ve explored the various social media Singaporeans are accessing. In the last part of the series, I will go in-dept on the various social media. Thus, to understand this better, I continued my search hoping to get more concrete data.

As such, I chanced upon Social Bakers’ website which it provides more statistics on the various social media.  I also found out that they have statistics by country for Facebook and LinkedIn and here was what I’ve found. Continue reading How social is Singapore? Part 3 – Conclusion

How social is Singapore? Part 2 – Which social media preferred

On the first part of the series, we now know the average amount of time Singaporeans spent on social networking. My next question in mind was which social media Singaporeans are using. As there isn’t any national level survey done on this, I would need to look elsewhere for the information.

My first stop was to visit StatCounter’s website for a quick glance on how Singaporeans was accessing the various social media websites. The method used by StatCounter was to analyse every page view referred by a social media site and summarize all this facts to get the information. This was the graph I’ve got.

Top 7 Social Media Stats on Jan 2013 Continue reading How social is Singapore? Part 2 – Which social media preferred

How social is Singapore? Part 1 – Hours spent on social media

Either you’re a B2C business owner or a marketer yourself, I’m certain that social media would have already been or was going to be part of the tool you use to reach out to your potential customers. Noticeably, we have seen an increase in marketing budget on, new job position for and many promising results on how business gain its market penetration through social media. But, out of curiosity, just how social are we Singaporeans?

With this question in mind, I’ve spent almost two days researching and digesting the data I’ve found. Trying my best to keep things simple, I’ve split the information I’ve got into a three part series so you could zoom in to the information you need.