Travelling to Shangri La

Travelling to Shangri La

This is the second article in a series of unconventional destinations in China that we have prepared for you at Basecamp.

Map of China for your reference

Map of China for your reference

Shangri-La

In 1939, British writer James Hilton published the book “Lost Horizon”, telling of a paradise that is cut off from the rest of the world, located on the Tibetan plain. His novel was an instant success and “Shangri-La” became a household name, a fascinating place that captured the imagination of dreamers and adventurers alike. The Chinese government thought to take advantage of the popularity of the book, and had a town – previously known as Zhongdian -- that is a geographic fit with the imaginary utopia renamed Shangri-La.

Today, Shangri-La retains much of its quaint charm. As a city located in the north of Yun Nan and bordering Tibet, the people living here are Tibetans and they continue their way of life even now, just as they had for the last hundred years. They are a peaceable, friendly, honest bunch, possibly because of their religion – an overwhelming majority practice Tibetan Buddhism (think Dalai Lama and living buddhas). When you greet them, simply say “tah-shi-de-leh” (good luck).

There are some aspects of their culture that might give you a culture shock. Whether you can get past the initial shock and learn to appreciate the cultural difference is up to you. All of them hold on to the practice of sky burial – a procedure that involves defleshing the dead and grinding the bones, after which the meat and bone pieces are placed at a sky burial site for the birds to eat. To us, this may seem unacceptably gruesome, but to the Tibetans living in Shangri-La, this is how they honour their dead – by allowing their spirits to ascend into the heavens together with the birds.

Also, polygamy is still practiced. A man may take several wives. But wait, before you scream that it is the usual patriarchal world order at work, know this: a woman can also have several husbands. This practice is known as polyandry and is very rare nowadays.

Everywhere you go, you will see black dots on green plains. On closer inspection, you will discover that the little black dots are yaks (a.k.a. mao niu, “hairy cows”, in Chinese). They are a valuable asset to any Tibetan family as they provide free labour, milk and meat. However, do note that while yaks generally have a gentle temperament, it would still be foolish to chase after them like I did (I only knew afterwards that yaks can kill when enraged). Before you leave, don’t forget to have yak steamboat!

Things to do

  1. Napahai: Go horse-riding and watch yaks from afar
     
  2. Sumtsaling Monastery: Follow the tour guide and learn about sky burials and Tibetan Buddhism. To understand, a good grasp of Chinese is required.
     
  3. Potatso National Park: It is a beautiful place nearly half the size of Singapore with well conserved biodiversity.
     
  4. Dukezong Ancient Town: Eat yak steamboat here! Shop for souvenir; scarves, Chinese medicine and yak jerky are recommended. Dress up in traditional Tibetan garments and take pictures!
     
  5. Guishan Park: Spin the golden Tibetan turning wheel. Legend has it that if you can turn the wheel clockwise 3 times, good luck will come to you.
     
  6. Tiger Leaping Gorge: One of the deepest river canyons in the world. What can I say? Photos.

Caution: the average altitude stands at 3,160 metres above sea level. This makes you prone to altitude sickness. Personally, I puked and was immobilised in my hotel bed on the first day. Tips to alleviate altitude sickness (which I wish I had heed) include eating altitude sickness medicine days in advance, eating moderately upon reaching Shangri-La and not bathing on the first day. 

8 types of bad students

8 types of bad students

Our grades are coming back soon, and we all know what this means… Time for some serious reflection. If your results are less than optimal, it is highly possible that you are one of the 8 types of “bad” students listed below.

1. The perpetually late student

For some reason, this guy is always at least 5 minutes late, whether the class is at 8am, 12 noon, or 3 in the afternoon. That is not to say this student cannot be bothered –every time he is late, he rushes into class with ruffled hair and an apologetic look. But the next day, oops, he does it again. Why he is always late will forever be an enigma. But in the meantime, too bad, he is missing out. Everyone knows how all the important announcements are at the start of the class.

2. The dreamer

This guy is forever thinking about irrelevant things – what’s for lunch, which L4D strategy to use, how the girl sitting in front is so cute – and forgetting that he is in class. The only time he wakes up is when the bell rings and it is time to go home.

That’s when he becomes an annoying little prick.

“What did the teacher say ah?”

“We have homework or not?”

“Can someone lend me your notes? Please? Please?? PLEASE???”

3. The literal dreamer

This guy takes day-dreaming a step too far. Perhaps he slept at 2am playing DOTA into the wee hours. Perhaps he stayed up mugging in his closet. Whatever the case, it is easy to identify the literal dreamer by the gentle bobbing of his head, the suspicious glint at the corner of his mouth and…

“Benjamin Tan, how dare you fall asleep in my class!”

…The enraged howl of your Math teacher.

4. The doodler

This guy tries his best to take notes. But his pen seems to have a mind of its own. Before long, a parallel universe is birthed on his Physics textbook.

5. The tech savvy guy

This guy knows the pitfalls of taking notes with pen and paper (see number 4). Besides, he types faster than he writes. So he uses a laptop and a phone instead.

No one told him that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. First, Whatsapp gets him distracted. Next, Facebook shuts his ears to the counsel of his Literature teacher. Then, Instagram leads him astray into the land of social media, from where there is no return.

That is until the bell rings at 12 noon. Who can resist the taste of food and freedom?

6. The big mouth

This guy knows that he loves to talk. And he won’t take “shhh” for an answer. No amount of death stares and death threats from the teacher can get him to shut up. Finally, exasperated, the teacher sends him to the back of the class.

Oh dear God, please let me stop hearing things.

One moment of silence for the teacher please.

7. The robot

This guy is hardworking and obedient. Even if you ask him to write “Miss Tan is the best and I love her class” 1000 times, he will do it obligingly. His only problem is that he doesn’t know how to think.

Guess what, he wasn’t trying to be funny.

8. The worrier

Seriously, this guy takes things too seriously. To him, every test, every lab practice, every presentation is like the end of the world. He keeps his asthma tube at his sight, because chances are, he is going to have a breakdown soon.

Even 2.4km gives him butterflies in the stomach.

If any of the above characteristics had you sheepishly grinning, “that’s me”, congratulations. At least you know what part to improve about yourself now.

 

The Top 3 Speed Reading Techniques

The Top 3 Speed Reading Techniques

A majority of us read at a rate of about 200-400 words per minute. A minority of others known as speed readers can hit around a whopping 1000-1800 words per minute!

Speed reading is not something that you are born with. It is a skill that one can develop similar to learning how to skateboard or to draw better. Some people take to it more naturally than others, but most every one can do it with understanding and practice.

Breaking down the process of reading

Before we can understand speed reading, we need to understand what reading is and how we comprehend words normally. 

There's a difference between reading purely for pleasure, and reading to learn. I'm sure you don't curl up on the couch with a hot cup of tea and open up your latest Additional Mathematics Syllabus to read, right? When you are reading to study, the reading becomes a kind of mechanical process. It requires a whole lot more brain power to take in the unfamiliar concepts and process them in your head. 

When you look at a word or a sentence, this is called a "fixation", and it takes about 0.25 seconds on average to happen before you move your eye to the next several words. The movement of your eye to the next group of words is called a "saccade", and it takes up to around 0.1 seconds to happen on average.

After one or two fixations and saccades occur, you pause to comprehend the sentence you just looked at. This takes around 0.4 seconds on average. When you combine all these fixations, saccades and pausing together, you end up with a reading rate of around 200 to 400 words per minute. 

How can you shorten this reading time?

Speed readers shorten how long they fixate on a word. By cutting down on the extra 0.25 seconds, they end up reading faster than the 0.4 seconds that the majority of us read at.

Here are 3 type of speed reading methods:

1. Meta Guiding 

One of the oldest speed reading techniques, meta guiding is when you use your finger, or a guiding tool like a pen or a pointer, to guide your eyes to specific words. The visual guiding of the eyes allow them to move faster along the words in a passage. 

Screen Shot 2017-05-18 at 12.20.09 AM.png

How this works is the visual guidance speeds up your visual cortex and increases your visual span to take in the whole line instead of one word at a time. This increased visual can even help in imprinted what you read into your subconsciousness.

However, in order for this method to work, you will need to train your eyes to view each word with emphasis without regressing. Regressing is what happens when your eyes go forward two or three words and then go back. Regressing usually happens so quickly that we don't even realised we have done it. So, it will take much practice to be able to increase your visual span to view words with emphasis, and at the same time without regressing.

2. Rapid Serial Visual Presentation (RSVP)

This method is used by most of the recent digital speed reading systems. Single words will flash across the screen so you end up concentrating on one word at a time. You start off with a reading speed that is comfortable, and slowly speed up how fast the display flashes you words as you get used to the speed.

You can find out your current comfortable reading speed here, and try increasing it over time with practice. 

Personally, this method has completely transformed the way I read. Before RSVP, I would almost always lose focus while reading long articles. Since I started training myself, not only was I devouring articles daily, I have also started to chip away at the mountain of non-fiction books that I had hoped to finish in months instead of years. 

Pro tips: RSVP technology takes a bit of adjustment, so start off slow and give your eyes plenty of rest in between heavy readings.

3. Skimming

Skimming is a practice whereby you glance through the words of a page to find the important parts to read - or the "meat". Most can agree that writers pad the important points with filler words. Fillers words can be analogies to explain a point better, or sentences that build up to their final point. 

Instead of the earlier two methods which teaches you to read faster, this method is teaching you to learning what parts you can skip over instead. 

By skimming, you are training your eye to sift through the filler words quicker so as to glean the main gist of what you are reading. You look for and seize upon words that appear to give the main meaning. Skimming occurs at 3-4 times the normal reading speed, which also means that you are not fully comprehending everything that you are skimming.

For this reason, I would only recommend skimming for when time is short or when you need to understand the general ideas but not the full details of an article or book.

The Creator of the Sandwich is not who we think it is

The Creator of the Sandwich is not who we think it is

I remember as a kid, my mother would make a sandwich and wrap it in saran wrap for me to pack to primary school as lunch. It would always be either one of two recipes - Ham & Cheese, or Egg Mayo. As I grew older, this nostalgic food brought about my love affair with Subway sandwiches and I make it a sort of tradition to source for interesting deli sandwiches whenever I travel overseas too.

The sandwich might be the perfect food: Easy to pack, open to anything a creative mind would like to stack it with, and it can be as simple or as elaborate as your mood allows. 

Or as elaborate as your hunger allows

Or as elaborate as your hunger allows

Ever wondered who invented the sandwich? I did. And I thought I knew the answer. But turned out, I was wrong!

The humble origin story

The sandwich as we know it was popularized in England in 1762. The popular story goes that John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich, was a notorious gambler who so hated to leave the card table to eat that he instructed a servant to bring him some meat and bread. He then stacked the meat together between two pieces of bread to form an easy-to-eat meal, all without disrupting his beloved gambling sessions. 

The Earl enjoyed his meat and bread so much that he ate it constantly, and others in London's society circles soon started eating it too. And the concoction took on the Earl's name as The Sandwich.

Hence, the sandwich was born.

Or did it?

The great sandwich origin story may not have much truth to it after all. The story was first recorded in the early 1770s by a French writer named Pierre-Jean Grosley. The incident supposedly happened while Grosley was on a tour of London and he wrote it in his book 'Lourdes' (published in English as 'Tour to London').

But something smelt fishy. It was the idea that the Earl of Sandwich was a notorious gambler who would be up all night playing cards and not even stopping to have a meal that rang hollow. Historians pointed to the fact that the Earl was acting as a cabinet minister at the time - his duties would have left him little chance for all-night gambling sprees.

To crack another hole in that story, the Earl was also in the middle of revamping the entire British Naval Administration during that year. It was the type of job that would require a good night's sleep to be achieved.

montagu.jpg

Another slightly more embarrassing piece of evidence came from biographers who stated that the Earl couldn't have had a gambling habit as he did not have much money to gamble with in the first place, as he was one of the lower class members of British upper class royalty in that time. 

So, who should we credit the sandwich to?

While the Earl of Sandwich is credited with giving the sandwich its name, the first description of what we actually known as a sandwich came 2,000 years ago.

The Jewish Rabbi Hillel the Elder was born in the first century BC in what was then known as Babylonia. He later traveled to Jerusalem to devote himself to the studying of the Torah, and at a time when Jewish law was still hotly debated, it was his interpretations of the Jewish text that became the most popular among believers then.

His work on a verse in the book of Exodus could be said to have been the birth of the sandwich. Exodus 12:8 states, “Eat the meat on this night, roasted over fire. With matzah and bitter herbs you shall eat it.” This verse was describing a traditional Passover meal made from placing the meat of a lamb, mixed nuts and herbs between two pieces of unleavened bread, and shared among family and friends.

At the time, this was called a korech, which comes from the Hebrew word meaning “to wrap.” While it’s not recorded how the ancient sandwich was put together, we can deduce that he stacked the meat and herbs and bound it all together with the bread.

Now we know the true origins of the sandwich, but I'm glad we ended up calling it the sandwich instead of the korech. Ordering a Teriyaki Chicken korech at Subway just doesn't roll off the tongue quite as nicely. 

5 secret Starbucks drinks to order the next time you're feeling fancy

5 secret Starbucks drinks to order the next time you're feeling fancy

Even though hipster coffee shops are overtaking the Singapore coffee scene one siphon coffee maker at a time, there's still something unapologetic about craving for the overpriced sugary frappuccinos at our neighbourhood Starbucks.

However, to truly make that Starbucks experience great, one must have a signature order. Not your boring Soy-Skinny-Flat-White, but the not-so-secret, off-the-menu type drinks that will raise the eyebrows of the poor barista working that shift.

Ordering an off-the-menu drink at Starbucks is apparently so common in the US that an entire website was created to document and share them with others. There are currently over 200 secret drinks!

However, as it's not the norm in Singapore, the Starbucks staff may not know the recipes by heart and it will help to show them the recipes. It will also help to not order one of these drinks during a peak period when there's 15 other people waiting in line behind you slowly growing annoyed at your weird order. 

Pro Tip: Do wait till low-peak times on a weekday, be clear about the recipe and definitely be courteous when trying out one (or all!) of these 5 secret drinks: 

1. The Merlion Frappuccino

The Unicorn Frappuccino is a limited edition colour-changing, sweet and tangy drink from Starbucks US that was only available last month from 19 to 23 April 2017. It went viral ever since Starbucks broke the news.

ooooooh pretty!

ooooooh pretty!

Sadly, we weren't graced with this magical drink here in Singapore outlets, but you can order a Singaporean edition of it instead: The Merlion Frappuccino.

BEHOLD!

BEHOLD!

Recipe for Tall-sized drink: 
Vanilla Frappuccino ($6.00)
1 pump mango syrup ($0.70)
1 pump raspberry syrup ($0.70)
Top with whipped cream and raspberry drizzle

Price: $7.40

2. The Dragon Frappuccino

This drink will not only brighten up your day with its jade-green shade with a fire-licking drizzle of caramel, it will also perk you right up with its additional shot of espresso and Java Chips blended right in for good measure. 

Recipe for Tall-sized drink: 
Green Tea Creme Frappuccino ($6.40)
1 pump caramel syrup ($0.70)
Java Chips ($0.70)
Espresso Shot ($0.80)
Top with whipped cream

Price: $8.60

3. The Pink Drink 

We'd never have known that if you mix hibiscus tea and mango tea, you'd end up with a dink that tastes like grapes! No kidding. Add a zing of passionfruit to that, as well as soy milk to create a sweet, froth, silky finish, and you've got a perfectly pink drink for the next sunny day.

Recipe for Grande-sized drink: 
Iced Hibiscus Mango Passion Fruit Tea ($4.40)
Add Soy Milk ($0.60)

Price: $5.00

4. The Nutella Frappuccino

As much as we'd love to devour an entire jar of Nutella when the craving strikes, that's seriously nutty, nut-job behaviour. So we'll let this drink be the next best thing. A Java Chip Frappe, a spurt of hazelnut syrup and mocha sauce, and presto! You've got liquid Nutella! 

Recipe for Tall-sized drink: 
Java Chip Frappuccino ($6.80)
1 Pump Hazelnut Syrup ($0.70)
Java Chips ($0.70)
Top with mocha drizzle

Price: $8.20

5. The Cheesecake Frappuccino

Did you know that you have the option of having any pastry, cake, even sandwich, liquified into slurpable form?! It doesn't guarantee that the barista will do it for you, of course. Think about the poor fella who has to wash a ham and cheese croissant out of the blender. 

Stick with a cheesecake to play it safe instead. It goes shockingly great (and creamy) with your choice of a vanilla or mocha frappe. 

Recipe for Tall-sized drink: 
1 Raspberry White Chocolate Cheese Brulee Cheesecake ($6.50)
Mocha or Vanilla Frappuccino ($6.00)
1 Pump Raspberry Syrup ($0.70)

Price: $13.20

Why "man-eating" piranhas are not as scary as you think

Why "man-eating" piranhas are not as scary as you think

Piranhas have never had the best of reputations. Read the word 'piranha' and the image of a swarm of blood-thirsty fishes with teeth like razor blades pop into mind. 

And it's also no thanks to movies like Piranha 3D, in which a pack of genetically-mutated piranhas escape a science lab and feast on unsuspecting swimmers. 

Devouring humans in full 3D glory.

Devouring humans in full 3D glory.

But are these freshwater fish the vicious water monsters they’re made out to be?

Not exactly.

Thanks, Teddy Roosevelt

The whole idea of the savage man-eating piranha started with author and one-time President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, when he wrote about them in his 1914 book, Through the Brazilian Wilderness.

Roosevelt traveled to South America in 1913 after his presidency, where he encountered several different species of piranhas. Here's what he wrote about them in his book:

"They are the most ferocious fish in the world. Even the most formidable fish, the sharks or the barracudas, usually attack things smaller than themselves. But the piranhas habitually attack things much larger than themselves. They will snap a finger off a hand incautiously trailed in the water; they mutilate swimmers—in every river town in Paraguay there are men who have been thus mutilated; they will rend and devour alive any wounded man or beast; for blood in the water excites them to madness."

Roosevelt went on to recount watching a pack of piranhas devouring an entire cow. According to Mental Floss, the locals wanted to put on a show for Roosevelt. Days before he was to arrive, they used nets to block off a section of the Amazon river. Then, they caught piranhas from other parts of the river and tossed them into this makeshift aquarium. For days, they kept the fishes unfed. When Roosevelt finally rolled into town, the locals chucked a live cow into the water.

Kinda reminds you of this "Jurassic World" scene, doesn't it

Kinda reminds you of this "Jurassic World" scene, doesn't it

We can all guess what happened next. The starving piranhas wasted no time in sinking their teeth into their meal. Within minutes, the cow’s skeleton was all that was left. To Roosevelt’s eye, the water churning up and turning red, along with the screams of the poor cow, likely made it seemed like the piranhas were the perfect killing machine.

A fish that can eat a cow makes for a great story. Given that Roosevelt's book was also widely read, it’s easy to see how the piranha’s supervillain image soon spread. 

The major exaggeration

However, recent research on piranhas suggest that they are actually far from dangerous. In fact, they make for pretty harmless swimming companions too! 

Wildlife writer Richard Conniff was one of those keen to debunk the myth of the monstrous piranhas, and he went swimming with them in numerous occasions - by standing in the Amazon river fishing for them while they swam around him, to getting up close and personal with the supposedly deadly fish in a Dallas Aquarium in front of gawking onlookers.

He even once tried to prove the whole "piranhas stripping a man or cow to bones in mere minutes" theory by feeding chickens to a swarm of piranhas to see how long it would take them to devour the whole thing. It took an entire afternoon, and even at the end of the day, the chickens were mostly intact.

When Conniff spoke with fishermen who lived and worked alongside the notorious fishes, he found that those who lived nearby agreed that the reputation of the piranhas had been blown way out of proportion. Those who live there found that the piranhas are more scavengers than hunters.

Piranhas will stake out an area where fishermen go to gut their fishes, and scavenge on the cast-off leftovers as the fishermen toss them overboard. They are also known to lurk under the nesting grounds of birds, waiting for bird babies to unfortunately fall in the water. When humans get bit, they’re usually of living people falling into the water by accident while the piranhas are already in the midst of swarming a dead or scavenged kill.

Some are even vegetarians

Some species of piranhas are omnivorous, eating more seeds than meat. And some with the unflattering nickname given by the locals of "vegetarian piranhas" live solely on the diet of riverweeds.

They even have human-like teeth with flat edges that are used for crushing seeds and nuts.

SMILE!

SMILE!

Now that you know the piranhas' fearsome reputation is largely undeserved, we hope that tales of man-eating fishes remain only as scary tales to tell around a chalet BBQ pit instead of as facts. 

3 crucial things every newbie investor must know

3 crucial things every newbie investor must know

The hard truth is that, in Singapore, it's difficult to earn lots of money if you only park your monthly salary into the bank and expect it to grow. It will not grow much at all. 

The only way to make your money work for you is to invest in it, and similar to how learning never ends, becoming good at investing money is a never-ending journey. It goes without saying that you should have read up on, spoken with experienced investors, and have a relatively solid understanding of the investment products and strategies before getting into it.

But there are, however, 3 crucial things that every investing beginner must know before they even put money in. Here they are: 

1. Know your investment goals

If there's one thing that bears repeating in the investment world, it's this: What are you working towards? It's very important to have a goal, or goals, in mind to work towards in order to effectively figure out how to get there. 

When people talk about investment goals, most would assume that it's a number they are trying to get their money to climb up to and achieve. That's not false, but what a lot of people fail to realise is that investments take time. An investment goal should not only take the number into consideration, but the time factor as well.

Is your investment goal short term, or long? If it is short term, is the number you have in mind realistic based on the time frame allocated? What type of investment products will best help you hit your goal? These are all questions you have to ask yourself before starting on your investment journey. 

2. Know your risk appetite

When you hear the phrase 'risk appetite', it basically means how much are you willing to lose? A lot of times, you will hear (mostly from banks) that risk appetite is related to the types of investments you make. For example, buy more equities when you are in your twenties or thirties because you are at the stage of life where you can afford the volatility and higher risk. Buy more into fixed income products when you are older because they tend to be more stable (low risk) but at the same time also won't return as much.

Whatever it is, risk appetite is an extremely important factor that people don’t fully think about when they start out investing. That's because no one goes into investing their money immediately thinking they are going to lose money - that completely defeats the purpose of investing your money. But it is still important to consider because this will have repercussions further down the road in your investment journey. 

Take the time to read up on the various investment products and understand how they can work for or against you at various stages of your life. This will allow you to weigh your risk appetite properly and plan a long term strategy that will prevent you from losing money unnecessarily. 

3. Know your investment behaviour

Knowing your investment behaviour also starts with knowing yourself. If you're a naturally lazy person like me, I'm going to optimize technology to help me manage the time I spend managing my investments so it doesn't become tedious and eat up into time I can spend elsewhere instead of staring at a screen full of numbers. 

Another trick is to leverage off algorithmic trading. It's a godsend for people who know they are not going to have the time to decide on trade decisions all the time. As you can choose to automate your trades, it can also help those who tend to be too overly hands-on to have some form of discipline.

Knowing what type of a trader you might be, and what sort of behaviour you'll likely have, is a boon to deciding what sort of tools will be useful for you. And that is a huge plus point if you are trying to find your footing at the start of this journey.

Fun (and totally not last minute) things to do this Mother’s Day

Fun (and totally not last minute) things to do this Mother’s Day

In case you've been living under a rock with your iPhone and free wifi, this Sunday we celebrate Mother's Day in Singapore. 

And while she might be happy with flowers and a mushy hand-drawn card, there are plenty of ways to say thank you for a mother's love. And one of the best ways is to spend some quality time with her. Here are some fun, non-cheesy, not-too-expensive thing you can do with her on Mother's Day. 

1. Take her out for a fancy, yet homely, meal

Be it brunch, afternoon tea, or dinner, Mum deserves to feel like a queen for that day. God forbid, she ends up cooking for the family on Mother's Day! 

For the spice loving home-style mama, Violet Oon's is having a authentically Peranakan Mother’s Day buffet brunch! Expect a lip-smacking spread of home-cooked Nyonya fusion delicacies like the classic Nyonya spicy chicken stew and buah keluak nuts, sambal fish, and Violet Oon’s very own signature shepherd’s pie.

Considering that Violet herself is a mother of two and proud grandmother of three, this meal at the cozy Bukit Timah cafe is sure to leave you all with family feels.

Time: 11 May, 1130am-1pm, 130-3pm
Place: Violet Oon, 881 Bukit Timah Rd, S279893
Price: Around $65 per adult, $35 per child (6 to 12 years old, children under 6 dines free)

2. Go on a road trip up to our neighbour's

Screen Shot 2017-05-10 at 11.18.40 PM.png

One of the best things about living in Singapore is that it can be faster to drive out of the country than to travel to Changi Airport. If you're not looking to bare costly airfare for the entire family over the weekend, consider going on a road trip to Malaysia instead.

You can travel all the way up to Penang if you're up for a long-distance journey, or just hop over to Desaru, Malacca, or KL if you're not looking to drive too much. The whole point is to spend some quality time with your Mum, and nothing like being put together in a vehicle to achieve that.

Those who don't own a car can easily rent one in Malaysia at 1/3 the rental rate. Just be sure you know what to do should you get into a road accident while you're there.

Accommodation can also be relatively cheap when you're holidaying in Malaysia, not to mention the sheer joy your Mum might have dining and shopping too knowing that not too much money is being spent, with the currency exchange rate at an all-time high now.

3. Treat her (and your dad!) to a hotel staycation...

This one will likely work if you have lots of siblings to share the cost with. For the tireless mum who deserves the five-star treatment, treat her to a staycation right here in Singapore.

Staycays don't necessarily mean booking an expensive luxury hotel, a quick browse through Agoda on their mobile app might land you some last minute deals at a boutique hotel that's half the price but also with stellar service, top-notch amenities, and free toiletries she can bring home.

There are also some pretty fancy penthouses and apartments available for booking on Airbnb that's worth checking out. If you're lucky, you can end up booking a house at Sentosa Cove!

4.  ...or Glamping works too

Glamping, a play on the words, “Glamour” and “Camping”, is an activity that combines the adventure of traditional outdoor camping, with the glamour of fancy hotel-style accommodation. Perfect for those who want to experience the outdoors but not sacrifice modern comforts - like a comfy bed with fluffy pillows.

Treat your mum to something uniquely different so she have bragging rights when all her friends got flowers for Mother's Day, but she got this:

glamping-lydia.jpg

This beauty is put together by a local Airbnb host called Lydia, who will handle all the setting up and beautifying of the place so you don't have to. 

You can also request for a picnic basket and/or a bottle of champagne to complete the experience for your adventurous mama this special day. 

The quiet heroes that Singaporeans take for granted

The quiet heroes that Singaporeans take for granted

It's not a secret that we Singaporeans are constantly on the move. Be it working long hours to shuttling the kids from school to tuition to music lessons, the only time we get a break in our hectic schedules is when we're stuck in traffic or in squishy public transportation.

The majority of us are usually so caught up in our busy lifestyles that we fail to notice those who tend to make our lives easier. These quiet heroes are working jobs that ensure that our society functions smoothly. They are normally so quiet playing their role that we don't even realise they are there doing the amazing work they do until they are not there and we suddenly realise how inconvenienced our lives become.

Let's pay tribute to 4 of these unsung heroes.

1. Cleaners

Year after year, our city is lauded by tourists and other countries as clean and green, a garden city, or most recently, a city in a garden. And yet, the ones really responsible for maintaining this pristine cleanliness go relatively unappreciated. Who are they? The cleaners, of course. 

Whether cleaning the toilets, sweeping the streets, or clearing up after you once you're done with your meal at the hawker centre, they are the ones who work tirelessly for long hours to uphold Singapore's squeaky-clean image.

It's rather saddening that a majority of our cleaners are of the elderly generation. It's such a difficult way of earning a living, that we as considerable citizens should play our part by disposing of our litter in a proper way, and clear our own trays after we are done eating to do all we can to make the lives of our cleaners easier.

2. Nurses

I applaud nurses. Not only do we often not see the contributions they make, they are pretty much the backbone of the medical community. Disagree? Let's see those doctors and surgeons handle a full day of work by themselves then. 

Not to discredit the works of your family GP or neighbourhood dentist, but this article is about quiet heroes, and while Dr. Tan may be the one explaining your medical conditions, it's the nurses who are often to one tending to your wounds, dressing them, and distributing your medication.

Furthermore, they are subjected to 24/7 working shifts to ensure that patients can receive immediate medical treatment when required. And trust me when I say that cleaning up of faeces is largely part of their duties. So the next time you're at your annual dental checkup or at the clinic "keng"-ing an MC, don't forget to say thank you to the nurses working there. 

3. Bus Drivers/MRT Station Staff

Admit it - when was the last time we genuinely smiled or thanked our friendly bus uncle whenever we boarded a bus? Or when was the last time we acknowledged the auntie with the lit baton standing at the MRT station platform to guide commuters during rush hours? We were probably too busy trying to rush for that empty seat that it simply slipped our minds. 

Bus drivers and MRT staff work long hours, on both weekdays and weekends. They even work during public holidays just to ensure that we have a functioning form of transportation. Most of them are simply trying to earn a living and even so, they are at times faced with verbal or even physical abuse by commuters.

We should never assume that they have it easy - for bus drivers to drive the same routes day in and day out (can you imagine driving from Woodlands to Changi Airport over 10 times a day?!), or for MRT staff to work those long hours dealing with multitudes of commuters. The least we can do is to say thank you, and to be a considerate passenger. 

4. Construction Workers

Here in Singapore, with every turn of a head, a swanky new shopping mall pops up. We tend to overlook the people who literally built that roof over our heads however -  the construction workers. 

In a 2014 census, there are 1.32 million foreign workers in Singapore and a bulk of them work in the construction sector. Because of this, construction workers are sometimes placed in a negative light and ostracised by Singaporeans. It's easy to judge and stereotype, but a lot harder to put ourselves in their shoes. 

We often see them working relentlessly under the hot afternoon sun, simply to ensure that the roads, buildings and even the scrubs by the side of the roads are completed. They often work for little pay, and from what they earn, most of it is sent back to their home country to raise their families. 

These quiet heroes in Singapore aren't always appreciated for what they do, but they are the ones who help make our lives a whole lot better. So the next time you come across a construction worker or two, show them some kindness and recognition. Whether it's giving them a simple smile or buying them a cold bottle of water as they work in the sweltering heat, all these little kind acts will be deeply felt. 

Vesak Day: How do you celebrate Buddha's birthday?

Vesak Day: How do you celebrate Buddha's birthday?

Ever wondered what the significance of Vesak Day is other than just another public holiday? For most Singaporeans, our knowledge of Vesak Day is possibly limited to a Buddhist festival. Since we pride ourselves in being multi-racial and multi-cultural, let's dig a little deeper to understand more about this day's symbolism.

What is Vesak Day?

Vesak Day, also known as "Buddha Day", is considered one of the most important days in the Buddhist calendar where Buddhists all over the world commemorate the birth, enlightenment and death of Siddhartha Gautama Shakyamuni, also known as Buddha.

The life story of Buddha begins around 2,600 years ago in a place called Lumbini, near the border of Nepal and India. Siddharta Gautama was born a prince, but as he grew up, he realized that all of his experiences did not provide him lasting happiness or protection from suffering. After a long spiritual search he went into deep meditation, where he intended to achieve the state of enlightenment - a state of mind which is free from emotions and expresses itself through fearlessness, joy and active compassion.

To achieve enlightenment, the 29-year-old Prince vowed to sit under a fig tree and meditate until he transcended suffering. He then endured a 7 days mental battle with Mara, the god of desire, who tried to use all his wily tricks to lure the Prince away from his meditation. The Prince prevailed, becoming awakened and from then on known as Buddha. 

For the rest of his life, Buddha taught anyone who asked how they could achieve the same state. Therefore, Vesak Day is a day where Buddhists celebrate with immense joy, seek peace and reflect on their deeds. Around 33% of Singaporeans practice Buddhism, which makes this day one of the biggest festivals celebrated by this culturally rich red dot.

How does one observe Vesak Day?

Each country has its own traditions for celebrating Vesak. For instance, in Sri Lanka, numerous colourful lanterns are lit, whereas in Taiwan, fragrant water is poured over statues of Buddha.

In Singapore, Buddhists will usually visit their temples for ceremonies which will include prayers and offerings of candles and flowers. Most Buddhists believe that performing good deeds on Vesak Day will multiply their good deeds merit many times over. They also make an effort to bring happiness to the unfortunate, including the aged, the handicapped and the sick – either by donating money and gifts, or by visiting with them and cleaning their homes. 

Some interesting tidbits about Vesak Day 

One of the more interesting traditions practices by devotees during this day is also the Three-Step, One-Bow procession, where devotees take steps on both knees, bowing at every third step. As they do this, they pray for personal blessings, world peace and repentance. This procession usually begins 24 hours before and can be quite exhausting, lasting for up to two hours or more. 

Vesak Day hasn’t always been a national public holiday in Singapore. The Singapore Buddhist Association petitioned for this public holiday after the end of World War II, and it was finally awarded its due place on the calendar in 1955. 

Traditionally, as part of the Vesak Day celebrations, caged birds and animals are released as a symbol of liberation and peace in Singapore. Over time, however, The National Parks Board and the Buddhist Fellowship have advised against the practice as tame animals released into the wild are unlikely to survive. Even if they do survive, this practice of introducing all sorts of wildlife could also do irreversible damage to Singapore's natural ecosystem. 

3 things parents do that make their child terrible at managing money in future

3 things parents do that make their child terrible at managing money in future

All parents want to do what's best for their child. The question is: What is considered "best" for their kids. 

Some parents believe in "sparing the rod and spoiling the child", some believe that their kid having a happy childhood is more important. Some want their kids to have all the creature comforts they could possibly desire including iPhones and iPads, while others think it’s more important to teach their kids the importance of earning their rewards.

But nobody wants their child to not be able to handle their own finances when they grow up. Here are three things parents might be doing that could turn their kid into a financial disaster:

1. Buying their child everything he asks for

Kids these days want a lot more than just Legos or the latest Disney princess figurines. A majority of parents know not to give in to their every kid's whims and fancies. Even if not for the fact that it would drain their retirement fund paying for all the iPads, X-boxes and electric scooters, buying every single thing their kid asks for also run the risk of raising a spoiled child who has to have everything he wants right now.

But the fact is, all these head knowledge flies out the window the moment their kid is rolling on the ground throwing a massive temper tantrums in the middle of Toys R'Us when they say no to what he wants. Caving in to everything a kid wants is the most counterproductive thing a parent can do at that point.

This is because one of the biggest lessons in managing money is of Delayed Gratification. Kids should learn that it's important to save for the future for "better" things instead of spending all their cash all the time on what they want now. By not teaching a child to take “no” for an answer, it could turn him into the sort of adult who has no self-control in a shopping mall, and no sense of being financially prudent in life. 

2. Encouraging their child to enjoy the high life

Some parents think that by giving their kids an appreciation of the finer things in life, they’re motivating them to work hard for their own future. The irony is that it's usually poverty that motivates people to want to work hard and rid themselves of their current situation. It drives them to want to manage their finances better.

Riches that's been doled out for free by doting parents are not going to spur someone to work hard and better himself. That being said, it's not wrong to want to teach your kid to aspire for a life free from financial woes.

But how about instead encouraging your kids to live lavishly, show them how to enjoy the simple things in life instead. Spend time with them instead of buying them more stuff, encourage them to give back instead of taking things. Then, you can rest assured that your beloved son is going to spend on the important things in life instead of fancy cars to impress chicks. 

3. Telling their child he’ll inherit your wealth in future

Remember that scene where Mufasa tells Simba “One day son, all this will be yours?” Pull that stunt in Singapore and you can bet every kid will be twiddling their thumbs until the day their human ATM drops dead. 

"Son, when that day comes let's hope you won't toss me in an old folks' home"

"Son, when that day comes let's hope you won't toss me in an old folks' home"

When parents do that, they’re sending out the message that their child will be financially taken care of in future. Even the inheritance of a simple HDB flat can be a huge financial boon, given the high cost of property in Singapore. No matter that that's not the intention in the first place, It still subconsciously plants the mindset of "why bother to work hard when there’s going to money coming my way in a couple of decades?" in a child.

Save that conversation for when the child is in his twenties or thirties, when he's more mature, and when he has already learnt the value of hard work and financial discipline (most likely from his first job).

5 ways to travel on a student's budget

5 ways to travel on a student's budget

Nowadays, it's practically impossible to open up Instagram and not be swamped by pictures of young people frolicking in exotic places. These are often also peppered with hashtags like #wanderlust, #blessed and #YOLO - making it harder not to get sucked into this dream of dropping everything right now to travel the world.

In the midst of studying your asses off, is it even possible to see the world before getting tied down to your first career? Especially when you barely have enough at the end of the month to scrape by? 

Here are 5 ways to make that possible. (the budget way, of course):

1. Turn spare foreign currency into money

One of the coolest things to be launched recently at Changi Airport is a TravelersBox kiosk that aims to make leftover foreign currency useful again. By depositing foreign change into the kiosk, you can select from redeeming gift cards from a range of brands, adding the cash into your PayPal account, or choose to make a donation.

Accumulate spare foreign change from your family and friends, and exchange them for PayPal dollars just before you head off for your flight. If you're heading to a country that also has Grab, you can get a Grab gift card to save on transport getting around the city you're visiting. 

2. Book your flights at promotional prices

When it comes to getting those dirt cheap fares, it’s all about the off-peak periods. This includes booking your flights at the weirdest timings possible. I once woke up at 4am just to take advantage of Jetstar's 2nd Anniversary offer and snagged a $0.02 flight to Hong Kong!! Even with flight taxes and fees, my ticket still amounted to less than $40.

The difference between a few days and a few hours can very well save you and your traveling buddies a couple hundred bucks. Flights tend to be cheaper on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays, while mid-day flight timings like 2-6pm fetch lower rates.

Budget carriers such as Jetstar, Scoot, and Tigerair usually have promotions every week too, so you might want to subscribe to their emails and keep a lookout for their weekly budget flight sales.

Here’s a list of the weekly sales:

You can also take advantage of exam periods in Singapore (around the April/May and September/October period) where flights out of Singapore are at their lowest due to most families with young children likely not travelling so as to prepare their kids for exams.

Research done by Skyscanner also show the best timings to book your flight tickets; booking between 21-25 weeks prior to your travel date can save you up to 22%! 

3. Cheaper accommodation doesn't mean crappy ones

You can easily save a few hundred dollars on accommodations simply by searching for cheaper alternatives. Nowadays, websites like Airbnb allow you to rent rooms, houses, villas at much lower cost than a hotel or even a bed & breakfast. It’s one of my favourite choices since cash never trades hands - the payment is fully transacted through Airbnb’s website. Although I do like to bring some Singapore souvenirs like a Bengawan Solo pandan cake to gift to my host. 

If you are traveling with a group of friends (it helps if they are muscular and scary), you can even consider couch-surfing at a local's home. Alternatively, you could just scroll through your Facebook friends list to see if a foreign friend can host you for the period you’re travelling. That way, you don’t even have to pay!

As a last resort, websites such as Groupon, Agoda and Expedia also offer bundles and secret deals if you have the time to read through the various fine print to see whether the terms and conditions are fair. 

4. A portable wifi router is the new prepaid SIM card

Gone are the days when you had to buy sim cards for international calls back to Singapore and activating your auto-roam. You can now save costs by renting portable wifi routers with fares are usually charged per day. Bonus: they can be shared with up to 8 people.

You can pick them up either at your travel destination - we recommend the Klook app for renting wifi routers for as low as $3 per day, or you can also rent them from our very own Changi Airport. Simply book online and collect just before you fly. Pro Tip: Do check the Changi Recommends Facebook page as it frequently posts wifi router rental promo codes.

5. Skip the tour and get around the city yourself

Tour agencies usually charge extra for their services (duh) and wind up bringing you to the most touristy places to eat or shop so they can earn a fat commission for themselves. Instead of signing up for a tour package with a travel agency, read up on TripAdvisor and travel blogs for the best places to go. Usually, most of the places the locals go to are relatively cheap, and even free! 

If you're heading to a major city, it helps to download an app like Google Trips and Citymapper that suggests walking tours as well as cool places to eat, drink and check out based on locals' (and tourists who have visited previously) recommendations. Those apps also have offline maps (with routes for buses, trains, trams etc) offline for easier navigation.

The Battle of the Food Delivery Service

The Battle of the Food Delivery Service

Nothing beats a home-cooked meal. But when you're living in a university dorm away from mummy's cooking, coming back after a long day of lectures and CCAs, the last thing you really want to do is to cook instant noodles and feel sad for yourself.  

But thanks to the wonders of technology, and the proliferation of food delivery services in Singapore nowadays, there's no lack of food options just a few button taps away to be delivered right to your doorstep. 

With Deliveroo, Foodpanda, and newcomer UberEATS, which of these serve up the best meals at the best prices and with the best service? We take a look.

Foodpanda

Foodpanda was launched in 2012, making this the "pioneer" and longest-running among the three major players. Proving just how much Singaporeans were longing for more than just MacDonald's and Domino's home deliveries, Foodpanda reportedly saw a 400% increase in revenue from 2015-2016 for their independent food delivery service.

With a wide selection of food choices, not just fast food, but affordable Japanese restaurants and Indonesian cuisine, Foodpanda was offering Singaporeans accessible meals that's delivered right to their tables. As of today, Foodpanda has a whopping 450+ restaurant partners under their fold.

Average delivery time: Within 30 minutes

Average delivery fee: $3-$12

Deliveroo

Even though their riders are infamous for ignoring road safety rules, since launching in 2015, Deliveroo has been on a growing spree and expanding its operations dramatically. In just four months, their fleet of delivery riders ballooned from 5 to 550. 

Deliveroo’s roster of restaurant partners are carefully curated - from burger chains to top Italian trattoria, their market segment are more expatriates and working professionals. They do not offer “low-quality takeaway restaurants” (as claimed on their website).

Part of their skyrocketing growth can be attributed to their willingness to partner with other expanding startups like Grab to widen their reach in the shortest possible time in the easily saturated Singapore market. 

Average delivery time: Within 32 minutes

Average delivery fee: Flat fee of $3 each order

UberEATS

A relative newcomer with a big name attached to it - UberEATS harnesses the wide reach of its Uber drivers to fulfil delivery orders. This is on top of their additional fleet of dedicated delivery motorcycles. Launched in May last year, they have close to 110 restaurants partnering with them, most of which are at the more expensive end of the market. 

From Michelin-starred restaurants, to gin gardens, to ramen joints, the UberEATS model seem to be clinching the higher end eateries, before focusing on the more accessible fare in time, so as to avoid competition with the other two players.

This is the service to look for if you are planning a special date night in, or pretending to "cook" a birthday brunch. Top quality food delivered right to your doorstep. 

Average delivery time: Within 35 minutes

Average delivery fee: Flat fee of $3 with no minimum order 

 

Singapore's school mergers

Singapore's school mergers

Singapore’s education landscape will be vastly different come 2019. 7 pairs of primary schools and 3 pairs of secondary schools will be merged. That is no surprise. But what is shocking is that for the first time, 4 pairs of junior colleges will be merged, leaving 19 JCs instead of the current 23 JCs.

You can understand how upset many parents and alumni are – no more alma mater to go back to? Not to mention confused – If my child wants to enter Anderson JC in 2019, how many points will she need? But most of all, many people asked why? Why this need to merge JCs?

MOE responded that the JC mergers are necessary in the face of falling birth rates. Between 1993 and 2002, the number of live births fell 20% from about 49,000 to 39,000. Consequently, JC intake is expected to drop by a fifth, from 16,000 in 2010 to 12,800 by 2019. In the case of the few JCs slated for merger, the intake could fall to as low as 200 or 300 students over the next few years, not enough to achieve the “critical mass” to run a wide range of CCAs and programs.

Details

The 4 pairs of school to be merged are: Jurong- Pioneer, Innova- Yishun, Serangoon- Anderson, Tampines- Meridian.

The schools are chosen based primarily on location and falling intake.

Looking at this list, 7 out of the 8 schools slated for merger are schools with a cut-off point of more than 10, and cut-off point, like price in a market economy, is an indication of the demand for a certain school. Except where a low demand in a market economy is reflected by a low price, here a low demand for a school translates to a high cut-off point.  The only exception on this list, Anderson, is most likely implicated by its proximity to Serangoon JC.

To minimise the impact of the merger, the 4 JCs to be folded into another JC will pause student intake for one year in 2018 – so that students will not have to transit from an old school to a new school— and only resume student intake at the combined school in 2019. That means the 2017 JC1 students will be the last batch of students at Jurong, Innova, Tampines and Serangoon. Come 2018, their schools will be half-empty, which on the bright side, is more conducive for studying.

However, although the number of JCs taking in students will decrease next year, there will still be enough space for every student who qualifies for JC. This is made possible by expanding the intake at the 19 remaining schools. For instance, Anderson JC may take in 800-850 students, instead of the current 750. With bigger intakes, it will become easier to enter the more competitive schools.

Additionally, MOE promised that no teachers will lose their jobs. The teachers affected by the merger will move to the new joint schools with their bigger cohort of pupils, or be redeployed to MOE headquarters, to work on curriculum design etc.

Controversy

Some people are baffled by the fact that on one hand, 4 pairs of JCs have to merge; on the other hand, Eunoia JC just opened this year, offering Integrated Program to students from Catholic High, Saint Nicolas and Singapore Chinese Girls’ School. Why not simply offer the integrated program in one of the existing Junior Colleges?

An MOE spokesperson answered that, “starting an Integrated Programme school from scratch would be less challenging than integrating the programme into an existing JC.” Right.

While MOE insists that every school is a good school all the time, the fact is that a better school will  get priority over a good school—except when it is time to go. We see this happening in this merger exercise. Perhaps that is one reason why despite MOE’s insistence that every school is a good school, RI and Hwa Chong remain at the top of everyone’s joint admission exercise list.

A school more prestigious than Raffles Institution

A school more prestigious than Raffles Institution

Located near Windsor, Berkshire, Eton college is one of England’s oldest schools. And one of the hardest to get into around the world.

It was founded in 1440 by King Henry VI for 70 highly qualified boys who received scholarship from the King, and who then proceeded to study at Cambridge university. 

Throughout the school’s history, it has produced countless monarchs and influential people in the fields of arts, sports, science, finance and politics. Just looking at UK Prime Ministers alone, 19 of them are Old Etonians. Other notable alumni include Maynard Keynes, George Orwell, Nathaniel Rothschild and Prince William.

How hard it is to get in

If you think RI is hard to get into, think again. To get into Eton, the school has to be sure of your academic and social suitability. Unlike RI, where you can be completely anti-social and still get in based on your PSLE score, Eton only accepts people who can contribute to the boarding school. And there is a stringent set of admission criteria to sieve out unsuitable candidates. In fact, it receives so many applications every year that only the crème of the crop is left.

Below is the selection process:

  1. Register with the school 3 years before the boy is set to enter Eton.
  2. Take a computerised intelligence test that tests the boy in areas such as numeracy and verbal reasoning.
  3. Go for an online interview with one of Eton’s masters
  4. Go for an assessed group activity

Afterwards, you might be offered a conditional placement at Eton, dependent on successful completion of the King’s scholarship exam at age 13.

Sample questions from the King’s scholarship paper:

  1. Twenty-five protesters have been killed by the Army.  You are the Prime Minister.  Explain why employing the Army against violent protesters was the only option available to you and one which was both necessary and moral.
     
  2. If today is Friday, what is the day that follows the day that comes after the day that precedes the day before yesterday?

In the past, sons of Old Etonians were guaranteed entry into the school. However, Michael McCrum, the headmaster from 1970-1980, did away with such practice, because he believed that “to whom much has been given, much more is expected” and coming from a privileged background, sons of Old Etonians have to prove themselves even more. Times have indeed changed, but not the prestige associated with going to Eton, and that is why Eton remains such a hard school to get into.

How the school is run

Once you get in, privileges await; no wonder considering that the school fee is approximately S$22,000 per term (and there are 3 school terms in a UK school year). This sum is a lot more than what ordinary British parents can afford. However, do bear in mind that most Etonians are rich and famous. To them, such a sum is nothing.

Etonians are dressed like gentlemen – false collar, pin striped trousers, waistcoat and tailcoat—a role that the school wants them to grow into.

Etonians attend plays in a 400 seat theatre, swim and boat in an lake where the 2012 Olympic games was held, seek guidance from their personal tutors and board in quaint red cottages. 

The school is a no-nonsense place, demanding nothing less than excellence from its students. One Old Etonian described it as a “ruthlessly efficient machine for producing tough, super-confident, often arrogant young men who are geared for success and absolutely certain that they can get it.”

Boys are tested weekly and examined every term, with results made public. Housemasters summon you to their offices at the first hint of a drop in grades.

Eton also allows its boys to dream big. Not only does it provide the boys with the means –world class facilities – to do so, it also drills into its boys the confidence that no aspiration is so great that an Etonian cannot fulfil it. That is how it produced so many people of importance and influence.

How to network like a pro in your first job

How to network like a pro in your first job

As uncomfortable as it can be to hear, the truth is that good grades and skills are not enough to enhance your career prospects. Believe it or not, learning to network well is just as important to your career. 

Just think about how you got your first job. Some of you probably mass sent out 200 of your resumes hoping for at least 10 replies, but most of you would have likely gotten it through a friend or a relative. Through a connection.

If one of your "contacts" gave you that job "lobang", that's you experiencing first-hand the power of networking. Here are 4 networking rules that might give you a boost in how you network at work.

1. Learn to listen

It's been scientifically proven that not only do we love talking about ourselves, but we love oversharing too. When it comes to networking with others in your job, it might be a breeze for some people to waltz around a room during a networking session to share all about yourself, what job you're in, and of course, how great you are. 

That pretty much guarantees any chance you had of leaving a good first impression. It doesn't mean you shouldn't talk about yourself, but it does mean that we should learn to listen more to what the other person has to say, and there you have it - an attempt at a productive two-way conversation that may just lead to building a long term connection that can benefit you both in your future career paths.

2. Only attend networking events related to your industry

Maybe you're an executive in a bank hoping to meet other professionals in the finance sector. You enter the event, only to realise that it's filled with people from the advertising industry - unless you have a keen interest in great copywriting, it will probably be a challenge to network effectively. 

If you can’t really understand what the other person is saying because he works in an industry that’s completely unrelated to yours, there's no point in sticking around to try too hard to make a connection. Try to select events that are in line with your primary objective.

Whether you're looking to learn from more seasoned professionals, looking for new career prospects, or simply to meet new and interesting people who are in the same field of work as you are. Talk, listen and connect not just with other networkers, but also try to help fellow networkers connect to other networkers too.

3. Don't oversell yourself

Networking isn’t about saying “hello” to random strangers at an event and giving out your business cards as if you are a flyer distributer at an MRT station. Too many people go into networking events with the mentality that they should ‘sell’ themselves. When in fact, it’s about building relationships, and possibly friendship outside of work, with people who can help enhance your career through advice, partnerships, and potential job connections. 

Networking should be about building genuine relationships with people, not about seeing everyone you meet as a possible business prospect that needs the product/service you’re hawking as part of your job responsibility. 

For a start, stop trying to oversell yourself and start trying to have a real conversation. Be more proactive in asking people questions so they are comfortable enough to open up to you. And if you’re looking for a job, don’t blatantly ask for job offers. Talk a little bit about your skills and what you are good at in a job. The person you’re talking to might not need your skills yet, but he might down the road. You may also get referrals too if he happens to think of you when talking to someone else. This all hinges on leaving a good impression. And the best impression to leave is always one of your true self. 

4. Don't forget to say thank you

Two simple words can make a world of difference when it comes to your career and whether people will have a good impressions of you - Thank You. It's a common courtesy that shows both respect, and gratitude, to the person you're talking to.

And it’s something you should definitely be doing often if you want to be a power networker when kickstarting your career. People appreciate when you remember them, and they’re more likely to remember you as well. This will pay off in the future.

After meeting someone, it’s always good to send that person an email, a text, or even a phone call to let the person know that you appreciated meeting them. By giving someone you met a follow-up thank you, it opens up not only doorways to building upon that initial relationship you created when you first spoke and exchanged business cards, but also building up trust.

A good tip on how to easily remember someone you just met at a networking event? Write down 1-2 memorable notes about that person on his/her name card after meeting them. It should be things that struck you most about that person while you were talking - personal bits of information such as hobbies, pets, or work related skills such as interesting job they've worked on or overseas experience. This will make it easier to recall someone you met, as well as give you something to ask about when you compose your thank you.

How May Day became a holiday for working people

How May Day became a holiday for working people

Most people know little about May Day, or International Labour Day. Or we know is that there's an extra day of holiday in a year, and this year we're doubly lucky that it's a long weekend. 

It'a not all maypoles and dancing

Celebrations in May have long had two meanings. Both of them very different from each other. On one hand, May Day is known for celebrating the coming of spring. With roots in pagan Anglo-Saxo customs, people dance around maypoles, braid flowers in their hair and welcome the beginning of springtime fertility in some parts of the world (mostly in the UK).

Villages will hold festivals and other fun activities and the dancing symbolizes saying farewell to the harsh winter and ushering in a time of things coming back to life. 

On the other hand, it's a day of commemorating worker solidarity and protesting unfair working conditions. So, how did that happen?

Like so many incidents in history, it happened by complete accident. We go back to May in 1886, when some 200,000 workers in the U.S. engaged in a nationwide strike which changed history for the working people.

The History of May Day

Screen Shot 2017-04-30 at 6.22.40 PM.png

In the 18th century, working conditions in the US were extremely tough and it was the norm to work 10-16 hours a day. This was made worse as labour was done in unsafe conditions where injury and death were also commonplace. It wasn't until the early 19th century that the working class fought to shorten the workday without a cut in their pay, and by organising together, they were able to garner enough strength (and noise) to demand for an 8 hour workday.

This was spurred on as workers during that time were inspired by the idea of socialism. Workers had seen first-hand that capitalism benefited only their bosses, who lined their pockets while the workers slaved away tirelessly. In some areas in America, thousands of men, women and children were dying needlessly every year in the workplace, with life expectancy as low as their early twenties. They wanted change.

A worker's rights

On May 1, 1886, some 200,000 workers went on a three days strike in downtown Chicago. They were demonstrating to rebuff their bosses, and to demand for an 8 hour day and a worker-controlled industry. Armed police harassed and beat up striking workers as they demonstrated outside their workplaces (mostly steel factories at that time). Beatings with police clubs soon escalated into rock throwing by the strikers which the police responded to with gunfire. At least two strikers were killed and an unknown number were wounded.

Full of rage, a public meeting was called by some of the working the following day in Haymarket Square to discuss the police brutality. Due to bad weather and short notice, only about 3,000 of the tens of thousands of people showed up. This public meeting included families with young children.

As the speech wound down, the police suddenly rushed in, citing reports that the speaker was using inflammatory language and they were responding to the unrest. (The mayor of the city later on testified that throughout the entire time, the crowd was calm and orderly.) As the police began to disperse the already thinning crowd, a bomb was thrown into the crowd. No one knows who threw the bomb, but speculations varied from blaming any one of the demonstrating workers, to a spy working for the police.

Enraged, the police fired into the crowd. The exact number of civilians killed or wounded was never determined, but an estimated seven or eight civilians died, and up to forty were wounded. One officer died immediately and another seven died in the following weeks.   

This violence resulted in the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions (which later became the American Federation of Labor), proclaiming that "eight hours shall constitute a legal day's labor from and after May 1, 1886.

Today, we see May 1 being commemorated as a holiday for labor all across the world. 

How do you stay happy when you feel like giving up?

How do you stay happy when you feel like giving up?

What’s making you unhappy?

You were happy before. But now going through life seems like a dreadful chore. You feel disengaged and bored at school. You don’t want to leave this damaging relationship because you still want to make it work. You know things can get better but you don’t know where and how to begin.

Being unhappy is no good for you and the people around you. No one wants to be around someone who’s unhappy with themselves and neglects their responsibilities. And your loved ones definitely hurt when they see you hurting too.

Change begins with you. We present 6 actionable steps that we hope can be taken right at this moment to start being happy.

1) Start your day off with something to look forward to

How your day starts determines how the rest of your day goes. Have something to look forward to whether in between or at the end of the day. Something that keeps your mood up and excites you. Some examples are attending a class you’re passionate about, reading a book, meeting up with a friend you haven’t seen for a while, or simple things such as eating your favourite food, visiting your grandparents, or giving a relative a call.

One thing you should constantly remind yourself is, you don’t need other people or material possessions to make you happy. But don’t get us wrong. Spending time with your family and friends is something you should look forward to and can help you stay happy at work when we possess relationships out of work we can count on.

However, placing your happiness in the hands of another and expecting them to make you happy does not work. You’re in charge of your own happiness. You know yourself best. So, start filling up your day with little things that make you happy.

2) Set goals, and focus on one thing at a time

We should set goals to accomplish things in life - our dreams, our achievements, our responsibilities. It could be to ace that group presentation today, complete writing that report, or being consistent at the gym.

We need to establish daily, weekly, or monthly goals. Our goals provide us direction, help us to look forward, keep us motivated, happy, and enable us to evaluate our performance gradually. When we’re focus on completing a goal, we feel challenge and put in our best effort to achieve it. We need to find meaning and purpose in our life to pique our interest and curiosity. 

All this is important so that we do not find ourselves stuck in a repetitious cycle of doing things that doesn’t help us to grow. This is what causes you to feel emotionally and mentally disinterested at what you're doing. 

3) Create a playlist to boost your mood

This depends on whether you can concentrate on the things you're doing when listening to music. Most of us listen to music when we’re on the MRT, when we're studying or at work, and even when we sleep.

Music enhances our mood and is capable of making us happy. Most of us don’t live alone, and there’re all kinds of conversations, phone calls, and distraction that can get overwhelming. That’s when you need music to help you lay off the distractions and outside noise.

People also listen to music to manage their moods and create a barrier from their external surroundings. It can be helpful, depending on what you choose to listen to. Our brain is constantly trying to process new data; therefore, you may want to avoid any new music when you’re dealing with a project with an upcoming deadline because your brain is unable to focus. Therefore, listening to familiar songs can do wonders for helping you concentrate.

4) Stay away from gossip and drama

As much as we can, we need to learn to step away from gossip and drama that surrounds us. Unless it involves you directly, it saps our energy and leaves us more dreadful than before. It does nothing but cause us temporary satisfaction when we hear of what befalls others, but ultimately, the outcome is pointless and does nothing to benefit our lives. This is unhealthy.

Politics exist and happen everywhere – whether in school, in the office, and even amongst friends. There’ll always be someone or a group of people involved in gossiping and stirring up drama. You may not prevent it, but you can choose to step away. While it may seem entertaining or refreshing to hear something juicy, it doesn’t do you any good. Plus, it can often make you seem untrustworthy in the eyes of others.

5) Start a side project

Do you want to spend the rest of your life building the dream of someone else? No.

You have dreams you want to fulfil. You may not have what you need to fulfil them now, but you can constantly work towards it. What you choose to do on an everyday basis will never fail you. Remember that.

Pick something you are interested in, and work towards developing it into a potential career. Even if it doesn't pan out, at least you have created a hobby out of it, and most importantly, you have enjoyed it. 

For instance, if you've always wanted start an online leather-crafting business, you can start by setting aside a portion of your allowance/salary and spend it on courses or training to understand more about the techniques of working with leather. With that, you can start small and slowly boost your business.

When you have a side project to work on, it motivates you to work harder and push yourself out of your comfort zone. This thought process not only helps you to perform better at work or in school, it also helps you to develop into a better person as you move towards your dreams.

4 lifestyle choices that are way too expensive in Singapore

4 lifestyle choices that are way too expensive in Singapore

You probably regretted buying that crazy expensive bag/watch/wallet/pair of shoes that cost hundreds of dollars with your very first paycheque. Look on the bright side, that moment of splurge is now in the past and it will likely be a long while before you spend your money in the same way again. 

However, there are certain lifestyle choices we make where the spending never stops. Especially in Singapore, we may not think about it on a day to day basis, but in the long run it all adds up to a huge chunk of money. Money that could be better spent on better stuff like investments, or buying a large hunk of gold to trade with in the event of a zombie apocalypse and no one is using cash anymore.

Here are 4 lifestyle choices that are way too costly when living in Singapore. 

1. Owning a car

When it comes to driving a car in Singapore, unless you're a taxi, Grab or Uber driver, there's no way in hell that the car is an asset in your life. That’s just the way the system is in this country. We're such a tiny island, everything that has to do with owning a car - from COE, to fuel, to parking, to ERP - has to be hideously inflated to discourage the vast majority of Singaporeans from driving on the roads.

Want to know how hideously expensive compared to other countries? Here are the cast of The Fast and Furious film series with their jaws on the floor when they heard of our car prices. 

For most Singaporeans, because the car itself already costs so much, even if you cab everyday for a year, it will still cost less than owning a vehicle. 

2. Owning a pet

One of the worst things to do when you walk into a pet shop/animal shelter (all the while telling yourself that you're only browsing) is to make eye contact with the animals. Once those limpid eyes gaze into your soul, that's it. You can't say no to Whiskers / Max / Genie. What the heck, you tell yourself. You're doing a good deed by giving that furry friend a forever home. 

But a pet can be a significant expense that just keeps adding up over the lifespan of the animal. First off, there are the vaccinations and annual checkups. Followed by all the toys and pet merchandise you wish to shower on your fur baby. Pet food on its own might not cost that much, but if your pet develops health problems later on in its life, it’s likely that you'll have to upgrade to more expensive specific food, as well as foot the medical bills for your beloved pet.

Dogs can live up to 15 years, while cats can have a lifespan of up to 20 years. Ask yourself if you are prepared to spend constantly within that timeframe.

3. Smoking

Smokers get a lot of grief in Singapore. Cigarettes have been getting more expensive every year, while the number of places where you can light up has been steadily decreasing. There's a higher risk of health complications that come with being a regular smoker, which also means higher chance of spending on medical bills. 

Even if we set aside the health issues, in terms of cost, Singapore is an expensive country to be a smoker. The cost of a pack of Marlboro cigarettes is about $13. If you add that up, smoking a pack-a-day can cost you upwards of $400 a month. That's $4,800 a year of pure lighting up and puffing. 

4. Having children

While there are many other reasons the birth rate in Singapore is pretty much rock bottom, the cost of raising children cannot be ignored. It can cost upwards of $200,000 to almost 1 mil to raise a child in Singapore! On average, a family will spend close to $350,000 within the child's first 8 years. 

Of course, the financial reason will never outweigh the joys of having a child to call your own. But the truth is that starting a family will have a lifelong financial and emotional impact. With a child or two under your care, it will be your responsibility to keep them afloat no matter what happens. This means basic healthcare, a roof over their head, a solid education, their wants, their needs, their hobbies and interests, etc. 

In future, only think about having kids when you're sure it's what you and your spouse wants. Not because you are sick of your parents or in-laws pressuring you for grandkids every time Chinese New Year rolls around.

Before you apply for that credit card, ask these 3 questions

Before you apply for that credit card, ask these 3 questions

Just because a wallet contains many card slots, doesn't mean one has to fill them all. When you've finally "adulted" after some time and are beginning to earn a stable income, you may be considering applying for a credit card. 

How do you know what to look for when selecting a credit card to sign up for? Other than having a cool card design to look good when footing the bill at the restaurant, here are 3 questions to ask yourself when you apply.

1. "What are the card benefits?"

Practically all credit cards will cost you nothing when applying, and most of them will waive the membership fee in your first year or two of owning the card. Still, you'll need to read the terms and conditions thoroughly to find out how much annual fees you may end up incurring if you don't manage to hit a certain spending threshold to automatically waive those fees, or if you simply forgot to ask for a waiver.

So don't simply apply for a card because the ad claims that it's the perfect card for dining out/traveling/clubbing/shopping online, or because you felt pressured by that pushy credit card roadshow promoter. Read the terms and conditions yourself and ask if you're unsure about anything.

Frequent flyer miles may sound like a wonderful thing to have, but if you don't travel frequently for work, then there's not much you can actually claim. One of the most useful things I find about credit cards are the cash back - since you are going to use the card, why not get some free money out of it.

2. "Can I even qualify for the benefits?"

Adding on to the above points on card benefits, most of them seems too good to be true. And that's because most of them are. Most of the time, there are frequent terms attached to the benefits. For example, the card might be offering instant 5% cash rebates on your shopping ...BUT only if you spend above $1,500 a month on the card. 

Based on your spending habits, you'll be able to know whether you can benefit from the credit card you'll looking to apply for. If you only spend up to $800 a month, there's no point getting a card that requires you to spend above $1,500 to reap its benefits.

One tip is to only allocate one main credit card for all your spending. Choose a card that can reward you the largest amount of cash back, and use that as your main credit card. 

Obviously, the banks are not going to advertise what the spending requirements are in their promotional materials, so some digging through the card's terms and conditions PDF document will be required. 

3. " How can the credit limit and balance transfer benefit me?"

I can't stress how important it is to know what your credit card limit is so you don't end up standing red-faced at the checkout counter of H&M with 15 people in the queue gawking at you while payment is being repeatedly denied by your card.

If you've just started working for about a year or two, a good credit limit to start off with is $3,000-$5,000. This is so you don't cultivate a habit of spending beyond your means. 

It will also help to ask the bank how much a balance transfer on your card will cost. Depending on the interest rate, if ever you find yourself in debt and unable to pay off a credit card bill, you might want to pay off the bill using a card with a lower interest rate rather than incurring the penalty of not meeting the minimum payment.

Be warned, you could end up having to pay other penalties, or be subject to a higher interest rate after a period of time so do check with the bank on this clearly.