Singapore is a basket case; it is time for me to leave Asia

My company now has almost no business in Singapore. With every single client it is the same story: they have no money to spend on marketing in Singapore, and instead are focusing on China and Japan. Singapore, with its small population and ongoing depression, is simply not a priority. And they’re right; if I were a multinational seeking to expand in Asia, Singapore would not be high up on my list.

This is a tragedy for Singapore, and a personal tragedy for me as well. I am not angry at my company, it is not their fault, they did nothing wrong, but this is not the job they promised me. I was hired to do writing and media relations. Now, all they want me to do is keep the Singapore office from going under, a total waste of my background and skills and training.

I like my firm. They’ve been good to me, and when it comes to practicing PR they are unsurpassed. But PR now has nothing to do with my work. It’s only about scraping for business and keeping our head above the rising water.

I’ve decided to go back to the US. I have job offers in Shanghai and Beijing, and I could easily land a job in Hong Kong. But my family, my cats, my house, my SO of many years — all are back in Arizona. I’ve always been able to find a job in the past, so I am hoping I can find something when I get home.

(If those jobs in Shanghai and Beijing weren’t also agency jobs, I’d strongly consider them, at least for a year or two until I got back on my feet. But both involve agency management, and I don’t want to administer, I want to write and manage actual PR programs.)

It’s a scary gamble. I had paid off all my debts and was in the black when this shoulder crisis hit, and now I am several thousand dollars in the red. A terrible time to quit a stable job. But I had to face the sad fact today: I literally dread coming into the office. If I don’t give my notice soon, I’ll suffocate.

Yes, I really do regret leaving Beijing. I left because I was given a promise of what this new job would be. I’d be a writer. A presenter. A strategist. The head of client relations. None of that materialized. I know, I can’t blame them that Singapore’s economy collapsed, but do I really have to do things I hate doing? I decided today that the answer is No.

This has been building up for months, though I’ve kept it out of my blog. Now it’s too big, and it’s all I’m thinking about. I will be heartbroken to be so far from my friends in China and HK. And to those whom I’ve promised to support (morally and spiritually), I won’t just walk away from you. I will come back as often as I can, and in between I will stay in close touch.

I’m not gone yet. My notice time is one month, and I am hoping to hand it in by day’s end. It’s a dramatic and dangerous step, but every day I spend here is a waste of my time and talent. Sometimes we just have to make big decisions and chart our own course instead of being tossed along in the water.

Okay, I know that was whiny and self-pitying, but it was definitely useful for me to write it. I’ll keep you posted.

The Discussion: 20 Comments

We’ll miss you, but I have a feeling that living in America won’t keep you from blogging.

January 12, 2004 @ 2:35 pm | Comment

Probably not, but I will be sad to leave Asia. I really wish this had worked out.

January 12, 2004 @ 2:40 pm | Comment

Sorry to see you go Richard but it sounds like you are doing the right thing. There is no worse feeling than that of being trapped in a job you hate.

January 12, 2004 @ 3:23 pm | Comment

“no worse feeling than that of being trapped in a job you hate”

But take it from me: being unemployed for 7 months is no picnic either.

January 12, 2004 @ 4:14 pm | Comment

this will certainly close a great chapter in the life of richard. thanks for sharing what you did.

January 12, 2004 @ 5:11 pm | Comment

Richard, I read your blog regularly, but don’t often comment… good luck with whatever you decide to do.

January 12, 2004 @ 5:37 pm | Comment

Blah! Go home. You can always come back if you can’t stand driving all day and night to get to some decent Chinese food.

There are two kinds of expats. The ones who make roots and really low down and stick it out, and those who come for a good job, a different experience and makes some money.

If you’re the second, (which is always been my impression) the longer you delay going home, the harder it is to settle back. Rather always remember this part of the world fondly. Than leave when it’s over and hard to start a new life. The ones who really can’t, come back make roots. Floating between the two gets harder as time passes.

Say “hi” to the catuses and copper laden rocks for me. Parts of Arizona is about the most transcending places in the universe. So beautiful, so mind expanding as it truly reminds one how utterly insignificant we all our both in terms of size and time.

January 12, 2004 @ 6:54 pm | Comment

Also. Thanks for all your care about human rights and free speech and all that. It’s always nice for someone to do so regardless where they are from. So you have fun, and when I am camping at Monument Mount and hanging with the denai so I can learn to sing songs about the hawks. I am gonna drop by for a burrito.


January 12, 2004 @ 6:59 pm | Comment

Man… I just realized I have forgotten all the words, although I melody still rings. What a beautiful place and beautiful people. Maybe you need to go back and blog about their rights and blog about thier stories. Some heart breaking, some so beautiful.

When I look at a tree I remember to sit up straight as the trunk is tall like I should be.


January 12, 2004 @ 7:08 pm | Comment

Hi Richard – Where in Arizona are you from? I’m a Tucsonan myself, though I’ve been living in Beijing steadily since 1996. Should you really decide to relocate Stateside, yours is a voice that will truly be missed, and I’ll regret never having mustered the courage, the rhetorical skill, or the empirical muscle to respond to some of the posts to which I took exception. Good luck to you whatever you decide to do!

January 12, 2004 @ 8:13 pm | Comment

At least you have somewhere to go! I am a hopeless US citizen trapped in Hong Kong since there is nowhere in the US I can go. No home, No money, and no benefits or help in the USA at all.

SO I will take my HK$1605 monthly govt. handout and keep my unemployable (since white) butt in the SAR(s) forever it seems.

January 13, 2004 @ 1:54 am | Comment

Hey, all the best in your future endeavours!

January 13, 2004 @ 2:41 am | Comment

All the best, Richard. Hope you find the job you’re looking for.

January 13, 2004 @ 2:47 am | Comment

Hi Richard, I hope that everything works out fine for you. I’ll keep reading if you keep writing!

January 13, 2004 @ 1:32 pm | Comment

hi richard.. i read this a while ago. i was bit sad. but i guess your zeal for asian affairs will not fade no matter where you live ๐Ÿ™‚

January 14, 2004 @ 6:27 am | Comment

Sorry to hear that things are not working out for you here. Yes, it has been rough in Singapore for locals too.

If you have offers, that is great. But for many, joblessness is worse than being in a job you hate. I hear that the US is no Employment Heaven either though. But that could be just the Straits Times.

All the best in your endeavours, whatever your choice may be.

January 14, 2004 @ 11:35 am | Comment

Kaiser, I’m from Phoenix (though I’ll be a New Yorker to the day I die). Yan, I love the copper rocks of Arizona, too, and I think Sedona is far more breathtaking than the Grand Canyon.

To everyone else, thanks a lot for your thoughts. I have decided to wait at least a few days before taking action. There are some practical matters I need to consider (like, if I resign today, will I have enough money for my airfare home). I’d better be strategic about this. But it sure was therapeutic to write it all down.

January 14, 2004 @ 12:00 pm | Comment

Either way good luck with whatever happens. No doubt it will work out right one way or another.

January 14, 2004 @ 4:42 pm | Comment

Thanks Simon; it always does end up working out, one way or another….

January 14, 2004 @ 4:46 pm | Comment

Just a clarification, we do have some authentic Chinese restaurants here, but you do need to go downtown for them.

February 5, 2004 @ 8:31 am | Comment

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