We’ve had a recent chat to Holly Harvey our new Business Development Manager about all things Singapore.
Finding all about Global Lingo’s expanding client base there, missing Percy Pigs and Tesco; as well as jetting off to Indonesia for the odd weekend…
What was it about Global Lingo which captured your attention and made you want to work here?
Global Lingo is a fantastic company; the team out here in Singapore are a great group of people who work seamlessly together with the UK and that is something I wanted to be part of.
The translation industry was not one I was familiar with before and so it was an exciting step into not only a new country, but a new sector too and I am already finding it fascinating.
It is amazing how many people require and depend on the services Global Lingo provide and in a regional hub like Singapore, the chances are, most companies are operating in at least three different languages at the same time.
What further expansion is the Singapore office planning on undertaking?
We are concentrating on expanding the client base first and foremost, and that is where I come in as Business Development Manager. The core team is very strong at the moment and we will look to build upon it, as and when we need to, with a greater demand in volume of business and greater diversity of clients.
Once we have an established client base and build on our steady stream of workflow, we will look to expand the project management team, the sales team and the office staff.
With a bigger team, comes a bigger office and the current team have been eying up the lovely skyscrapers in the centre of town already, this is prime office space and so I better get to work and make some sales if we are going to be able to afford one!
You’ve worked outside of the UK for a few years now, what made you wish to work abroad?
I have grown up with parents who have been expats for many years and so it dramatically changes your perspective on travel and culture. My parents have lived in Brussels, Dubai, Oman and even Bagdad! It makes you oblivious to travel boundaries and gives you a thirst for the unknown.
I have always wanted to experience living in a new country, as I can never fully appreciate a place until I have really submerged myself in the culture. I was dancing in a sari at an Indian wedding in Mumbai last year and it really made me feel part of the community. I am also a real foodie and a bit of a chef, so experiencing new tastes and new cooking styles is something I just love.
When I eventually return to the UK, I will hopefully have made some really interesting friends and developed an extensive network of international business contacts. That in it self is worth living away from home for a few years and something I will never forget.
What is life like living in Singapore and what does it offer you as a resident?
Singapore is amazing. It is like someone decided to invent a city, the way a city should work and the next day it existed.
Everything has been thought of and everything works so well. Whether it is the super efficient underground MRT rail system, or the fact you never have to climb stairs here as there are literally thousands of escalators (even ones outside!), it is probably the easiest city in the world to live and work in and the people here are so welcoming.
If the simplicity of living is not enough, you are in the centre of the Asian global hub and it is so easy to travel to so many exotic locations easily, whether it is Bali on the doorstep, Indonesia and Thailand next door. Australia is only 4 hours away and if that is not enough there are the ski slopes of Japan just a short journey north. I am a huge skier and so am really looking forward to that!
They have practically thought of everything here and if living on a tropical island doesn’t tempt you, the entire city is linked by an enormous warren of underground shopping malls, it is an absolute shoppers paradise where there is nothing you cannot buy, that is if you have the energy to see that many shops in a day!
Global Lingo chose Singapore as our hub for language services in Asia. Which countries are you looking forward to becoming involved with, helping them to use languages to communicate their products and services to the world?
China is obviously a hugely lucrative market for translation services and having already established a base in Singapore, Global Lingo is in an excellent position to enter that market.
With so many large multinational companies looking to establish Asian headquarters in Shanghai and Hong Kong, there is huge potential for Global Lingo there and it would be fantastic to have the opportunity to be part of that process.
China has such an interesting and hugely complex language and companies would be dependent on the services that Global Lingo provides, thus making us an absolutely integral part of their business. This would be a hugely satisfying role to play in their expansion.
Thailand and Indonesia are large markets that we are already working with as part of the Asia hub. These are both countries that I have not had much experience with, in either travel or business, and that’s what interests me about them.
Indonesia has the third largest Facebook population in the world, which is amazing to believe. The potential in a country like that, where English is not the native language, is a fantastic opportunity for a successful economy and for Global Lingo to be pivotal in its development.
You’ve worked in India before, how does it compare to working in Singapore?
India is a hugely complex country with a wonderfully rich cultural past that has spanned centuries, Singapore is a much younger country however and has a much more evolved economic market. They could not be more unlike in so many different ways and there are many cultural differences that can be observed both in business and culture.
India was a huge challenge, both day-to-day and also in the way business is conducted. It would take me between 20 minutes and two hours to get to work in the morning and there was no way of predicting how long, so you would have to take your chances!
In Singapore, it is so much smaller and they limit the amount of cars on the road and you can be everywhere you need to go in just 15 minutes. Singapore is definitely cleaner, however I do miss the obscure things I used to witness on my way to work in India; cows in the middle of the road, people selling all manner of things at my window and even the occasional bomb going off.
I was stuck in my office back in August when three bombs went off in the city in different places. With such a lack of digital adoption in India, we had to rely on phoning people to find out what had gone on and if people were ok. With 20 million people trying to call each other at the same time the network couldn’t cope and crashed.
It was a pretty scary time in India but they have such a strong and united outlook against terrorism, the collective force is so huge and that is truly wonderful to observe. I have the greatest amount of respect for the Indian people and am glad that it was my home for a period of my life.
Is anything you miss about living in the UK, any home comforts?
I have three siblings living in London now and I do feel I am missing out slightly there. My parents are in Scotland, so I do miss my family. My friends get cross when I have to miss their parties or weddings because you can’t fly back to the UK for them all, unfortunately that is a sacrifice you have to make.
In terms of home comforts: I miss Boots the chemist! and Tesco! You just don’t get the same amount of choice of brands here and it is so difficult to find the things you like. I also miss the pubs in the UK, curling up on a Sunday with a glass of red wine and reading the Sunday Times from cover to cover when it is raining outside is really amazing.
I also really miss being cold and dressing up for the cold weather. I imagine everyone in the UK is cursing the winter and preparing for spring, but I would give a lot to put on a coat, hat and scarf and go out in the cold right now! The only cold I get is from the extremely over air-conditioned taxis, shopping malls and the AC in the office that is pointed directly at me all day!
Oh, and Percy Pigs from Marks and Spencer!! I LOVE those!
Having a desire to work and live abroad, have you ever had an interest in learning any other languages?
I have always wanted to speak another language and I am so jealous of those who do. I took Spanish GCSE and I did a module at University for fun, but I was so terrible at it I eventually gave up!
I suppose that it what I love about working at Global Lingo. We have a database of over 5,000 people who can all do something I can’t. I have tremendous respect for people who can speak multiple languages; it is truly an art and a great skill. Providing this service to people who need it in one way or another is truly satisfying, even if I can’t speak the language myself.
What exciting opportunities that Singapore offers are you keen to take up, are you planning to travel to any nearby countries during your stay?
I am going to Sri Lanka tomorrow for a holiday, which I am really looking forward to and I have been over to some of the nearby islands in Indonesia for the odd weekend. It is so easy to travel to these places and they all offer wonderful tropical hideaway’s with amazing things to do.
I have a hit list of places I want to visit while I am here including Bali for trekking, the Maldives for diving and Japan for skiing. They are once in a lifetime trips to a certain extent, but it makes them infinitely more do-able when they are on the doorstep! I have to take advantage of it while I am here and I will regret it if I don’t.
I am also planning to take part in a triathlon on the island of Bintan in a few months, so that should be exciting and pretty gruesome at the same time. Swimming, cycling and running in 45 degree heat does not sound exactly tempting!
You’ve worked for the UK India Business Council helping UK companies to make the most of emerging opportunities in India. Do you think that India would be a good place for Global Lingo to expand into next?
All business in India is done in English and most people in the business world speak it. In that sense there would be little need for translation services where it was business-to-business translation.
In the courts of law, there could be a need as English is not the first language. The problem here is that there are over 1,000 languages and dialects spoken in India and there is no way that you can determine what is the correct form. Logistically, it would be a nightmare with such a complex array of services and languages to provide.
It would be a challenge, but I am sure Global Lingo could handle it if they wanted to!