European Union Economics Trip
The European Union trip was not what I had expected, with it turning out to be more fun than intellectual challenging. Indeed, we spent most of our time shopping and traversing the cities like tourists rather than getting in depth into the economical issues within the cities which we travelled. However, the exposure to the multiple cities which we visited was enlightening at the least, as we were given sufficient time to explore the cities outside of the usual ‘touristy’ areas and see where the locals went and how they really lived. I guess the Singaporean equivalent would be stepping out of the central area to have a look in nearby Tiong Barhu?
Anyway, the first thing which I noticed in Europe was the vast difference in the costs of living across neighboring countries. In Switzerland, a piece of bread will cost around 15 Euros, five times the price across the border in Germany. After shelling out 100 Francs worth of food in 2 days I think that the Swiss really earn a lot more than Singapore.
Secondly, the standard of living in the few countries which we lived in also differed drastically. Helsinki felt like a temperate Singapore that wasn’t crowded, possibly due to it being a maritime city just like this island state. For Switzerland, it felt really safe; one parent event let her 3-year old daughter wander around on a tricycle and talk to random foreigners in the hotel. Some of us tried to follow her but she went up home on her own. It really says a lot about the level of safety in the country when parents let their infants wander around on their own. On the other hand, Germany felt really unsafe in comparison to Switzerland, possibly due to the prevalence of beer. Going back to the hotel late meant that we were risking a walk-in with drunkards walking around, and we had to try our best not to look like immigrants so as to not stoke their xenophobic tendencies. The first impression many of us had in Germany would be the vandalized toilets in the subway, and the comment that some of them gave about it “being worst than Malaysia” really prompted thinking about what defines a city’s living standards. Does GDP per capita really mean so much when the public transport system is understaffed and misused?
Lastly, the trip gave me further doubts about working in the financial system, especially with the current streamlining of the industry. The talk with the managing director of Geneve Finance Centre and chats with Mr Leung made me think about what I really wanted in my future career. I did not even observe a semblance of stability and security in that job. Sure, you could go up as high as you can, even taking a 16-month bonus. But when a recession hits, or when you underperform, you will lose all your clients, and being booted out of the company in the process. I guess I have around a few more months to decide what I really what before I apply at the end of this year. Should I do something specialized like Engineering or go into Finance? Or maybe something else? I don’t know, but this trip has really gave me a lot of literacy regarding the financial world.