Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Billion-dollar woman

After Christmas and Boxing week, sales slowed down. In addition, we entered into preparations for inventory audit and thus there were minimal stock shipment received.

One particular boring afternoon, I played with the manual price tagger and made myself a price tag with
  • the store code,
  • my 5-digit employee number [in place of the 6-digit product code], and
  • a price of $999,999,999 [the maximum value from the tagger].
Then I pasted it on my work vest just above my name tag.

A few colleagues noticed the price tag and we had some good laughs over it. I joked, "Yes, I feel like a billion dollars."

One observant colleague remarked, "That's not a billion dollars."

And I replied, "Well, you've got to give some tips. At least a loonie."

p.s. "Loonie" is the Canadian slang for a dollar.

2010 Canadian Income

I received my last pay slip for 2010 on the last week of December. It gives me my total earnings for 2010 and the deductions made.

My net Canadian pay for 5 weeks [i.e. 20.5 workdays] + 1 afternoon of orientation is around CAD1,410. Considering that I worked part-time for some weeks and received 7 hours of overtime pay-rate [I believe it's for working on Christmas Eve], it's a pretty decent pay-out for an entry-level job.

Now a quick comparison of the various compulsory government deductions.

General description: Canadian item % VS Singapore item %
* Pension: CPP/QPP 3.65%
   vs CPF* 20% [Employee] + 15% [Employer]
* Employment Insurance: 1.73%
   vs N.A. [No such benefit]
* Health care: Medical Services Plan CAD 60.50 per person per month which is 3.90% of my low-income [In B.C.]
   vs Medisave, Medishield, Medicare* [part of CPF]
* Other taxes: Federal Tax 3.15% [No TV license in B.C.]
   vs TV license $110/year [No Federal Tax in Singapore]
* Income tax: Revenue Canada K.I.V.
   vs IRAS scaled tax rate from 0% to 20%.
* Expenditure Tax: HST 12% [In B.C., excludes fresh/raw food items]
   vs GST 7%

  • Pension is not an apple-to-apple comparison because the Singapore CPF gives you the option to buy property and some selected investments with the CPF money. In comparison, the Canadian CPP/QPP disappears into a collective pension scheme, that currently pays each elderly an inflation-adjusted amount of between CAD400 to CAD1,100/month.
  • Similarly health care is not an apple-to-apple comparison because the Canadian MSP disappears into a collective pool but gives one the assurance that one's hospital bill is fully covered, but the Singapore 3M's technically belongs to the individual.

As explained above, it is not a comparison of identical items. Thus, which country's system suits one better depends on one's situation and preferences. In addition, there are non-financial aspects to consider, which IMHO are also critical aspects of a migration decision. In my case, the Canadian system is the preferred choice.

3rd month's expenses

My total expense for the 3rd month (1st to 31st December) is around CAD1,720, broken down as follow.

Amount (CAD) : Category

Once-off expenses

*  35 : English textbooks from Singapore
* 167 : Nintendo DSi XL and Art Academy game

Yearly expenses

* 120 : Christmas donations and charity lottery
* 103 : Christmas gifts

Monthly expenses

* 500 : December room rental
*  40 : Mobile phone bill
*  61 : Medical Services Plan for Jan-2011 coverage
* 110 : Transport - Monthly 2-Zone Farecard
*     1 : Transport - Others
* 225 : Food/groceries
* 179 : Clothings
*  56 : Household Items (including tioletries)
*  30 : Recreation/Entertainment/Restaurant
*  44 : Meals/Drinks
*  26 : Personal Grooming & Make-up
*    9 : Stationery/Postage
*  16 : Others (Lottery, Souvenirs, etc)

A few big ticket items burst my budget.

One of them was a CAD100 charity lottery ticket for a hospital. I was thinking, "Oh well, might as well do some good since I am going to buy a lottery to celebrate the year-end."

The Nintendo DSi XL was bought to put me back on the rails for drawing for fun. Plus, it teaches me some painting tricks with the "Art Academy" game.

I overshot my Grocery budget by about CAD55 because there were so many year-end food promotions that I stockpiled on food supplies. In addition, instead of buying meals at work, I often bought some frozen or pre-cooked meals on sale near the supermarket's closing time and packed it to work for meal breaks.

I overshot my Clothing budget by CAD150 from Boxing Week shopping. The most expensive items being impulse purchases of a CAD84 Espirit velvet jacket and a CAD37 Ellen Tracy long cotton vest. Surprisingly I bought these items while shopping with a friend [2 different friends on separate occasions], because I am rarely successful in my shopping trip when out with friends.

Lastly, a visiting friend helped me to buy some English textbooks from Singapore as I was helping a young friend from China who was preparing to sit for the IELTS so that she could become a student at a B.C. university. She was studying at one of the many English language schools in B.C. We meet up weekly to review her English language homework and any questions that she might have about the language and/or adapting to life in B.C. [Note: Although I landed later than her, I had to take personal responsibilities for all integration/settlement activities whereas she relied mainly on her aunt. Thus I knew more about settling-in than she did at that point.] [Addendum on 17-Dec-2011: In the end, I gave most of the English textbooks to an Iranian migrant couple (short-term housemates of mine) whose wife was revising her English in an attempt to get a job here].

In short, I had a great time this Christmas and year-end although my wallet did suffered a bit from it.

Monday, January 10, 2011

A small potato

Someone got raving angry and accused me of being in Canada to make use of the benefits.

It started out supposedly as a discussion, he claims to want to know more about Singapore. Eventually, it becomes apparent that he was interested in promoting his views of how to live and fight for one's rights, and we have different views.


[Addendum 20-March 2011: I decided to reveal this section of our discussion after reading about "Asians in the Library: UCLA Rant" on MrBrown.com. Racism is real. And sometimes ironic because sometimes a racist does not even realize or recognize his/her racist remarks. E.g. My Caucasian house-mate claims to respect other cultures (especially Asians) but his regular behind-the-back sarcasm against other tenants and immigrants like our landlord shows his intolerance towards other cultures. Note: The extract below is as close to the actual words used as much as I can recall.]

"So you're not willing to stay and fight for your freedom?" he remarked rhetorically.

"No. Why should I when I have the option to move on and seek the life that I want?" I counter-questioned.

"Oh my god! You guys are like a disease, an epidemic, spreading from Asia to all over the world!" he exclaimed. "That's why the Canadian government import you people in masses! You, submissive people, willing to work for anything. You will destroy all that we Canadians have built."

"Yes, you can call me a coward. I don't care. Do you know what happens to those who stay and fight?" I asked.

"Of course there will be sacrifice. You have to sacrifice for your freedom, for what you believe in!" he demanded. [Note: He fully did not realize that he has yet again contradicted his own belief in the freedom of personal choice by insisting that others behave as per his value system.]

"You're crazy! Do you know that it is not just the individual who will suffer? His family and friends will also suffer!" I replied and glanced at his daughter. I was somewhat shocked that he does not seem to understand how different the political landscapes of Singapore and Canada are and yet had the audacity to think it is his place to tell Singaporeans what to do.

"You people have to stay and fight to solve the problems at your home countries. Not come to our first world country and bring your problems with you!" he accused angrily.

"If you dislike the immigration policies so much, [then] why don't you vote against it? You are lucky, at least you can vote to get your voice heard!" I countered.

"Voting doesn't work. In the history of mankind, voting has never brought about the significant changes that we need. What we need is a revolution!" he exclaimed.

Then he started lecturing me about how the exodus of Asians is a conspiracy by the Jews controlling the whole world's politics and economy, and the conspiracy for new world order (some group akin to Freemasons) and called them evil.

I told him clearly that I don't believe in the conspiracy. And that even if one exists, I don't care on a personal level.

He then cited some "well-known" writer and literature about the new world order conspiracy. He strongly recommended that I get myself acquainted with this "excellent" writer's works while he simultaneously mocked me for not knowing about them.

I told him in no uncertain terms that I will not search for such information online as per his "suggestion" because "Frankly, I don't care."

Then he indirectly insulted me for my ignorance and insistence on remaining ignorant. By then, he was so angry that he cut me off before I can speak more than a few words and assumed what I was going to say and mocked me further based on his assumptions. I was growing weary from entertaining him, but I did not wish to end our discussion on such an angry note, given that we will have to continue being house-mates.


Somehow, he got angrier and angrier.

Then, I laughingly told him, "You're idealistic. The reality is someway below and we just have to slowly work towards the ideal."

At that point, he said loudly, "It's difficult to get quality debate around here. You're calling me names because you can't win the argument."

I thought, "Duh? We were arguing? I thought he wanted only a discussion? Why is he getting so worked up?" [Plus, he had called migrants like myself "a disease" just a moment ago!]

Then he blurted, "You are insulting me by calling me 'idealistic'. You're calling me NAIVE by calling me idealistic."

In my mind, I was like, "Huh?" I have peers who consider me idealistic, and I don't find it a negative. So I told him, "You associate idealism with naivety, but I don't. You made that association. I'm sorry that I called you 'idealistic'. I meant your ideas are idealistic."

Then he threw me an indirect insult by asking a rhetorical question, "How do you argue things with people who don't agree with your views?"

I replied calmly, "I don't. Because I believe that people have a right to their opinions."

He got really angry and told me to shut up. "Shut up. I don't want to talk about it any more. I should never have started this discussion."

"You started it and I have a right to reply", I retorted.

"I said I don't want to talk about it anymore", he insisted. Then for a minute, he mumbled angrily under his breath to himself while he started to heat up a pan. I continued to finish up my dinner. Then he couldn't hold back his anger and accused me loudly, "You go round telling people what to do. You should this, and you should that."

And I was puzzled, "That doesn't sound like me. When did I tell you that 'you should' whatever?"

He continued angrily, "The other day I was baking the potato, and you said that you should wrap it [i.e. keep the aluminum foil]."

I told him, "I said, 'I do my potatoes with the aluminum foil on because it keeps the moisture in the potatoes.' I didn't say that you should."

[Note: That day, his daughter was deciding between taking the foil off or leaving it on for baking. He told his daughter, "Just take off the foil and throw it in the oven." For some reason, his daughter still looked undecided. Then he casually told her, "Or you can keep it on, whatever." After a while, his daughter was still undecided. Thus, I casually commented that I do mine with the foil on because it keeps the moisture in the potatoes.]

He angrily told me, "Yes, you said that 'I do...' but it's the same. You're insinuating 'you should'. And my kid will hear it as 'You should'."

I told him, "I said 'I do...' and I explained why. The insinuation is in your head, not from my mouth."

That's when he returned to muttering repeatedly, "I never should have started the discussion". Once again, he lashed out when his anger boiled over, "You people are all the same. You come to Canada to rip-off all the benefits [that] you can get out of us!"

My response? I told him, "I'm sorry. If that's what you think of me, then you don't know me".

By then, I have just finished my dinner and cleaned up. So I left the kitchen quickly, leaving him to himself and his daughter.

Oh, now I get it. So he's worked up over "a small potato". He is upset that his daughter decided to bake her potato with the foil on that day. So much for someone who claims to be a fighter of freedom of speech and opinions. Ha ha!

p.s. Guess why I'm unlikely to be a psychologist? Some people are just intent on being angry or miserable in life. I would rather let them be.


[Addendum 01-Jul-2012]

Mr Small Potato's attitude towards me improved after he attended a theatre play in June 2011 (NOT by my invitation) where coincidentally my theatre group focused on political issues in Canada and elsewhere. I guess he realized thereafter that I was not as gullible politically as he had imagined. Some months later, we were on casual talking terms again.