John Yap likes to be known as a global guy. It is a fitting description, given that the Singaporean has thrice been posted overseas to Myanmar, Indonesia and China since he joined Keppel Land in 2008. While constant changes and adapting to new cultures may be unsettling for some, John relishes every moment of his life overseas.
“Working overseas often offers a fresh perspective of life. You see how different cultures view and handle issues differently. After you amalgamate all these diverse views, you can gain new understanding and make decisions that you might not have made before,” the 48-year-old GM of Jiangyin Yangtze International Country Club, Keppel Land’s golf club in Jiangyin, Jiangsu province, China, said.
Located on the southern bank of the Yangtze River, Jiangyin, which means “shade of the river” in Chinese, is one of the river’s five major ports in Jiangsu province.
In an increasingly globalised world, John is certain that to maintain a competitive edge, one cannot afford to stay put in one’s comfort zone. “The Taihu Lake in Wuxi alone is bigger than the whole of Singapore – and it is just a lake! Given the size of China, there are boundless opportunities for anyone who is willing to take up the challenge of exploring.”
Taking on challenges was precisely what John did when he leapt at the chance to join the country club in late 2013. Before that, he had never worked in China before. Despite being no stranger to immersion in a foreign culture, John admits that the initial months were tough, especially since he was not fluent in Mandarin.
“The locals found it difficult to understand me through my ‘broken Mandarin’! Moreover, I lead a team of 350 staff, so I have to work extra hard at communicating clearly with them to foster mutual understanding and respect.”
Through daily interactions with his staff and local business partners, John’s Mandarin has improved by leaps and bounds. The improved fluency has been coupled with a deeper appreciation of Jiangyin. It is an appreciation shared by his wife and three children, who moved from Singapore to join him and who have fallen in love with the rustic beauty of the city.
“My wife and kids have adapted smoothly to the culture here,” John said. “While Jiangyin may be very different from Singapore, we appreciate all the various beauties and quirks that this place has to offer. Sometimes all it takes is the support of your family and the will to succeed to make any corner of the world your home.”