Volume 19 #4
The Scottish Country Dancer
January/February 2003

Articles in This Issue
    • Member Spotlight
    • Once Upon a Winter Night
    • Calendar of Events
Member Spotlight
by Tom Halpenny
Zhi-Qiang Tan and Yung-Ming Liow

Yung-Ming Liow and Zhi-Qiang Tan have enjoyed Scottish Country Dancing since their arrival in the United States from Singapore in July 2002. They are members of a team of employees from the Flextronics company who are working at Hewlett Packard for six months in order to learn skills to help HP with its future projects upon their return to Singapore. They have made the most of their stay in the United States by visiting many places and meeting people from the American culture.

Shortly after they arrived, Yung Ming, 28, and Tan, 33, tried out the Scottish Country Dancing class and liked it enough to continue to attend. They had plenty of free time during weekday evenings, and watching TV and reading was all that they could find to do. The Scottish Country Dancing class was a fun way to go out and meet with American people outside of the working environment and to try out some activities that are different from life in Singapore.

Singapore is a multiracial country with Chinese, Malay, and Indian cultures. Interest in native cultural dancing is declining, although there remain some dancing clubs within schools. The younger generation likes more modern western dancing with loud and fast music. Yung Ming observes that young people in Singapore learn ballroom dancing, although he has not yet tried it. Tan had tried ballroom dancing for two years when he was studying in the university ten years ago. He likes the way that Scottish Country Dances are performed in groups, compared with ballroom dancing in which the dances are always danced in couples.

Tan and Yung Ming so far are the only members of their group from Singapore who have tried Scottish Country Dancing. They speculate on some reasons. One must be willing to try, and most people do not have a strong interest in dancing. They do not know what Scottish Country Dancing is. People think that it is a kind of ballroom dancing and that it is necessary to bring a partner. Some believe that Scottish Country Dancing is difficult and they are afraid to try it.


Singapore is a small island-country and city located at the southern tip of Malaysia, 1 degree north of the equator. The island is only 30 miles long and 15 miles wide (an area of 239 square miles - slightly more than 3.5 times the size of Washington, DC), so it is easy to travel around the entire island in one day. Two bridges connect Singapore to Malaysia. There are 4 official languages in Singapore namely English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil. However, English is the most commonly used language, since Singapore used to be a British colony. Yung Ming lives in Ang Mo Kio while Tan lives in the Tampines area.

Yung Ming's grandfather came to Singapore from a province in Southern China. The Guangdong and Fujian provinces were poor in the 1930's, with a mainly agricultural economy, so his grandfather moved to Singapore to pursue a better life. Yung Ming is single and his parents and two older married sisters all live in Singapore. He no longer has any family contacts in China.

Tan moved to Singapore in 1996, returned to China to be married in 1998, and his bride joined him in Singapore in 1999. Tan's family lives in the town of Taiyuan in the Shanxi province of Northern China, while his wife comes from Foshan in the Guangdong province in Southern China. They met while attending the prestigious Shanghai Jiao Tong University, where Tan earned a BS degree. Tan's parents and married younger brother still live in Taiyuan.

Both Yung Ming and Tan attended the Nanyang Technological University, one of three universities in Singapore. Tan attended 1996-1999 and earned MS and PhD degrees in Electrical and Electronic Engineering, while Yung Ming attended 1995-2000 and earned a BS and MS degree in Computer Engineering. Although they both attended this university at the same time, they did not meet each other until they were hired for their current positions.

Since Singapore is close to the equator, the climate is tropical: hot, humid and rainy. The temperature is always between 80-90 degrees with 90% humidity. Air-conditioned buildings provide a refuge from the natural climate. Yung Ming is very used to the climate and finds it not too difficult to survive. Tan, on the other hand, finds the climate to be too hot and humid, since he is used to the Northern China climate that is similar to Vancouver, with its four seasons of dry climate with cold winter and hot summer.

The Singapore work environment has high stress and a fast pace with long working hours. Since Singapore is a small country with no natural resources, Singapore depends on its people to work hard. This work ethic is part of the culture. The workday begins in Singapore from 8:00-9:00 a.m., like it does in the U.S., however it is common for people to end the working day after 7:00 p.m. The commute time can be more than an hour one way, so people arrive home very late. If an employee works so late that the public transportation has stopped running, then the company will pay for a taxicab home. It is difficult for a working parent to spend quality time with the children, but is easier to spend time with the spouse. Nevertheless, the divorce rate has been climbing, which may be attributable to the stressful working conditions. Tan notes that the workday culture in China is similar to the U.S. Singapore people look forward to weekends to meet with friends and relax after the stressful 5-day workweek. Fortunately, people seldom work on weekends.

Travel to the United States for training by Hewlett Packard was a definite selling point for the positions that Yung Ming and Tan accepted with Flextronics. Most Singapore people would find this assignment to be attractive. Yung Ming observes that there is some time for fun, especially if you have gotten used to, and a little bit bored with, life in Singapore for twenty years. You have the four seasons, a chance to travel and experience a new culture, and a chance to practice English. The population of Singapore is 70-80% Chinese. English is the first language, however people speak the mother tongue with friends; Mandarin is the national Chinese language. So it is good to practice English here in the U.S. Tan was disillusioned when a previous employer exercised a "retrenchment", or layoff, of 1/3 of the work force. Tan wasn't affected, but chose to change to Flextronics when a friend who already worked there recommended Tan.

Tan has a personal goal to obtain a Washington State driving license. He never needed one in Singapore because he always used public transportation. It is very expensive to own and operate an automobile, so many people do not drive. The minimum driving age in Singapore is 21, an attempt to reduce the many serious accidents that have been caused by young drivers. The price of a typical car is SGD$80,000, including the price of a "certificate of entitlement" that can cost up to SGD$30,000. There are also fees for parking and driving on toll highways. Singapore uses the British driving system of driving on the left side of the road with cars that have the steering wheel on the right side. Yung Ming also never drives in Singapore, but since he has a Singapore driving license, he is able to drive in the U.S. with an international driving license. He doesn't get very confused with the different U.S. driving system, however just to be sure, he looks both to the right and left whenever he comes to a traffic intersection.

Places that Tan and Yung Ming have enjoyed visiting while staying in the U.S. include Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, Mt. Hood, Mt. Adams; Newport and Lincoln City Beaches; John Day, Three Sisters, Smith Rock; San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco; Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon. Each Friday they consult with their Flextronics colleagues to make a plan for a weekend visit. Someone suggests a place and the group agrees. Usually a group of six departs for the destination in two cars.

Yung Ming's other interests when in Singapore include watching sports like soccer matches. He can see the results on the Internet, but misses watching the games. Singapore has a popular dream to enter the World Cup final by 2010, which is an impossible goal. Yung Ming also enjoys playing badminton every week, and he likes to cycle to Malaysia's east side to visit some beautiful beaches. Tan enjoys swimming, playing bridge, and table tennis.

In a few years, Tan and his wife plan go back to China and settle down. They regard Singapore as a temporary place to live. Tan would like to find a technical company like HP or a Chinese company that can pay a good salary. The Chinese economy is growing fast and has good potential. Manufacturing is growing in coastal China, in cities near Hong Kong and Shanghai. Like Singapore, the Chinese government has set up industrial parks. The Singapore economy has been impacted by China's growth, and is depressed. Manufacturing has been moving out of Singapore and into China, Indonesia, and Malaysia. Singapore is trying to adapt by promoting more research work, like biomedical, and financial services.

Tan would like to have another baby. They were expecting their first child as his pregnant wife remained home in Singapore while Tan visited the U.S. China used to have a "one child" policy, but there are exemptions to allow parents to have more children. For example, children born in Singapore, outside of China, are exempted. And since Tan has a PhD, he is allowed to have a second child. The limit applies only in big cities; people in the rural areas are allowed more children, since it takes more manpower to run a farm. Yung Ming observed that the one-child policy is not good in the long term: there is pressure for the single child to care for his/her parents and grandparents, for a total of six older dependents. Economic constraints are making the policy obsolete since most young couples do not like to have children because they are too expensive.

When asked how this American experience would change their lives when they return to Singapore, Yung Ming said he will miss the working environment with its larger size cubicle, and he will miss the Vancouver environment and climate. Tan replied that he could think of nothing that would change his life; having a new baby will change his life! Shortly after the interview, Tan returned home for the birth of his first child. His flight arrived one hour after his new daughter was born.

Singapore, city of orchids
Singapore skyline
Once Upon a Winter Night

That is the theme for this year's Annual Dinner Dance, sponsored by the Vancouver USA Scottish Country Dancers. This is our 18th such event, and it will be held Saturday night, February 15th, 2003 (yes, the day after Valentine's Day!). The dinner will begin at 6pm (registration is required), and the Grand March and Dance will begin at 8pm. Dinner is "potluck" with drinks and the main course provided. The attire is semi-formal.

Please note the change in venue: the dance will be held at Columbia Presbyterian Church, 805 Columbia Ridge Drive, Vancouver, WA. Take Washington State Hiway 14 west from I-5 (or east from I-205) to Lieser Rd (exit 4); go north on Lieser Rd. about 2 tenths of a mile; turn right on SE Sherley Ave, to Columbia Ridge Drive. The church is very near the intersection.

Lisa Scott, pianist, and Linda Danielson, fiddler, both renowned musicians, will provide the live music for the dance.

Child care is available, and we request advance notice of the number of children to be cared for. "Hospitality" (housing) for out-of-area dancers is also available upon request.

For more information, call (360)834-3757 or (360)699-2174, or see our website, www.VancouverUSA-SCD.org.

The dance program:

    The Isle                       (J)  Graded Book 15
    Lady Lucy Ramsey               (S)  MMM II
    The Reel of the 51st Division  (R)  Book 13

    Teviot Bridge                  (J)  Book 5
    Quiet and Snug                 (S)  Book 20
    Johnny Groats House            (R)  Book 16

    Wild Geese                     (J)  Book 24
    Castles in the Air             (S)  Notebook
    Flight of the Falcon           (R)  B Priddey

    Espie McNabb                   (J)  MMM I
    Lady Glasgow                   (S)  MMM 1
    Flowers of Edinburgh           (R)  Book 1

    The Pines of Pitlochry         (J)  SD Archives 77
    Delvine Side                   (S)  Book 2
    A Trip to the Netherlands      (R)  Book 32



Calendar of Events

Jan 8, 2003

First class of the Winter term, VANCOUVER USA
Now is the time to sign up -- details are in the Vancouver-Clark Parks and Recreation Catalog. Our class is on page 23, #EN0290. Call 696-8236 to register today!

Jan 11

Portland Dance Party, 7:30 pm, Tigard Grange 13770 SW Pacific Hwy., Tigard.

Jan 25

Robert Burns' Birthday

Feb 8

Portland Dance Party, 7:30 pm, Tigard Grange 13770 SW Pacific Hwy., Tigard.

Feb 15

Vancouver USA February Dinner Dance Party, 8-11 pm, Columbia Presbyterian Church, 805 Columbia Ridge Drive, Vancouver, WA Live Music!
See article this issue.

Mar 8

Portland Dance Party, 7:30 pm, Tigard Grange 13770 SW Pacific Hwy., Tigard.

Apr 6

National Tartan Day

Apr 12

Portland Dance Party, 7:30 pm, Tigard Grange 13770 SW Pacific Hwy., Tigard.

Apr 19

Vancouver USA Spring Dance Party, 8-11 pm, Marshall Community Center, Oak/Elm Rooms, 1009 E. McLoughlin Blvd., Vancouver, WA Live Music!

May 10

Portland Dance Party, 7:30 pm, Tigard Grange 13770 SW Pacific Hwy., Tigard.

Jun 14

Portland Dance Party, 7:30 pm, Tigard Grange 13770 SW Pacific Hwy., Tigard.


Samuel Johnson's first dictionary defines oats as: "A grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people." Of course, the Scots answered this slander by saying that while in England they raised fine horses, in Scotland they raised fine men.
(from http://kmckemie.tripod.com/scottish.htm)

  Do you have an item of Celtic interest you would like to see in print?  
  You can contact me in any of the following ways:  
  By mail:  
  John Shaw - SCD
  PO Box 2438
  Battle Ground, WA 98604
  By email:  
  The Scottish Country Dancer is a bi-monthly publication of the Vancouver USA Scottish Country Dancers, a non-profit educational organization. For changes of address, please contact John Shaw - SCD, PO Box 2438 Battle Ground, WA 98604, . The editor reserves the right to alter or edit any material submitted for publication for reasons of taste, style, or clarity. All materials for publication should be sent by email to the editor at the address above, preferably in straight text. Deadline is one week before the end of the month prior to publication date. Editors of other newsletters may use or adapt any materials in the Scottish Country Dancer unless a specific copyright notice is included. Please credit author and original source.
Generated Sunday December 29, 2002