This Research Bulletin has been published in Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 37 (5), (2011), 709-728.
Please refer to the published version when quoting the paper.
The study of highly-skilled labour migration has continued to make important interventions in wider societal debates about issues such as: professional ‘brain-drain'/‘brain-circulation' (see, Iredale, 2001; Hardill and MacDonald, 2000); the knowledge and creative economy in economic competitiveness (see, Boyle, 2006; Florida, 2002); gender relations (see, Iredale, 2005; Kofman and Raghuram, 2006); international human capital and labour mobility (see, Mahroum, 2000; Millar and Salt, 2008); and, state immigration statistics and policies (see, Salt and Millar, 2006; Raghuram, 2008). Highly-skilled international labour migration has also become a necessary driver for world cities to remain competitive in a global urban hierarchy (see, Beaverstock, 2006) and a long linage of published research exists discussing the nuances of such migration in the making and re-making of the world city (see: Beaverstock, 1994; Ewers, 2007; Findlay et. al., 1996; Malecki and Ewers, 2007; Sassen, 1991; Tyner, 2000). Digging deeper into these extant literatures on highly-skilled international labour migration, the agency of the transnational corporation has a significant role in both ‘pulling' and ‘pushing' professional, managerial and scientific/technical labour, in intra- or inter-firm transfers within or between world cities international office networks, subsidiaries or affiliates (see: Beaverstock, 2006; Koser and Salt, 1997; Salt, 1988; Sklair, 2001; Peixoto, 2001). As Malecki and Ewers (2007: 470) note,
The process of expatriation, therefore, has not only become an important driver for the world city to secure ‘talented' human capital from the transnational capitalist class (Sklair, 2001) or managerial elite (Beaverstock, 2005) or creative class (Florida, 2002), but also such talent feeds into the theories of transnationalism, and especially debates surrounding transnational urbanism and the city (Hannerz, 1996; Portes et. al., 1999; Smith, 2001; Vertovec, 1999; 2001; Waters, 2002). However, a recent call in the literature has been made by Ley (2004) and Conradson and Latham (2005) to investigate the ordinary, banal, everyday geographies of transnationalism because even the talented, highly-skilled, highly-paid elite expatriates have to ‘survive'' the rigors of everyday life experiences in a foreign city. Accordingly, the aim of this paper is to investigate the ordinary, everyday professional, social and cultural life-worlds of British expatriate ‘talent' living in the city of Singapore, through a detailed empirical study of one important transnational social space: the ‘expatriate' club.
Singapore has always been an expatriate society (Yeoh and Khoo, 1998), but despite an estimated 17,000 British citizens in Singapore (The British High Commission in Singapore)1, little work has studied their everyday life experiences, which Beaverstock (2002) noted was socially and culturally embedded within distinctive transnational social spaces – including, the ‘expatriate clubs' which served their business, cultural and social needs. Singapore has 36 major clubs (Singapore Club's Managers Association (www.cmas.org.sg, accessed 26/04/04), with eight labelled as ‘expatriate' (The American; British; Hollandse; Cricket; Country; Pines; Swiss; Tanglin) (Singapore International Chamber of Commerce, 2003). In Singapore, British highly-skilled migrants mainly reside in ‘enclaves', albeit in luxurious condominium complexes or houses in Holland Village or along the East Coast Highway (Chaung, 1995), and ‘expatriate' club membership for many becomes one element of their relocation package to the city.
The remainder of this paper is structured in five major sections. In the following section, the paper presents a discussion of the role of expatriate talent in producing the world city and unpacks the significance and meaning for an individual in having an ‘expatriate' career path in contemporary globalization. The paper then moves on to explain the significance of highly-skilled expatriate ‘talent' to Singapore and then hones in on the growth and significance of the ‘expatriate' recreation, social and business club. The research findings which investigated the role of ‘expatriate clubs' in supporting the everyday encounters of British expatriates in Singapore are then analysed. The research involved in-depth interviews with club managers of The British, Singapore Cricket, Hollandse, Pines, Swiss, and Tanglin clubs, and a case study of British members of The British Club. Finally, several conclusions are reported which not only debunks the pertaining rhetoric that these clubs are ‘expatriate' spaces, but also highlights their ordinary, everyday social and recreation functions as transnational social spaces.
TRANSNATIONALISM, EXPATRIATION AND THE WORLD CITY
Two important theoretical contributions can be discussed to explore the everyday life experiences and geographies of highly-skilled international migrant elites in the city: as transnational elites in the city's transnational social spaces; and as talented, expatriate labour.
Transnationalism: Transnational Elites and Transnational Space
As the complexity of transnationalism theories are now very firmly established in the migration discourses, they require no further detailed discussion here (see: Portes et. al., 1999; Smith and Guarnizo, 1998). Instead, in the context of conceptualising the influx, role and spatialities of expatriate talent in the city, one can explore three highly relevant (and connected) bodies of work which have their roots in the transnationalism discourse: transnational elites and the city; ordinary and middling transnationalism; and transnational social space.
The world city literatures have long discussed the role of, “transnational elites” (Friedmann and Wolff, 1982: 322) or the, “new international professionals” (Sassen, 2001: 188), as the major productive entities of the world city through both their occupational and earnings characteristics in the corporate and advanced producer service complex, and purchasing power, cultural lifestyle and, importantly, hyper-mobile ties, connections and relationships (see, Hannerz, 1996). For Hannerz (1996), the transnational elite is a major actor which gives the world city its ‘world' prefex by bringing into the city not only economic, social and cultural wealth and distinctiveness, but also strong ties and relationships to other places through global social networks, and hyper-mobile careers and geographical mobility Moreover, as Beaverstock(2002: 525) notes, “[a]s they … [transnational elites] … flow into or through the city, they bring with them well established cosmopolitan networks, cultural practices and social relations” (for a more detailed discussion of this debate in both a general and Singapore context, see, Yeoh and Chang ).
In 2005, Conradson and Latham threw down the gauntlet in the transnationalism debate by arguing that it was now time to consider, “the everyday practices inherent to transnational mobility” and, “'middling' forms of transnationalism … to emphasis the degree to which transnationalism is in fact characteristic of many more people than just the transnational elites and the developing-world migrants” (2005: 228-229). Such a call by Conradson and Latham has spawned various studies of ‘middling' transnationals (see Journal and Ethnic Migration Studies, 2005) or coincided with other unrelated empirical studies (for example of British migrant identities in Paris – see Scott [2006; 2007]). In the context of the transnational elite, what can be drawn from Conradson and Latham (2005: 228) arguments about ‘ordinary' and ‘middling' transnationalism is that the everyday, banal dimensions of being an elite are ordinary,
Thus, it is imperative to argue that the transnational elite does experience an ordinary experience of transnationalism whilst carrying out the chores of the banalities of everyday life, which are illustrated quite explicitly in Yeoh and Willis's (2005) study of Singaporean and British transmigrants living in China and Beaverstock's (2005) discussion of the everyday life-worlds of British financial workers in New York.
In Smith's (1999: 120-124) analysis of transnational urbanism, he argues that the agency of transnational migrant networks, practices and social relations produces particular, “transnational social space” or “translocalit[ies]” in the city (also see, Preis, 2001). The prevalence of ‘expatriate' social space and the territorialisation of social and cultural relations, are of course not new in the context of the colonial/imperial city (see King, 1976; 1990), but what is different in the ‘transnational' discourse is the importance of hyper-flow into and through the city, and the grounding of ephemeral networks and practices in specific places in the city. The intertwining of everyday transnationalism in the production of transnational space is discussed by Ley (2004), who argues that the, “life-world … of the transnational elite may be highly localised and restricted to particular territories … hopping from one expatriate enclave to another” (2004: 157). Recent evidence from Waters (2007) study of ‘overseas educated local' professionals in Hong Kong and Vancouver concluded by suggesting that they, “appear to inhabit separate, segregated social spaces” (p. 494). As we shall read below, an important social and cultural trait of the expatriate is their tendency to be dotted around the city in distinctive separated, transnational spaces.
Expatriation, Career Paths and the City
The term ‘expatriation' is more often that not associated with the labelling of a highly-skilled individual who is sent by their employer to work outside of their home country in a subsidiary or private entity for a contracted period of time which requires a specific temporary immigration status and the receipt of an employer relocation package which includes such perks as: enhanced salary and pension provision; subsidised rented accommodation; family health care provision; and school and club fees, where appropriate (see: Beaverstock, 2004; Schell and Solomon, 1997; Tung, 1988). In migration circles, the study of professional, work related expatriates has taken several different forms. First, there has been much written on expatriation from an organisational internal and external labour market perspective, which accounts for the economic process of expatriation in the world economy. Here, writers like Beaverstock (2004), Koser and Salt (1997), Millar and Salt (2008) and Salt (1988) drawn primarily on an international human resource management discourse to explain that firm's use expatriate ‘posting' of skilled labour for reasons of: strategy (for example to manage new opened offices or subsidiaries or for technical requirements); human resource management (for example management development programmes); and, ‘fire-fighting' (for example to meet labour shortages in rapidly expanding business opportunities). Second, linked to the first, there has been a growing body of literature interested in expatriation and expatriate career paths as a relational process of ‘community of practice' for explaining knowledge circulation and learning in the new corporate world of hyper-mobility and transnational work (Beaverstock, 2006; Jones, 2008; Williams, 2006). Third, and of great significance to this study, there has been a very recent corpus of work which has investigated the socio-cultural characteristics of different expatriate ‘communities' around the globe. For example, British expatriates have been studied in Dubai (Walsh, 2006, 2007), New York (Beaverstock, 2005), Paris (Scott, 2004, 2006, 2007) and Singapore (Beaverstock, 2002) (and other transnational professionals of other nationalities in Hong Kong and Vancouver (Waters, 2006, 2007), and the New Zealand expatriate diaspora in London (Larner, 2007). In combination, almost all of these different studies of British expatriate communities have identified a number of salient characteristics which sustains an expatriate's ordinary, everyday life-experience in the city:
The next section of the paper will now discuss in more detail the intricacies of Singapore's expatriate society.
EXPATRIATION AND 'FOREIGN TALENT' IN SINGAPORE
The presence of foreign, highly-skilled professional and managerial ‘talent' in Singapore plays a significant role in the city-states desire and aspirations to become a truly, cosmopolitan global city (see: Yeoh, 2004; Yeoh and Chang, 2001; Yeoh et.al., 2000). Indeed, since independence in 1965, the city state has developed a liberal immigration policy directed at attracting the highly-skilled, professional and technical worker (Hui, 1997; 1998). The Government's overt policy of promoting the inward flow of foreign talent into the state's high-value economy is viewed as an important strategy to enhance both economic growth and external competitiveness on a Pan-Asian and world stage (see: Sim et. al., 2003; Yeung et. al., 2001). Yeoh (2006; 2004), building on previous studies (and with Chang, 2001) provides one of the most compelling and detailed discussions of the Government's proactive policy for attracting and sustaining its ‘foreign talent' pool of expatriate workers in the city-state. As Yeoh (2006: 31) suggests,
Yeoh's (2006; 2004) discussion of the linage of the discourse of skilled foreign talent in the city-state illustrates that this policy has been derived from many high profile speeches from the Prime Minister, who acknowledges that such immigrants can play vital roles to help cement Singapore's ‘nation-building', global city and world economic status. Hui (1997) notes that several programmes have been put in place by the Ministry of Manpower and Economic Development Board especially, to assist domestic and foreign companies in Singapore to recruit foreign highly-skilled labour, including a company grants scheme to reduce the costs of recruiting and relocating ‘foreign talent', overseas recruitment missions and ‘Permanent Residence' schemes to foreign investments and associated immigration from entrepreneurs.
In terms of the numbers of expatriate labour in Singapore, official data are both scarce and somewhat dated. Chuang (1995) noted that there were 15,000 expatriate professionals in 1990, with the dominant groups being Japanese, Americans, British, Germans and Swiss. In 2000, Yeoh (2004: 2440) estimated that there were approximately 80,000 professional immigrants (from a total of 754,524 foreign immigrants), and drawing upon data published by The Business Times (1998), noted that the traditional, “expatriate community” comprised nationalities such as Japanese (10,200 workers), British (6,600), US (5,600), Australian (3,300) and French (1,600).
There remains a dearth of research on different nationality ‘talented' expatriate communities and their everyday life experiences in Singapore, in relation to studies of low-skilled immigrants, like for example domestic workers (Yeoh and Huang, 1998). Two important exceptions to this dearth of work on expatriates in Singapore are Chuang's (1995) study of the (British) ‘expatriatisation' of Holland Village and Beaverstock's (2002) analysis of British expatriates in the city's global financial centre. Chuang (1995) coined the phrase, ‘expatriatisation' to explain how Holland Village, a neighbourhood in central Singapore, had become a distinctive expatriate space because of its predominant expatriate, 'Western' clientele, which was reproduced by its historical development (growing up in close proximity to a British military base), retail specialisation, landscape and identity (biased towards Western tastes and fashions), and, significant patronage from British and American communities, and ‘Western' tourists. Chuang's (1995) study, yielded several interesting results, including: merchandisers and food outlets catering specifically for ‘Western' expatriates fashions and tastes; Holland Village's reputation as an ‘expatriate enclave' being built upon informal recommendations within expatriate networks as well as more formal advertising in expatriate handbooks (see Krinsky, 1983); the majority of expatriates visiting the Village were women (housewives), attracting patrons mainly in the 31-40 and 41-50 age groups; and the reproduction of the Village's expatriate ambience was influenced by it co-location with expatriate residences and schools (6 within a 4 km radius), and popularity with tourists. Rather than focusing on an expatriate space like Chuang (1995), Beaverstock's (2002) investigated the global-local knowledge networks of twenty-four British lawyers, accountants and bankers who worked in the financial centre. Several important conclusions were tabled from this unique expatriate study. First, these expatriates participated in closely-knit, work-related networks comprising expatriate work colleagues of British and other nationalities, and ‘western educated/experienced Singaporean. Second, at a social level, these expatriates were significantly disembedded from the local as network formation and the spirit of community was forged specifically with other British and ‘Western' expatriates. Interestingly almost all of the expatriates surveyed lived in Holland Village and educated their children in international schools. Third, the ‘expatriate' social/recreation club was an important place for socialisation, with 21 of the 24 interviewees members of such establishments, where, “[e]patriates kept membership for both work related and social activities … their facilities were used by both men and women alike for all sorts of activities, which involved interaction with other expatriates, and local ‘western educated/experienced work' colleagues and clients in business/social contexts” (Beaverstock (2002: 535).
'EXPATRIATE' SOCIAL AND RECREATIONAL CLUBS IN SINGAPORE
Throughout Singapore's history in mercantile capitalism and British colonial rule, social and recreational clubs became important places for European industrialists, travellers, traders and civil servants for socializing, drinking, leisure and business activities. The first wave of club development from about 1850 to 1910, with notable establishments being the: Singapore Cricket Club (1852); Vereinigung Deutsches (German) Haus (1856); Tanglin Club (1865); Swiss Club (1871); Polo Club (1886), and Hollandse (Dutch) Club (1908). During this period, men were the primary members of such clubs and very close ties developed between male members and their clubs in a context where expatriation to Singapore would have lasted several years if not an entire working career (Sharp, 1993; Hollandse Club, 1998; Walsh, 1991). During the post-Second World War years, club development was muted as the pre-existing clubs extended their membership, facilities and amenities to the island's growing foreign and elite resident community (Sharp, 1993; Walsh, 1991). It was not until after independence in 1965, that Singapore experienced a second wave of club development with the very notable establishments of the American Club (circa 1960s), various golf and country clubs in the 1970s, and the British Club later in 1986. The latest and most rapid development of new clubs in Singapore has occurred since 1990 with the establishment of many more town and country clubs (for example the Temasek Pines, Laguana Clubs), specialist sporting clubs (for example the Raffles Marina) and private business clubs (for example the International Researchers Club in 2001).
Clubs in Singapore are on longer restricted to one or more predominant nationality groups. Membership eligibility has now been expanded by clubs both to increase market share of membership, and to adhere to the Registry of Societies Legislation. However, the ‘expatriate' label is still used by some third parties, like Singapore Expat (www.singaporeexpats.com, accessed 22/11/2006) or the numerous expatriation manuals (see, Chuan, 2002) to market such clubs as foreign talent remains a very important constituency for these entities in Singapore.
The Singapore Expat website (www.singaporeexpats.com) estimates that there are approximately 107 clubs in Singapore: 14 community clubs; 23 country clubs; 16 international association clubs; and, 54 sports, recreation and interest clubs (accessed 23/11/07). Of these 107 clubs, it is impossible to label them all as ‘expatriate' clubs because clearly certain clubs serve local resident communities rather than foreign talent in the city-state (for example the community and selected country and sports clubs). However, by drawing upon a number of different printed and virtual sources that discuss the association, social and country club scene in Singapore in the context of expatriation (see, Chuan, 2002); Club Managers Association of Singapore (www.cmas.org.sg); and the @IIo'Expat Singapore website site (www.singapore.alloexpat.com/singapore), it is possible to identify a group of clubs whose patronage extends to expatriates of all nationalities2 (Table 1).
An analysis of the websites and printed materials from these different clubs indicates that they offer their membership an array of facilities and promotional activities, all embracing combinations of family orientated, friendly settings or prestige, private, secluded businesslike environments or competitive sporting and specialist recreational opportunities. As with the general distinctions of clubs made by Singapore Expat, it is possible to identify three generic types of club's that expatriates frequent in Singapore.3
International Social Clubs
International social clubs (international association clubs as classified by Singapore Expat) like for example the American, British, German, Hollandse and Swiss clubs, which market their membership benefits to the family group, in state of the art complexes offering for example: swimming pools, tennis and squash courts, team sports (e.g. football, hockey), gymnasiums, different types of bars and restaurants, cinemas, specialist classes (e.g. wine tasting, flower arranging), the celebration of festive activities (e.g. Father's Day), banquets and other specialist events, business seminars. Many of these clubs are located in the heart, the fringes or completely out of the city centre and use the tranquillity of their location as a major selling point for club membership. For example, the American Club (see http://www.amclub.org.sg/) portray themselves as having everything, ‘under one roof', as the strap line on the homepage suggests,
International Town and Country Recreation Clubs
International town and country recreation clubs (as classified by Singapore Expat) like for example the Fort Canning Country Club, Raffles Country Club and Raffles Marina Club, which cater for both families and, or single/married persons, in the pursuit of lifestyle, sport and leisure activities. Like international social clubs, many of these clubs offer their members a variety of services and facilities from premier dining, restaurants and bars, gaming and banqueting to lifestyle and team sports, but importantly have access to more specialised amenities on site or in close proximity to the club, for example, golf courses, watersports, sailing and various team playing pitches (e.g. polo and cricket fields, shooting ranges). For example, the Raffles Marina Club (www.rafflesmarina.com.sg/) badges itself as the, “premier marina, nautical country club and lifestyle centre”, located on the waterfront,
Prestige Private Business Clubs
Prestige private business clubs (which could be drawn from Singapore Expat's list of international associations, sport and recreational, and country clubs) which caters specifically for Singapore's business elite, both resident and foreign. An excellent example of a private business club is the Tower Club Singapore (http://www.tower-club.com.sg/), located in the penthouse suites of the prestigious Raffles Place plaza. The ambiance of this club is summarised very aptly in one of its online brochures:
The Tower club has a selected membership of only 1,600, with membership fees of approximately SG$9,360 per annum, and offers a full range of facilities to pamper and stimulate networking opportunities between members, including: a boardroom; fitness and health centre; lounge; club bar; Chinese dining room; western dining room; ten private dining rooms; and special events (e.g. golf) (see: http://www.tower-club.com.sg/).
Finally, it is important to note that a number of international ‘expatriate' associations exist in Singapore which serve different nationalities. Such associations like the Alliance Françoise or Japanese Association for example do not necessarily offer members the physicality and benefits of the club, but provide an infrastructure of liked-nationality members for meetings, specialist events, national celebrations, and networking and business-related activities. A small fraction of these associations are tenants of particular clubs in Singapore. For example, the American Association of Singapore meet at the American Club and the Association of Dutch Businessmen meet at the Hollandse Club.
THE ROLE OF 'EXPATRIATE' CLUBS FOR BRITISH EXPATRIATES IN SINGAPORE
To investigate the role, importance and relevance of ‘expatriate' clubs in the everyday professional, social and cultural life experiences of British expatriates living and working in Singapore, the research design triangulated findings from three principal methodologies:
This triangulated methodology enable data to be collected from the two overarching demand- and supply-side protagonists: the British ‘expatriate', club member; and, the club itself, represented through the agency of the General Manager. The remainder of this section of the paper will report findings of the role of ‘expatriate' clubs in Singapore through the lens of the club and the individual, British Club member.
The Role of Expatriate Clubs in Singapore: The View from 'The Management'
Six club GMs were question about the role of ‘expatriate' clubs in supporting the everyday life experiences of British foreign talent in Singapore. These GMs were employed by a range of very well established international social, and international town and country recreational clubs in Singapore (Table 2). Five major inter-lined findings stood out from this research.
First, Singapore's lineage as a ‘club society' for foreign talent workers can be traced back to it's colonial administration and mercantile history which saw an unprecedented influx of foreign highly-skilled workers, including government officials, entrepreneurs, traders for example, into the city-state during the mid-Nineteenth Century onwards. As the GM from the Hollandse Club suggested:
All GMs agreed that the ‘expatriate' club atmosphere of Singapore for foreign talent continued and intensified post-independence from 1965 as the wave of multinational corporations locating into the city-state from Europe, North America and Asia swelled the demand for club services as these firms incorporated club membership into ‘hardship' relocation packages for their expatriate staff, which included families with children. As the GM of the Tanglin Club explained,
Essentially, the relocated foreign talent of the 1960s and 1970s demanded club facilities for their families and themselves because the condominium complexes as we know them today, with swimming pools, tennis courts, gymnasiums for example, rarely existed. Thus, if they wanted social and recreational facilities they would have to join a club.
Second, Singapore's clubs are definitely no longer associated with the label, ‘expatriate'. Singapore's club society is overtly international in scope, drawing members from all nationalities and racial creeds. All of the GMs suggested that the term ‘expatriate' was now redundant from both a social and business perspective. GMs celebrated the fact that their clubs were international social clubs, offering luxurious facilities for all members and dependents (spouses and children). An analysis of the membership of these six clubs shows very well the international scope of their customer base, and the importance of the local resident elite as a sustainable, membership group (Table 2). All GMs commented that the ‘expatriate' label had withered because of the dying corporate membership category and growing termly category (for one, two or three years only) as corporate postings were shortened in time-span and because Singapore was no longer categorised as a ‘hardship' posting. As these three GMs explain:
Third, Singapore's clubs are no longer integral to serving and maintaining the everyday lives of the British talent community in Singapore. Singapore is no longer a hardship location and being a member of a club is no longer a pre-requisite survival strategy for the ‘expatriate' household. All of the GMs suggested, however, that clubs do perform important roles in providing social and recreational support and networks for British (and other nationalities), who live with or without condominium facilities in Singapore. The British, Swiss and Hollandse clubs have all positioned themselves as ‘family' orientated clubs, where speciality events and international events were celebrated throughout the year. As the GMs of these clubs explained,
In contrast, the Pines Town and Singapore Cricket clubs focus their marketing strategy towards an adult clientele where club membership is a lifestyle choice and recreational activity. The Pines Club actively promotes their town location as being, “an important part of life … [with] … finesse and style … it must be exciting, trendy, interesting and … something …part of their lifestyle.” In a similar vein, the Singapore Cricket Club uses the prime city centre location, to promote itself as the premier sports club. As the GM explained, “… this particular club has and always will be a sports club. Its sports club first and social club a little way behind it. Most of our history is sports history … We now have 13 different sports. People primarily join the club for sport and the social and recreation that goes on with it” (GM, The SCC).
Turning to the Tanglin Club, the club overtly celebrates its tradition and pseudo-political gravitas in Singapore, drawn from an exclusive ‘high society' clientele, including both domestic residents and a wide range of other nationalities. For the Tanglin Club, its badge is, “a class act. This is top of the tree … we are a traditional. People join because of the club, its décor, ambience …and want o put their badge up saying, ‘The Tanglin Club.' (GM, The Tanglin Club).
Fourth, all GMs stressed that a fundamental aspect of the clubs business model was to sustain a thriving corporate hospitality functionality made available to the membership and outside clients for an array of activities (e.g. banquets; conferences; training seminars; networking events etc.) with different fee structures. As one GM noted, “during the week there are not so many families here so we rent out facilities … corporate hospitality is a business to generate revenue” (GM, The Swiss Club). All clubs actively promoted such corporate facilities and ambient spaces, dedicated banquet suites, board/seminar rooms and repeat business ‘corporate packages' (see Plates 1, 2 and 3), to secure corporate business from companies, other establishments (e.g. training agencies) and government, in a context of tight competition with each other and Singapore's international hotel industry. In all clubs, individual club members were able to book corporate hospitality day or half-day packages for their own use and were encouraged to suggest the clubs' social and sporting facilities for company sponsored events and activities (for example, swimming galas, team-based tournaments).
Fifth, for an individual, membership of the club actually transcends Singapore because all of the clubs interviewed were members of international reciprocal networks with clubs located around the world (Table 2). For example, members of the Pines town and country club could use the facilities of, “about nearly 50 clubs around the world, from London to South Africa” (Pines) (47 reciprocal clubs in 41 cities worldwide). All of the GMs intimated that many of their members were frequent business travellers within and beyond the Asian region, and that reciprocal clubs were used for social and business purposes. Equally, Singapore's position as a hub for business travel into Asia and beyond (Australia and New Zealand), did generate a throughput of reciprocal members from other clubs into these clubs which were viewed by all GMs as important revenue streams, particularly those which they identified as ‘repeat business' travellers. The Tanglin Club boasted the most reciprocal clubs, 160 in total, located in over 26 cities world wide.
The Role of The British Club in Singapore: Views from the British Membership
The British Club was established in 1986 and portrays itself as, “a relaxing and informal retreat where you and your family will always find a home from home in Singapore … with well-designed clubhouses... some of the finest sports and recreation facilities for entertaining family, friends and business associates.”6 The club uses it's location in the heart of Singapore 's tropical rainforest, located atop Bukit Tiggi (in Bukit Timah), as a marketing device to sell it as a, “haven of peace in bustling Singapore ” 6. The club offers a range of bars, pubs and dining facilities spanning the formal (for example The Mountbatten Room), informal (for example The Windsor Arms – a traditional British public house) and alfresco (for example the Racquets Bar and Verandah Terrace Cafe) (see www.britclub.org.sg). For the family, the club has invested in: the Millennium Sports Centre, with gymnasium, tennis and squash courts, and aerobics and dance studios; a children's playroom and outdoor playground; and teenage video games room. The club also has a library and reading room, TV room, a gaming (Jackpot) room and an outdoor swimming pool (with child trainer pool) (see www.britclub.org.sg – and take the club tour). Besides the fixed assets of the club, the clubs offers its membership a wide range activities and specially organised events (Table 3), specialist sports and recreation coaches (for example tennis and aerobics) and competitive games such as tennis, football, cricket, hockey and golf (with preferential green fees at golf clubs).
In June 2004, 24 British members of the British Club were interviewed at the club, 13 men and 11 women, with an equal share of employed members and spouses. Research findings obtained from the closed, structured segment of the interview schedule, indicated that this group of British members had several major homophilous characteristics (Table 4). First, they were all of white British ethnic origin. Second, 22 (92%) were aged between 25 and 44 years. Third, all were married with at least one child (with spouses and children as dependent club members), and a very high proportion of those children of a schooling age attended two international schools, the Tanglin Trust School (50%) and the United World College South East Asia (UWCSEA) (25%). Fourth, 14 of the interviewees were employed in professional and managerial, scientific and, or public service occupations (including surveyor, banker, accountant, teacher, diplomat), and ten classified themselves as ether ‘housewives' (8) or ‘househusbands' (2) (sic). Fifth, almost all of the interviewees lived in close proximity to the club in places such as Bukit Timah (38%), Holland Village (29%), Dover/Buena Vista (8%) and Clementi (8%). Sixth, an analysis of the membership category of these individual's revealed that 13 paid for their own membership either as Transferable Individual (S$22,050), Ordinary (Non-transferable) (S$8,925) or Life Members, and the remaining 11 had their fees paid for by their employer, either as a part of the Transferable Corporate membership category or as a combination of the other membership categories. Seventh, when questioned on the reasons for joining the British club, where multiple reasons could be selected, the two most highest ranking reasons for joining the club were: for the sport and recreational facilities; and to provide activities for my spouse and children (Table 5). In contrast, the lowest ranking reasons for joining the club were: to further my business contacts (2 responses); and, to celebrate British festivals and events to remind me of home (5 responses).
The semi-structured questions focused on obtaining data on three key questions: why individuals joined a club and why the British club in particular?; was membership of the British club a strategy to celebrate ‘British' national identity in Singapore?; and, was membership of the club a survival strategy to retain a social life whilst living in Singapore?. Each question will be answered in turn.
Club Membership and the British Club
This group of British club members joined a club and specifically the British Club for four very pragmatic reasons. First, for six respondents (notified as R), club membership and specifically to the British Club was an element of the relocation package from the United Kingdom to Singapore; as two respondents noted, “we have many friends here and it came as part of the package” (R2); and “it comes as part of the job package and we had fairly limited choice” (R20). Second, for those who lived in houses or condominiums with limited facilities, club membership provided access to sporting and recreational activities like swimming pools, tennis and squash courts, particularly for their children. These people joined the club primarily because of the quality of the sporting and recreational facilities for all of the family. Respondent's 5 and 24 respectively, aptly account for this rationale for joining the club, “well it's a nice place for children to socialise and meet their friends and go swimming in a nice big pool. It's somewhere extra to send them really”, and, “we joined in order to get out of the house and do activities, social and sport”. Third, several British members joined specifically for socialising with established friends or as a mechanism to meet new people. As two respondents noted, “I joined mainly to widen my social circle and to meet people” (R3), and “it's an opportunity to use good sports facilities, mix with other people in Singapore who you wouldn't otherwise meet in Singapore outside of the work environment and to have some good food and drink” (R19). Fourth, several members joined the British club, “because it is close to our house” (R1) and, or, “it was recommended more as a family club than say the Tanglin Club (R12). Aside from these four main reasons cited for joining the British Club, the issue of them being ‘British' was briefly mentioned as a selection criteria by six of the respondents, but mainly in the context of not having a language barrier to contend with as might be the case with other clubs (for example the German, Swiss and Hollandse).
British Club Membership and British National Identity
Seventeen respondents (71%) suggested that the British Club played no significant part at all in maintaining their British national identity in Singapore. Respondents' comment ranged from, “I don't think it does” (R1), “it's not relevant” (R2), “no, not at all. It's the facilities and location” (R5), “no, not at all … I'm not here to just meet and be British” (R6), to “I do not see my national identity as being important here. If another club had better facilities in a better location we may have not joined the British Club” (R15), and “It helps to keep you familiar with events and things going on in the UK, but we're here living in Singapore and we want an international environment” (R19). Those seven respondents who did comment on the role of the club as a space and practice which facilitated ‘Britishness' on the whole considered it to be “marginal” (R17), involving banal activities such as, “we quite like the Windsor Bar which is a pubby type of atmosphere so its quite nice to get a pint of Boddingtons now and again” (R11) or taking part in ‘British' traditional celebrations like Easter and Christmas Day, and, or watching major sporting events, like for example the Rugby and Football World Cups, Grand Prix racing and horse racing (for example the British Grand National meeting). Not surprisingly, given these non-committal views about membership of the British Club as an experience to reproduce their national identity, 71% of the respondents (17) did not consider themselves as being ‘expatriates' or living the ‘expatriate lifestyle', with representative views suggesting, “no … I'm just living and enjoying life in another country” (R5) or “I definitely don't consider myself as an expatriate … they are definitely a dying breed” (R11) or, “no … we just live a normal life” (R20). Of the seven British members who thought of themselves as ‘expatriates', respondents four, six, seven, ten, twelve, twenty-two and twenty-three, five of them had experienced living abroad before (6 years in Dubai [R4]; 9 years in Belgium [R6]; in Australia [R7]; in Africa [R10]; and in Zurich [R12]) and were more aware of, “living in a foreign country” (R7) where integration with the local nationals was difficult. As respondent 12 suggests,
British Club Membership as a Social Survival Strategy
For many spouses, membership for the British Club was an important socialisation process for everyday life and a mechanism to entertain children and cultivate a social life outside of the home. For this group of members, club membership was, “essential for keeping routine where children can do there thing and we can do ours” (R3) and such members regularly socialised with other British people. Many of these respondents socialised through their children's international school networks and friendship groups at the club often reflected that mixture of people, which could include a mixture of other expatriate nationalities. The two househusbands interviewed (R6 and R23) had were members of househusband club within the British Club which was used as a way of socialising with other men outside of the club in downtown Singapore. In contrast, for the majority of other respondents, the club wasn't a social survival strategy at all in that they used it as, “a nice escape place if we want to get out of the house and garden” (R5) or a “social outlet” (R7) and socialisation was with other British people and expatriates of other nationalities (Australians, Americans, New Zealanders, other Europeans), and local Singaporeans. Respondent 19 makes a very engaging comment about survival and socialisation and the role of the club, “it … [the club] … adds to our live in Singapore because it gives you an extra dimension. It gives you more socialising and an opportunity to meet with people who you wouldn't otherwise meet with from your work environment either through sporting events or socially having meals and drinks and everything else. It's been good for that and the British Club is a very nice place to bring guests too.”
DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS
This unique and highly original study of the role of ‘expatriate' clubs in serving the everyday needs of their British expatriate clientele in Singapore has added significant empirical strength to the debates and ideas which consider processes of ordinary transnationalism and the making of transnational social space in the city (as enspoused by writers such as Conradson and Latham, 2005; Hannerz, 1996; Ley, 2004; Preis, 2001; Waters, 2007; Yeoh, 2006). Equally, in doing so, this empirical analysis has embellished the view that ‘expatriation' and ‘expatriatization' (Chuang, 1995) as process and practice, whether in a material, economic or immaterial, social and cultural sense (respectively: Beaverstock, 2002; Ewers, 2007; Malecki and Ewers, 2007; and Scott, 2006; Walsh, 2007; Yeoh and Chang, 2001), is a significant driver in the making and production of the world city. It is no wonder, therefore, that Singapore has an overt, liberal immigration policy to attract foreign talent into the state to enhance both its economic development and wealth creation, and cosmopolitan world city credentials on a global scale (see, Yeoh, 2004). The discussion of these above issues requires some further qualification.
Expatriation and 'Ordinary' Transnationalism
Quite clearly, Conradson and Latham's (2005) incisive analyses of ‘ordinary' transnationalism (and the individual papers included in the Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies), has great resonance for the role of clubs as being conduits for everyday and banal expatriate life experiences in Singapore. The research findings from both the GMs and case study of British expatriates who had patronage with The British Club teased out the ‘ordinariness' of the functionality of being a member of an ‘expatriate' club in Singapore. On the one hand, the GMs observed that their clubs were no longer associated with being a ‘perk' to ease the ‘hardship' of being an ‘expatriate' in the colonial outpost of Singapore, but were now clearly associated with providing an international and local clientele with ‘family orientated' social and recreational facilities in the cosmopolitan world city of Singapore. On the other hand, the case study of the British expatriates who frequented The British Club clearly emphasised the ordinariness of its role in their transnational life. Whilst many had joined the club because it was a part of their corporate package to Singapore, their rationale of joining the ‘British' Club in particular wasn't specifically because they wanted to overtly celebrate or re-invigorate their national identity, but because in a more practical and mundane way, the club had all the facilities that they wanted for their family, or they already had friends there, and it was in close proximity to many of their places of residence. For this group of British people, the club was a point of socialisation, participation in sporting and social events and all around family entertainment. The club wasn't necessarily an exception place to survive the social and cultural rigors of life in a foreign city, but was quite simply another dimension to their life in Singapore where the traits of ordinary life – like socialising, eating, drinking, playing sports, swimming and participating in everyday and special events - could be performed in a very welcoming, friendly, hospitable and convivial place.
'Expatriate', Transnational Social Space
Much has been written about the existence of transnational social spaces in the city, and this study provides an example of such a place. These ‘expatriate' social and recreational clubs are cacophonies of different nationalities (Table 2), who go about their everyday life in the sanctuary of the club-world. The ‘transnationality' of the club was being continuously fed by the global-local, micro-networks of individual members, their social and cultural practices, and engagement with the worlds of economic activity and the workplace. The General Managers interviewed stressed that these clubs were international in scope and reach, and exclusive to all members and cultural sensitivities. Moreover, in a Castellian (Castells, 2000) fashion, it became very apparent that these clubs were nodes in a wider space of flows, where the notion of a transnational space was being constantly transmogrified by the incessant turnover in departing and new members as talented migrants continuously left and came into the city, bringing with them their global-local micro-worlds and networking capital (as discussed by Beaverstock, 2002; Smith, 1999; 2001). Equally, the dynamism of these clubs as transnational social spaces were constantly being reproduced by the through-flow of business travellers into the city who frequented the clubs because they were members of reciprocal clubs in other cities (Table 2), or were guests of club members. Finally, it must be noted that the clubs drive to generate revenue streams thorough corporate hospitality and attracting businesses from downtown to ‘rent' club facilities for private, social events (for example, swimming galas) also contributed to the production of these places as transnational social spaces. In essence, the clubs became an extension of downtown commerce when it was frequented by the global corporate networks of business men and women, and the performance of their transnational working practices and actions.
Final Remarks – The 'Expatriatization' and the City
In researching the role of ‘expatriate' clubs in servicing the needs of talented, expatriate British people working and living in Singapore, it is important to note that even transnational elites have ordinary transnational life-worlds to contend with, and that such life-worlds are enacted in the transnational social spaces of the city. In undertaking this study, and moving beyond the spaces of the club, it can be strongly argued that the making of the world city is intertwined with the agency of the expatriate worker, and the entirety of the process of ‘expatriatization'. Chaung's (1995) work on Holland Village, Singapore, has explicitly drawn our attention to the ‘expatriatization' of a particular place. In drawing this study to a conclusion, it is important to argue that ‘expatriatization' is a vibrant urban process (as shown clearly by Beaverstock, 2005; Scott, 2006; Walsh, 2007) which transcends time and space, and is reproduced throughout the world system of cities by a homophile ‘class' of people (in that Sklair  or Florida  reading of ‘class'), who possess certain traits of economic, cultural, social and network capital, and a particular, malleable global sense of place.
I would like to acknowledge The British Academy for funding this research project (SG-36613).
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1. Personal communication.
2. Of course, one can never discount foreign talent being members of all types of clubs in Singapore.
3. One note of caution, however, is that it can be difficult to pigeon-hole all clubs into these three categories as international social and international town and country recreation clubs do reach out to specialist membership groups, particularly at the more prestige end of the social and business spectrum.
4. Twelve club General Managers (GMs) were approached requesting an interview prior to the eight day field work in late April 2004. These twelve managers were identified from Expat Singapore's definitive list of the 12 main ‘Expatriate' Clubs in Singapore (www.expatsingapore.com.sg/once/clubs.htm, accessed 6 th April 2004). A fifty per cent response rate was recorded for interview, however, it must be noted that of the non-interviewees, only three GMs declined being interview. The remaining two non-interviewed GMs were out of Singapore on business during the fieldwork visit and would have cooperated with the study if available. All but one interview was taped recorded and all lasted between 45 minutes and one hour with the majority of interviewees being interviewed during luncheon.
5. Access for interviewing was granted by the GM of the British Club in May 2004 and the club was visited consecutively for a seven day period, from early morning to mid-evening, including a weekend. During the fieldwork visit, I was given a temporary ‘trial membership' of the club, expected to abide by all the clubs rules and bylaws, and spend the recommended weekly tariff on food and beverage. Interview respondents were selected randomly by snowballing techniques and interviewed throughout the club's venues (sports bar, club bar, restaurants). I was able to secure a 100 per cent response rate and by the end of the interview period, potential interviewees were seeking me out to be interviewed as my presence had been spread very effectively by ‘word and mouth'. All interviews were treated as confidential and detailed findings were not shared with the British Club. All interviews were recorded using a standard, closed interview schedule, with a series of open questions at the end of the interview, which were taped recorded. Interviews lasted on average one hour.
6. Quoted in the marketing brochure for new membership, Celeste Seah – Director of Sales & Marketing
Table 1 International association, town and country, and recreational clubs in Singapore
Notes: N.A. Information not known; 1. Founded by the British Royal Air Force in 1930 as the Seletar Base Golf Course.
Source: Various club publications and websites
Table 2 ‘Expatriate' clubs included in the interview survey
Source: club websites, various
Table 3 Organised activities at the British Club
Source: The British Club pamphlet (no date; also see www.britclub.org.sg)
Table 4 Personal characteristics of interviewed British Club members
Table 5 Reasons given by British members for joining the British Club
Plate 1: Banqueting and conference publicity from The Hollandse Club
Source: The Hollandse Club Advertising Pamphlet (no date)
Plate 2: The Claymore Room, The Tanglin Club
Source: The Tanglin Club
Plate 3: Seminar packages available at the Swiss Club
Source: The Swiss Club, publicity pamphlet (no date)
Note: This Research Bulletin has been published in Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 37 (5), (2011), 709-728