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You lived abroad for many years. What brought you back to Singapore?
I just returned after living in London and Jakarta for more than 10 years, partly for work and also because my parents are getting old. I think it’s a good pit stop for me to catch my breath and rethink my life choices.

That said, Singapore has changed a lot since I’ve been away, so I’m still figuring out how to navigate the social milieu of my home country.

How different was your experience living in each city?
Oh, they’re all so different in almost every aspect!

London is a very mature economy and huge city, a real melting pot of different colours, religions, races, and languages. We talk about Singapore being multi-cultural, but I think this sense is felt much stronger in London. My experience there was certainly eye-opening in so many ways.

Closer to home, you’d be surprised by the level of freedom that the people in Jakarta embody in their daily lives—freedom to strike out and do whatever they’re passionate about. Living there made me realise that Singaporeans are inherently risk-averse. If we want to start a business, we think twice, even three times because there’s so much to lose. But there, there’s a sort of social safety net that gives them the confidence to try. Seeing that has pushed me to be more courageous with the life choices I make.

Would you consider yourself a risk-taker then?
Well, there’s still a lot of Singaporean in me that I have to work out (laughs). But yeah, I think since living in Jakarta, starting a business has been something I’m considering.

Is that what’s next for you?
Starting my own business is something I’ve been thinking about; I’m also considering pursuing my PhD. I’ve been looking at programmes in Europe and East Asia because I feel a constant urge to move, so I probably won’t stay put for long.

What kind of business would you want to start?
Maybe open a bookstore. My theory is that bookstores are refuges of cultural milieus. If you go to a bookstore in London, say Waterstones, you’re actually buying into the English culture and way of seeing the world. Likewise, I want to start a Southeast Asian bookstore where the perspective comes from us Southeast Asians. That’s a nerdy little thought that’s been bubbling about in my head.

Can you share with us your favourite Southeast Asian writer(s)?
I really like Indonesian writers like Chairil Anwar and Pramoedya Ananta Toer.

As for Singaporean writers, I’m more familiar with scriptwriters rather than literary ones. Fun fact: I used to be a drama teacher!

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