The Expat Returns Home: playing tour guide in Singapore

I’ve been a traveller on the road for the past 12 years so it’s strange to suddenly find myself back in Singapore and playing tour guide to visitors from abroad. I used to do it a lot growing up. I come from a family of merchants – and hosting our international suppliers was part of my job description.

But 12 years can change a lot – especially in fast-paced Singapore. 


Some of my old haunts have vanished. And new hyped up tourism sites have popped up out of nowhere. It’s June and school holiday season and there are a huge number of visitors from Japan, South Korea, China and other Southeast Asian countries. Given the large number of expatriates living in Singapore, it’s been hard for me to differentiate between those who’re just stopping by and those that have made Singapore their temporary home. 

Many tourists are here to see Marina Bay Sands and Gardens by the Bay, but that’s not the Singapore I grew up in and it’s hard for me to feel an emotional bond to those places – as amazing as they might be. 

Earlier this week, I had a friend from Melbourne pop by. We went to Chinatown where I introduced him to grilled sambal stingray. It was a childhood favourite of mine. Stingray’s texture is relatively different to other types of fish – the meat is stringy and almost meaty. We ate outdoors at one of Singapore’s many ubiquitous food streets. 

Having been an expat for the past 12 years, old forgotten memories come back to me whenever I find myself at places that I haven’t thought about in ages.


After that, we took a stroll along Clark Quay where I recounted how I used to frequent the nightlife in that area. God, it’s hard to believe that I used to do those things. These days you couldn’t pay me to go to a nightclub. I have better things to do than spend my evenings with empty people in crowded places.

A few days later, my friend Kazue San came to visit me from Japan. As I waited for her to arrive at Changi Airport, it dawned on me that a year had passed since I left Japan. But given the events of the past year – I must say that it felt like a whole lot longer. 

In the past year, I’ve been to: the UK (twice!), France, Australia, Austria and the USA (twice!). I also lived in China for a few months… Given the stability and structure of my life in Japan, it was quite the 180 degree turn from the life I once lived in the land of the rising sun.

Having said that, it’s always amazed me how some friendships have the ability to withstand the tests of time and distance. As a traveller on life’s journey, I’ve met all kinds of characters along the way. Some good, some bad. And let’s face it – most relationships and friendships end up being short-lived. There for the moment, and then gone. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

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Image courtesy of Fiona J

But there’s something super special about reunions – especially international ones. 

It might have only been a year since I left Japan, but I’ve fulfilled one of my lifelong dreams. I am a published author. I’ve started my very first business. 

Things with my very first venture are slowly taking shape. I’m not sure what’s coming next – but one thing’s for sure.

I’ve enjoyed the ride. 

Author: Dipa

Founder of Mith Books

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