Heading West

As someone who greatly enjoys travelling, the US has always been on my bucket list and the best way to fulfill this dream was to live and work in New York City.

Every street and corner of New York breathes life – whether it’s Downtown’s shining skyscrapers, a small corner bar in the East Village, the frenzy of Brooklyn’s House of Yes or the summer food markets of Williamsburg. There is an unexplainable energy that pulses through New York’s air, which is very much different from Singapore, my home.

Although I come from a fairly cosmopolitan city, I was pleasantly surprised to discover how New York is even closer to a microcosm of the world. I have crossed paths with people from countries I’ve only seen on maps, such as Sierra Leone, Botswana, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. I had the opportunity to experience the city’s dynamic culinary scene – from an authentic Italian kitchen to experimental cultural fusions – to its constantly evolving artistic landscape, with the glamour of Broadway and many emerging artists eager to share their voice. Many of those I’ve met along the way have inspired me by their passion for their dreams, or for their drive to create a better life for themselves and their loved ones. Ultimately, the story of human ambition and dreams, in all shapes and forms, is universal across all the people I have met, whether in Asia or the West.

Just as New York opened my eyes to the world, it also brought me closer to my culture and my home. Walking through the narrow streets of Chinatown (whether in Manhattan or Flushing), I saw the familiar taken to new extremes. Every stroll down the aisle was an education in itself – the dizzying array of noodles and sauces – and encountering those of Asian descent made me learn more and feel more deeply connected to my region.

As I learned to see through others’ eyes, I also shared the things close to my heart – a warm bowl of watery jasmine rice in the morning, the smattering of English, Mandarin and other dialects we use in Singlish, the lingering umami of soy sauce, and the comforting flavors of tofu and fresh fish paste. For example, I’ve always used a spoon and fork to dine instead of a fork and knife, which I’ve discovered is a very Singaporean dining behavior.

It’s still a thrill to explain that how my country is all but one city with a balmy, humid summer all year round where it’s normal to stroll around in flip flops. At the same time, through the many questions I get asked, I’ve also learned much more about the place where I grew up.

It’s been six months since I’ve moved to one of the world’s greatest cities and it’s been transformational – discovering not only the world, but also myself.


Wen Yun Tan
Senior Business Analyst
Wen Yun is a Senior Business Analyst with the Singapore office, with a background in Sociology and Marketing. She loves reading (most recent read: Emotional Agility by Susan David), fashion, travel, good food, and great company!.