From San Francisco to Singapore: Finding Authenticity in a Global City

Back in January 2020, before Covid hit, Emily Fang, a Taiwanese American from San Francisco was travelling Southeast Asia but eventually decided to stick around to explore the tech hub here. Since then, she has been loving the experience and we speak to her to find out what she loves about our city!

By SGN | 2 June 2021

First things first, what do you love most about Singapore?

Oh, definitely the choices of food! You can find whatever you want here. I’m spoiled here–it doesn’t help that the food is so amazing here because I’ve gained weight from overeating. At the moment, I am constantly craving laksa or bean curd. 

Also, I feel like I’ve found a high concentration of globally minded, entrepreneurial, and risk-taking people, which I love. I’ve made some really amazing friends here. Coming here has shown me the various ways I can live an authentic life. 

What do you think is the most difficult part about working in Singapore?

I’m very close with my family and friends in SF, so being far away from them can be very hard. The difficult part is watching my world in San Francisco move on without me, and I watch that life from an outsider’s lens miles away. I’ve missed many weddings, births, and happy moments back home while living a life here in Singapore. But at the same time, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity I didn’t want to let go of, so I made my way to Singapore in pursuit of adventure. Here in Singapore, I really had to learn to be okay with myself during lockdown.

Why did you decide to start a YouTube channel?

YouTube has always been a daunting platform for me to consider creating on. Many of my early thoughts were based on the premise that there were too many YouTubers and it was highly competitive. I thought about starting, but never executed.

When I moved to Singapore last year, I decided to begin documenting a few of my experience. I had a unique perspective, coming from San Francisco as a Taiwanese American crash landing in Singapore, where this city-state was really fostering start-up innovations, encouraging entrepreneurship to locals and foreigners, and effectively managing Covid-19 compared to the rest of the world. YouTube has always been a daunting platform for me to consider creating on.  I wanted to show Singapore through my lens, so I started a YouTube channel called The Fang Girl.

Anything that surprised you about Singapore since you’ve been here?

Coming into Singapore as a US expat, I didn’t expect stark differences, and saw Singapore as another major flourishing metropolitan with Western influence. I felt that I had a good grasp of the country from everything I’ve read or seen online.

But having the  opportunity to come and live in Singapore, these are a few things that really surprised me about the Lion City.

Singapore could be the next Silicon Valley of the Southeast. Globalized, innovative, and having a low barrier of entry — this is what comes to mind when I think of Singapore.

Heads are turning to invest in early stage startups in Singapore as more international fellows flock here to chase their startup dreams in Asia, instead of Silicon Valley. Raising seed is less competitive here, national initiatives drive the need for tech solutions, and investors here are hungry to find their next rocket ship to throw money at.

Alcohol is expensive. I used to complain about the drink prices we’d pay for in San Francisco, forking out $10–14 USD for a well-made drink at an upscale bar in the financial district. In Singapore, they can range from $12–20 USD, which has largely deterred me from partying and drinking. My hangovers are basically non-existent because every time I take a sip of my drink, I remember how expensive it is and sober up.

It is incredibly safe here. I have watched people leave their items at a coffee shop to use the restroom, and no one has snatched their belongings. Anywhere else, I’m sure it’d be gone in 3 seconds. My Singaporean friends even say I am the most paranoid walker at night since I tend to look over my shoulder every 10 seconds and assure that we are safe roaming the streets at 2 am. It is said that you can go out after a night drinking, fall asleep in a taxi, and get to your destination safely.

Any tips and tricks for those thinking of making the move?

Don’t automatically live in areas heavily advertised to expats, like Somerset. You can consider doing a short term 3 month lease co-living and then figure out where you want to stay long term. There are some really beautiful neighbourhoods to consider, like East Coast Park, Lavender, or Tiong Bahru.
Be curious. Explore outside your bubble and meet people outside of the expatriate groups. You’ll be surprised by how much you can learn from others.
Network as much as possible with folks from Singapore – they’ll be your channel of getting a job in Singapore. Referrals matter greatly, and since you’ll need an employment pass, you need to show why you have a competitive or industry edge over others they can hire locally.

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About Emily

Emily is based in Singapore, connecting SE Asia’s tech scene to the rest of the world. Originally from Silicon Valley, she’s worked in community building, event marketing, and developer relations for MNCs and start-ups. Most recently, she made the move to Asia to do her own self-guided global MBA.

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