Friday
September 22, 2017

Andrea Lui, Google Cloud vendor manager

Friday, May 19, 2017

Singapore swing

By Sorrel Moseley-Williams
For The Herald

CV

Age: 26
Lives: River Valley, Singapore
Born: Buenos Aires
Occupation: Asia vendor manager for Google Cloud
Education: International relations degree at Universidad Torcuato Di Tella
Currently reading: El laberinto de los espíritus
Last seen: Chef’s Table
Gadget: My Chromecast

 

iven that her parents were born in Hong Kong and Taiwan, Andrea Lui has naturally always been curious about Asia. So when the opportunity to repatriate for work came up, she seized it; the Google Cloud vendor manager relocated to Singapore three months ago.

“I’ve worked for Google for five years and from day one I knew I could have the experience of travelling and exploring the world; it was an experience I wanted to have,” she says. “And personally, though I was born in Argentina, my roots are Asian and I’ve always been curious about what’s on the other side of the world.”

After studying international relations, Andrea wanted to found out more about her origins — and China in particular.

“After four and a half years at Google, everything started to take shape so I started looking for opportunities within the company. Singapore was a bridge between the big cultural shock I had when visiting Hong Kong as a 10-year-old and the western world I’m used to. Singapore has a lot of expats; it’s a bit like ‘Asia for Dummies’! Everything is easy and people speak English but it’s strategically placed to get to know the rest of Asia. And as my regional post covers Japan, India and Malaysia, that allows me travel.”

Human contact

A recent expat, Andrea is still finding her groove in Singapore.

“It’s been three months and I’m still adapting, to be honest. The biggest cultural difference has been (human) warmth. Latin Americans are warm but here, there’s a certain degree of distance between people. It’s still hard: for example, kissing or hugging someone is very spontaneous for me but I don’t do that at work. I only hug one colleague in the morning and that’s because they know I miss that greeting that generates a connection.

“Argentines also have that Sunday ceremony of friends and family getting together, though it has always been Wednesday for me, the day my parents don’t work at Hong Kong Style, their restaurant. Everything is activity based in Singapore, and there’s nothing casual like ‘Come round for pizza’ — hanging out with people isn’t really a concept.

“Plus, Singapore is very efficient and everything work wells, which spoils you a bit because the rest of the world isn’t like that! Subconsciously I’m getting used to things working; there aren’t any traffic jams because the city is designed to incorporate both public transport and cars — it’s not a traffic jam like we know it.”

Out and about

Calling Singapore small, Andrea lives in a central area called River Valley: “A lot of expats live in this zone. It’s seen as an exclusive areas as it’s close to Orchard Road, Singapore’s Fifth Avenue, and I can walk there in 10 minutes. I like it here; Google housed me for 45 days at a hotel here until I found my own place, and I stayed on. It’s in the middle of Singapore so nothing is too far away: work is close, Chinatown and its surrounding streets are 20 minutes by bus. It’s really well located to get to anywhere.”

While her job requires a lot of travel, Andrea enjoys Singapore’s bar scene and has also taken up photography.

“There’s a lot of rooftop bars in Singapore and they all have incredible views! My weekend plan usually includes going to a new place with friends; the weather is warm all year round and the views are amazing when the sun goes down.

“I’m also studying photography; I’d always liked it but never had time in Buenos Aires. So I started a course and travelling means I can put the theory into practice. I go running too; there are lots of green spaces though it’s a bit artificial as Singapore is very sculpted. But I love going to places such as Marina Basin to Garden By The Bay to walk, run, have brunch and take some photos.

“There are lots of museums too, for example, the National Gallery used to be the Supreme Court. Singapore as a country is only 50 years old so I was surprised to find so much culture. You can easily get to know Singapore in two days though obviously you can discover a lot more over more time. I’m learning to look at it with different eyes and discover the true Singapore.

“When I had recently arrived, I’d ask people what to do at the weekend but they had no idea because they travel! If you plan ahead, you can get cheap flights to nearby countries. I am learning to plan! It’s what all the expats do. It’s my birthday next month so I’m working out where to go with some friends but the challenge is to find a place no- one has been to!”

In transit

As for friends, she has a mixture of colleagues, as well as one Argentine friend.

“It’s easy to get to know people though it is hard to make friends with local people, as they are in their own space, just as the expats are. It’s a transitory place, you do a few years here then move on and that’s why Singaporeans tend to only mix with Singaporeans, which is understandable.

“I’ve got some Filipino friends who are very warm, so I relate to them easily, while colleagues have also become friends — there are lots of opportunities to meet people.

“My friend from Córdoba just came back from Argentina and this weekend’s plan is to drink mate with her!”

Besides her friends and family, Andrea misses the taste of home and people’s warmth.

“I miss my dad’s food — even though I’m in Asia! It’s cheaper to eat out here than buy ingredients so I miss home cooking.”

And, as for her most Singaporean characteristic, Andrea has realised the shoe is now on the other foot when it comes to appearances.

She adds: “It’s funny because when I was in Argentina I always felt something different within me — people look at me and have always questioned whether I am Argentine. It’s curious now that I’m in Asia but I feel very Argentine in many ways, how I speak, I’m direct and sarcastic. When people see me here their first instinct is to speak to me in Chinese, whether it’s Mandarin or Cantonese. That was surprising! So I get to practise speaking and it’s proving to be a good place to catch up with the language. Had I moved to Shanghai, it would have been a real shock!”

 

@sorrelita

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