Born in Leuven
Profession Assistant Professor of Strategic Management at Singapore Management University
Favorite quote “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man” - George Bernard Shaw
“I’ve lived here since …” January 2015
“I came here because of …” I was finishing my PhD in London and my supervisor had received an offer to become dean of SMU’s Business School. He kindly extended that offer to me and took me along as a post-doctoral researcher.
“Taty and I know each other from …” Taty and I met in the Antwerp evening scene. It was some evening at the infamous Zuid. We had a shared friend who introduced us. We had a great evening and stayed in touch ever since. Back then, I was living in Antwerp and she had just returned from her stint in LA.
“When family/friends come to visit, I always take them to … first” Haven’t had family visiting yet, but I did not send the couple of friends who came anywhere really. Lots of places to have nice food and depending on what you like, sports, drinks, or some artsy places are available.
“If I want to get to know new people, I go to …” Two places. In the digital world, Tinder or Wander (a Singaporean startup that is basically Tinder for travelers) are good options. SG has a constant inflow and outflow of new people so it’s impossible to randomly run into everyone. Hence sometimes a digital proxy can be pretty useful, if only to extend your horizon. Alternatively, at night Club Street would be the best place to meet fellow expats (known as Ang Mo in Singlish). Tanjong Beach Club is another option at Sentosa island but it’s quite full of people who really like themselves, so you gotta suit that crowd.
“If I want to have an amazing breakfast/lunch/dinner, I go to …” Breakfast in Hong Kong Street, a place called damn I don’t remember. It’s a small street with many places but it has black walls on the inside and very high ceilings, can’t really miss it. Lunch, I generally go to a local Hawker centre, which are the typical local food shops in SG where you can get all kinds of Asian food, for a couple of SGD (1 SGD is about 0.7 EUR atm). Dinner places are hard to come by. There are loads of them but many are very expensive, as is much of the really good food here. An exception is Wine Connection where you can get great food at very reasonable prices and it’s one of the only places in SG (besides Drinks and Co on Club Street) where you can buy wine that is both decent and not crazy expensive. Money is an item here, SG is not cheap at all. Luckily taxes are between 7 and 20% so that takes the edge of, that is if you live and work here.
“When the night is young, I go to …” Club Street, Haji Lane or Arab Street, those are the kind of places where you can be drinking on the street and in the bars for a long time. Robertson Quay, Boat Quay, and Circular Road are other options. There are a couple of small clubs over there as well if you are into that. The bigger clubs are Kyo, Kilo, Bang Bang or another one I don’t remember. I generally steer clear of those places. Not my music, not my people, and dancing is really something I tend to avoid. But the best evenings often start in some local watering hole or a BBQ with friends and end up in a spontaneous house party. That’s the way to go in Singapore.
“If I want to reflect, I go to …” MacRitchie park for a long run, Gardens By the Bay to get lost and found, or just swimming in my Olympic pool next to my condo. Life is not bad in SG, most expats will live in condomiums with private pools, BBQ pits, small gyms, and sometimes tennis and squash courts. But for real contemplation, leave SG. Go to Changi airport, routinely voted the best airport in the world, and get out!
“My morning routine consists of …” Wake up, stretch, have some toast or cereal or nothing and go to work, get a coffee and start working, That’s a normal day although breakfast at home can be replaced by a Subway sandwich near work. I haven’t quite gotten into the whole ‘eat noodles for breakfast' vibe. Ideal mornings start with a swim before work or on Wednesday I go dragon boating – a popular team sports here in South East Asia – which is truly the best way to start the day.
“I like the locals more than Belgians because …” The locals are generally more open to other cultures and are more genuinely interested in foreign people. We Belgians are often stuck beneath the church tower, both physically as well as mentally.
“I like Belgians more than the locals because …” Damn we have better beers, nice food, better chocolate, and it’s easier to establish deep bonds with each other. But that is perhaps only the case because I am Belgian myself.
“If I miss one thing here, it’s … “ My great friends in London and Antwerp, but most of all it’s good wine. You really can’t get it anywhere except perhaps at the airport, so lots of travel is necessary if you want to be an alcoholic :)
“If there’s one thing that frustrates me here, it’s …” The Singaporean is a rule abiding citizen, to the extreme. There is a daunting lack of critical thinking or questioning the purpose of rules. Rules will be followed in a slave-like fashion and people will refuse to budge, even for clearly ridiculous things. Like, people in my condo have called the guards because I was sitting in the pool on my own minding my own business after 10pm, which is against the rules… Following the rules has made Singapore the most successful and fastest developing nation in the history of the modern (and probably ancient) world. What the country has achieved over the past 5 decades is truly remarkable, but for the next 50 years of growth, they will need more entrepreneurs and per definition, those are unreasonable people who need to be able and encouraged to change the status quo. The good things is the government knows, but they have a long way to go.
“I get inspired here by …” Smart people. Everything around SG. The world is nearby and the regional flights are cheap. Everywhere else is cheaper than Singapore so it’s easy and great to get away from the normal life and just fetch a flight to Ho Chi Min or Bangkok, go to the Cambodian beaches or go for a crazy weekend to Phuket.
“Since I live here, I’ve changed my mind about …” What it means to be grateful. Perhaps less due to the city itself but mainly thanks to one of my friends whose gratitude for life is very inspiring. If I look back at the trajectory I have walked ever since deciding to change secondary schools, go to uni without knowing what I really wanted to do and where I am now, I am so grateful for the good, the bad, and the beautiful things I have seen and experienced. No better place than now.
“If I could go back in time, I would go grab a … with … ” Living in Singapore, I almost have to say Lee Kwan Yew, the father of the nation, the guy who built a country like other built companies. I’m sure having a talk with him about half way through the SG transition would have been very interesting.
“The one thing I’d like to accomplish still, is …” Find true love, I’ve heard great things about it.
More tips? SG is a better place to work and live than it is to visit. Come here for a few days to check out how awesome it can be in Asia light (as SG is lovingly known) but don’t spend a week here while there are so many amazing places around to go and see. In my first year in Singapore I went to Mount Ophir, Tioman and Penang (Malaysia), saw the temples of Angkor Wat in Siem Reap (Cambodia), and got swept away in craziness in Phuket and Bangkok (Thailand) and those were the short strictly fun trips. Besides that I spent a week in Brisbane (Queensland, Australia), two weeks in Vancouver (Canada) for work, and flew back to London, Milan, and Brussels once for a variety of semi-professional reasons. Life is just better here.
Coffee or cocktails? Coffee and GTs
Wine or beer? Wine please god wine
Red carpet or red lipstick? Neither
USA or Europe? Europe hands down. Too many Americans in the US.
Organic food or fast food? If I could organic, but fast (Asian) food is much more common unfortunately. I’ll do better in 2016.
Movies or musicals? Movies.
Island life or city life? City life.
Spicy or sweet? Spicy hot food and chocolate B&J ice cream (Ben and Jerry’s is known in SG as BJ, which is, when you come from London, rather confusing. The same can be said about Din Tai Fung, a famous dumpling chain, which is commonly called DTF). Singaporeans love abbreviations.
Bike or car? Public transport.
In control or out of control? In control.
Meat or fish? Fish (although here you often get both)
Christmas or Easter? Christmas.
Spanish or Italian? Spanish.
Early bird or night owl? Both again. Given the heat I tend to rise early, no matter how late I go to bed.
Chocolate or vanilla? Chocolate.
Adele or Celine Dion? Adele.
Chandler or Joey? Chandler.
Cats or dogs? It’s raining cats and dogs here in the ‘winter time’. Still 30 degrees Celsius, but when it rains it pours. Regarding animals, neither thanks.
Vacation or staycation? Vacation.
Mountains or ocean? Ocean.
Chicken or pasta? Pasta.
Scandinavian or Latino? Latino.
Ski or surf? Gotta learn to surf. 2016!
Finding true love or winning the lottery? True love.
Oscar/Grammy or Nobel Prize? Nobel Prize. As a kid I had the ambition to win two of them in the same year. I don’t think that’s feasible any longer but I’d happily settle for one.
Instagram or Facebook? Fb.