In her own words: The girl from Singapore with the Tromsø dialect

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Strengthening the bonds between Singapore and Norway is a key objective for the Norwegian Business Association Singapore (NBAS), encompassing government relations, cultural exchange, and business deals. At the heart of these efforts is the individual, exemplified by “the girl from Singapore who speaks the Tromsø dialect.” Meet Laurel Felicia Lee, a lawyer and financial advisor, who embodies both Singaporean and Norwegian identities. She is delighted to be a part of NBAS and excited about her career progress in Singapore – backed by NBAS and Team Norway. 

Born and raised in Singapore, I ventured overseas at a young age all alone to experience the world. My Scandinavian adventure started in Uppsala, Sweden and it led me to Norway where I lived for more than 20 years. From not knowing a single Norwegian word to studying Law in the Norwegian language and working in Norway, I experienced many unforgettable moments and memorable years.

Brave – and crazy

In the early years of living in Norway, I did not have any social support network. When I decided to leave Singapore without knowing a single soul overseas, half of the people in my circle called me crazy whereas the other half called me brave. In Norway, I reached a point whereby I felt as if I was losing my identity as a Chinese Singaporean. By then, I was married and raising 2 small children. Since no one else in the family spoke Mandarin, I implemented a rule that everyone must speak English at home and not Norwegian. It was my way of coping with the dual identities and preserving my Singaporean roots, and at the same time, being fully integrated in the Norwegian society.

Since young, I have always been interested in 3 areas – real estate properties (under the influence of my grandmother who was a visionary entrepreneur), finance and law (within the maritime field as I like ships). Due to a family situation, I made a difficult decision to sacrifice a thriving career in the real estate industry to relocate to Singapore.

Dual identity is a blessing

One of the biggest challenges I faced was adapting to the local corporate culture. It was saddening to hear that I was somewhat “not Singaporean enough” whatever that meant. However, it did not deter me from staying true to myself and my purpose. Thanks to those early years in Norway when I went through deep philosophical reflections about the concept of identity, I have come to embrace the fact that it is not either-or choice where my identity is concerned.

I feel 100% Chinese and 100% Norwegian in my soul. Since my children are Eurasians, I shared this philosophy with them hoping that they might understand it is a great blessing even though it might not feel like it sometimes. The best description was given by my university mates in Oslo Law Faculty when they affectionately said, “Laurel er den Tromsø jenta fra Singapore som snakker Tromsø dialekt!”. Translated, it means I am the Tromsø girl from Singapore who speak Tromsø dialect. Beyond that, it represented all my happy memories of an inclusive Norwegian society.

Business advantage: Understanding cultural nuances

This blessing has given me a steadfast vision throughout all these years to marry both Norway and Singapore in the career path I choose. I have an unique advantage of linguistic fluidity moving between English, Mandarin and Norwegian seamlessly (hopefully Japanese too in the near future). My understanding of cultural nuances gives me an edge when dealing with business clients from both countries. My goal is to bring together the best sides of both economies and promoting them for mutual benefit.

Another challenge is re-establishing my network locally. Past absence from Singapore has caused it to dwindle drastically over the decades. I reconnected actively with old relationships and build new ones. I volunteer at the Norwegian Seamen’s Church for the purpose of being in touch with my Norwegian identity, to speak the language and know more people. Similarly, joining NBAS as a member allows me to widen my social circle whilst making new and meaningful connections.

Midcareer change

The COVID-19 pandemic brought about a mid-career change for me. I pursued the necessary professional qualifications to become a financial consultant. I am now happily working at Financial Alliance, Singapore’s largest independent financial advisory (IFA) firms with a wonderful team of leader and collaborative teammates.

With a specialisation in Maritime Law (NUS), I work with companies focusing on Marine Insurance and other general insurances such as Employee Benefits, Professional Indemnity, Group Medical, Group Personal Accident, Directors and Officers (D&O) Liability and Cybersecurity. My specialties include estate planning in will writing and trust set-up. I am also qualified to advise clients on various Life insurances, Endowment Plans, Integrated Shield Plans and Investment-Linked Policies.

I am convinced digitalisation and AI are here to stay, and they have huge implications for businesses. Cybersecurity will play an increasingly important role and cybersecurity insurance will accordingly take a larger portion of a company’s budget to protect itself against the constant evolving threats.

I think another interesting sphere of development lies in decarbonising the shipping industry. It is gearing itself towards achieving the International Maritime Organization’s emissions reduction goal by 2050.

Singapore Budget 2024 contains many measures which the Singapore government will implement to bring the country to higher heights and sustain our edge on the global stage. The economy has reached a level of maturity that allows us to advance the Singapore Brand more aggressively across the world.

Grateful for the support from NBAS

Upon looking back, I am truly blessed to work with what I love. Whatever aspiration you have, there will always be naysayers. It is not about proving them wrong; rather it is about lifting yourself to a whole new level and achieving what was once considered impossible.

One of my favourite writers, Maya Angelou, aptly said, “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it”. Always remain true to yourself, stay on course, and never give up on your dreams! My Scandinavian adventure continues in Singapore alongside NBAS in serving the best interests of Norwegian companies and their employees.

I am grateful for the support from NBAS and look forward with excitement to the journey ahead!