Singaporean couple now sells nasi lemak in hawker centre after failed cafe venture in


Lim was a flight attendant for over 20 years before opening her own stall. The bubbly hawker recalled: “During my travels, I’ve eaten at many places that serve Singaporean food, but they were always a disappointment. It felt like a shame because Singaporean food is much nicer (than what I’ve tried). I wanted to open our own place overseas to change that.”

When she was laid off from British Airways in 2016, her hubby, an IT professional, felt it was the right time to pursue the couple’s dream of opening an eatery. That same year, the couple and their two children relocated to Edinburgh after their application for an entrepreneurship visa was approved.


“We visited Edinburgh (before our relocation) and we were very optimistic. The people were so nice, we thought it’d be easy to find a place to open our restaurant. But that wasn’t the case at all,” Ng Tiong How said. 

During their two-year stay, the couple faced challenges in finding a suitable location for their restaurant. “We were looking for a place near The University of Edinburgh as we wanted to target Asian students and tourists,” he explained. “The places we picked all ended up having issues like structural problems or significant delays for renovation.” 

Ng recounted their biggest financial mistake there. “As our visas were expiring, we took a very big risk with a cafe that we wanted to rent. It was still undergoing renovation and despite our lawyer’s advice against it, we invested a substantial sum to complete the works without having the tenancy agreement transferred to us. The renovation dragged on for several months and we couldn’t (get it operationally ready) in time.”

The couple ended up losing “around S$200,000” out of the S$600,000 that they had set aside to open their restaurant. “We didn’t have the time or resources to pursue legal recourse to recover our losses,” he added.

With their savings dwindling and visas expiring, they made the tough decision to return home in 2018. “We thought that since we had the money, we wouldn’t have issues finding a place (to open a restaurant),” he said dejectedly. 

Despite the financial and emotional setbacks, Lim and Ng have no regrets. “Initially, there was heartache from the losses. But I’m glad our children (who were around seven and 11 at the time) had a good time and they have very fond memories of their time in Edinburgh,” said Lim.

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