From Trailing Spouse to Working Mom in Japan and Singapore with Dinasha Cellura

Dinasha Cellura

In this episode of the Expat Empire Podcast, we will be hearing from Dinasha Cellura. After building an impressive career in Silicon Valley, Dinasha and her husband realized that they weren’t quite ready to settle down yet. Before long, her husband received an offer of a job transfer to Tokyo, Japan, so Dinasha followed along, unsure if she would be able to continue her career. Despite the concerns of the other trailing spouses that she knew, Dinasha persevered in her job search and found a position in Japan. 

She continued working at the Japanese company even after her husband’s job led the family to move to Singapore. After a few years and a few job changes in Singapore, they all headed back to the United States where she had to reintegrate into Silicon Valley.

Dinasha has lived and worked in multiple countries, juggling her career alongside raising her kids, and has faced some cultural challenges and heartbreaking tragedy along the way. Listen in on the conversation to hear how she did it and how you can contribute to her new foundation!

LEARN in this episode:

✔ How to continue your career abroad even as a trailing spouse raising children

✔ Tips for negotiating salaries and contracts abroad, especially as a trailing spouse

✔ Some of the professional and personal cultural differences between countries in Asia

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Welcome to the Expat Empire Podcast, the podcast where you can hear from expats around the world and learn how you can join them.

Hey guys, before we get to the interview, I want to remind you that we’re offering free 30-min consulting calls to anyone interested in moving abroad. 

Whether you’re thinking about retiring somewhere warm, starting an international career, or becoming a digital nomad, we’re ready to help you think through the next steps in your journey. 

Send us a message at to schedule your call today!

With that said, let’s start the conversation.


David McNeill: [0:00:47] Hey Dinasha. Thanks for joining us today on the Expat Empire Podcast.

Dinasha Cellura: [0:00:51] Hey David, thanks so much for having me. Great to be here.

David McNeill: [0:00:55] It’s great to connect with you again. We’ve worked together in the past in Japan and our paths split and diverged a bit. You’ve had a lot of interesting experiences since then, so it’s a pleasure to catch up and of course, to hear about everything that’s happened in the intervening years.

Dinasha Cellura: [0:01:09] Yeah. It’s definitely good to see you and I remember some of those experiences we had. It’s great.

David McNeill: [0:01:15] Absolutely. Let’s get into it. Of course, first I’d love to know a bit more about your background and everywhere you’ve lived around the world. If you could tell us where you’re originally from, where around the world you’ve lived so far and where you’re currently based that would be great.

Dinasha Cellura: [0:01:30] Sure. Well, I guess the tale dates back to my parents being immigrants from Sri Lanka and they came and settled in the US, became US citizens. I was born in the US, grew up in California and other than travel, never really uprooted because we had come so far. I went through school and college all in the California area. Then started my career and came across an opportunity, kind of had checked all the boxes; got married, had a kid, was living in the suburbs and sort of looked up and went, is this it? I just felt this Titanic kind of shift of wanting to do something different and rip the band aid off.

That’s when my husband decided to raise his hand, he works in insurance, for an overseas opportunity and it just moved so quickly. We had no idea. I envisioned Paris, but when he came home, he was like, “Tokyo” and I’m like, “Tokyo, oh my gosh, I have no clue about its culture or the industry there.” I just started doing research and it seemed like a blink that we were loading up and heading to Japan and embarked on what ended up being the experience of a lifetime for sure. 

When we first headed out, I was unable to transfer with my work. I work in tech. I got there thinking I would just be a trailing spouse and there’s a lot of things that come with that when you’re leaving a career and now you’re a trailing spouse and didn’t speak the language. I immediately entered into taking Japanese and explored and was enjoying that, but always felt like I’m just a career person. It was just something that was drawing me back in.

I was able to actually register with some foreign recruiting agencies in Japan. I was surrounded by the likes of women who had MBAs and worked for Johnson & Johnson and are these accomplished women who were also at home with their children and were resigned to the fact of, this is sort of what being a trailing spouse of an expat life was going to be. They looked at me like I was a little bit crazy that I was actually looking for a job. I managed to register my resume and have like introductional interviews with recruiting firms and wondered if I would ever have an opportunity since I didn’t speak Japanese. Lo and behold I got a call from ASICS Sportswear. It’s a Japanese company and was able to get a role kind of a ground level role. It wasn’t about the money. It was about assimilating into the workforce in Japan, which is such a core part of their culture.

That was embarking on a completely different experience in Japan. I had already been there for 17 months as a mother working through the community, volunteering at the school and to shift gears to now working eight-hour days and plugging into the Japanese workforce was a whole new experience, which you’re familiar with. I think I walked in those doors and you were sitting there.

David McNeill: [0:05:51] Yeah, I forgot about the timing exactly, but yeah, it definitely was an interesting experience for both of us. I’m glad we were able to go through that. Where did things kind of head for you from there in terms of other assignments abroad and where you’re kind of based today?

Dinasha Cellura: [0:06:10] From there I continued to live and work and enjoy. Japan is so rich. People from the outside see it as a very insular place, but with that comes this preservation of just a pristine culture and landscape and such a beautiful design, art, the way that they approach everything. I remember I went to the store and I ordered deli meat and they had wrapped it in this beautiful envelope with a seal on it. I was like, wow, this is the best deli meat I’ve ever bought. But from there I lived and worked for almost five years in Japan. When my husband started to get a little bit of an itch again and once you get a taste of working abroad and all the opportunities that it brings you, it definitely compressed his level in the company between him and like sea level, because they are more hands on deck with other emerging geos or outside geos from the US.

So he started to get exposure and opportunities bubbling up in other places, which is when he decided to take an opportunity in the Southeast Asian market in Singapore. I fortunately had the support at ASICS and management to get a transfer and was able to transfer to Singapore. We moved from a beautiful four pristine seasons to totally humid tropical heat. Singapore as well, they have their own unique culture and they manage to have their own utopia there that they keep very clean and orderly and everyone’s happy living and working. We rerouted there and settled into a central role in Singapore in the Orchard area and embarked on our journey there for three years before coming back to the US, which was also just a big decision.

David McNeill: [0:08:39] I’m sure.

Dinasha Cellura: [0:08:39] Yeah, a big shift once again.

David McNeill: [0:08:42] Absolutely. Now of course, you’re back in the states and things are quite different there from when you left and so on, but I definitely want to dive into your journey as you were talking in the beginning about setting everything up and sort of having that lifestyle there in the United States before Japan, and that opportunity came along. You had your career base in the US as well. I’m sure as you were talking about it before, this idea of the trailing spouse and not being sure if you’d be able to, or if you’d want to, or how you would be able to tackle trying to enter the Japanese job market. What was going through your head in those early days, and in those ensuing months, as you were gearing up to try to figure out how you could enter the market. Also the other voices you were hearing, like you said, maybe other spouses that thought you were a bit crazy or thinking of doing something a bit out of the ordinary compared to what they had experienced or seen in other foreigners that had moved abroad with their families.

Dinasha Cellura: [0:09:46] Yeah. I think I definitely went through a phase of awakenings, rude awakenings when I was still in the US trying to transfer and speaking with management at my company. They tried to connect with our counterpart team in Japan and it just wasn’t gonna happen. They had to break the news to me that they were like, we’re sorry, we would love to retain you, but we just can’t place you over there. It was a blow. It was a kind of a shift in my beliefs of having to sort of follow my husband, there’s almost like a sacrifice, a compromise there. Yeah, like a leap of faith.

Once you touch down in a new country, you’re so consumed with settling in, setting up house, figuring out how to get your paperwork and your visa and everything situated. That consumed me. Then also being able to just explore, I mean, there was so much to see and do and boxes to check and learning the language that it deferred me for a significant amount of time, diving into all of that and holding down the Fort at home while he was settling into his job where he had a translator earpiece that he wore all day. He was also dealing with a lot of cultural shifts in the workplace.

I didn’t really think about it as much once I touched down in Japan, but then as the time started to pass, I was like, there’s got to be something more here. I actually went into consulting at first, I was writing a blog for a website that catered to foreigners. It was just like things to see and do and foods and recipes and sort of an all encompassing ‘what to do in Tokyo’ website that I was right for. It just sort of lit the fire of, all right, I want to start looking at things that I can do outside of just being the trailing spouse. But yeah, I did confide in some of my friends at the time who were other moms that we were working with the school on a lot of things like event planning.

When I got the offer from ASICS, I actually was debating taking it. One of my friends who was not working in Japan, but held pretty high positions back in the US was like, you should do it, just take it. I really felt like it stuck out. There weren’t a whole lot of moms that were working other than…there were moms who were expats and then the dad was at home. It was kind of the setup. You’d see the dad walking around or drop off and pick up. It was kind of like, that was the formula, I think, but it was drastically different in Singapore. In Singapore, all the moms work. Different dynamics, I think in Japan, for Japanese native moms and women, typically after they start a family, most of them hang up their hats on their careers.

I think that they’re moving toward changing that. I think that there’s a desire to be able to hold a career and be your own self-sufficient woman there. I hope that they make progress on that. In Singapore it’s wildly different. I mean, women are just in the workforce, they’re out there. They’re more in your face about it, a lot of conferences and women’s conferences. I joined the Lean In circle while I was there, which was coached on executive leadership and was the communities and women and leaders, and just interesting comparison in the women communities between both countries.

David McNeill: [0:14:43] Yeah. I can imagine. Definitely quite different. It’s interesting how that played out in your career as well, and your experience in both countries. How did you actually go about finding these opportunities, whether it was in Japan or in Singapore, as sort of the “trailing spouse” to use that phrase. Given that you weren’t necessarily just set up with a job there through your husband’s company. Of course he was the sort of driving force behind the move in terms of his career in the insurer business, how did you find those opportunities? Ultimately to get them, especially in a competitive market like Japan, where you didn’t speak the language fluently, you didn’t have the cultural context as much as a local person would have. It’d be great to hear about how you made it happen.

Dinasha Cellura: [0:15:28] Yeah, I think in Japan, getting the job at ASICS was very kind of a mechanical process in getting the contract signed. I learned a lot and probably made a lot of beginner/amateur mistakes around that. 

When I moved to Singapore, I quickly realized in my ASICS job that I had lost out on a lot of autonomy and ability to drive impact to the business because I moved from the headquarters to a region that was small and I had little access compared to where I was before. I very quickly realized that it was probably time to start using my advantage of being in Singapore, where there are much more avenues to exploring job opportunities and career opportunities and making a change there. People are hopping around all over. We had a lot of US startups and Australian, European companies that have set up shop in Singapore. It’s really a bustling hub. Just that set of markets there in Southeast Asia are just like huge growth potential for most companies.

I quickly realized that I should make a move and was able to use all the general channels that we have at our fingertips here in the US and very quickly, I think in less than a year, I was able to move on to a startup, a mobile marketing startup. It was set up in a very modern fashion. They were in a kind of a WeWork type space and this beautiful building downtown. We had rented out a corner of a floor and, and was once again, exposed to a nice melting pot of cultures and backgrounds. Singapore is just like people from everywhere. A far more of an expat presence in Singapore versus Japan.

David McNeill: [0:17:41] It sounds like in Japan, you were able to get that job at ASICS through a recruiter. Did you also find the recruiting companies to be helpful to you in Singapore as well? Or was it just a cultural factor that made that aspect, that route to find a job in Japan easier compared to maybe in Singapore?

Dinasha Cellura: [0:18:01] Yeah. I did actually keep some of my network of recruiter contacts who had also made a move from Tokyo to Singapore. I was able to get my second job I held in Singapore or actually third, was at a paid media agency. The recruiter that placed me there actually, I had met her in Tokyo. The transient is sort of amongst all of the different industries, it helps as far as making contacts and keeping contacts. I found it interesting too, that I think ASICS, as they tried to transfer me, they would not offer me any type of expat benefits unless I relinquished my husband’s expat package.

David McNeill: [0:18:55] Oh, really?

Dinasha Cellura: [0:18:56] Yeah. Their view was that only one of us should have an expat package. Unfortunately, their package paled in comparison to my husband’s, so I had to turn that down.

David McNeill: [0:19:07] Yeah. That probably would not have been the best decision right.

Dinasha Cellura: [0:19:10] They definitely made adjustments based on their currency exchange, their view of living cost. There were a lot of points of contention around that transition. I think that also in Asian countries, they know when you’re a trailing spouse and they take that into consideration in the type of offer/salary range that they’re offering you. They know that you’re secondary income. I think there is some discrimination around that.

David McNeill: [0:19:49] You were able to actually, of course, initially keep that job at ASICS, from Japan when moving to Singapore. Looking back at it now, given those challenges that you just talked about, in terms of negotiating and the way they viewed you and so on, do you think that was the right decision in terms of getting set up there in Singapore with it, or going back would you have sort of maybe cut it in Japan and then tried to go straight into something new in Singapore after arriving?

Dinasha Cellura: [0:20:17] I think it afforded me a little bit more of a smoother transition to have kept the company I was at or with constant. They actually were doing some pretty interesting and fun community type things in Singapore. It helped me sort of branch out, make some friends, and get acquainted. The Singapore office also was very Singaporean, like culture-wise and work style. Even the foods that they would eat at lunch I would join them. Overall, the experience I think was worth it, even if I may have lost financially in the transition. Then it gave me a stepping stone to really start looking around and getting the lay of the land because everything’s concentrated in that central financial district area. You very quickly can see like, okay, there’s a lot of opportunities here and happy hours after work. The place is pumping. It’s really easy to start building a network when you touch down. I think it kind of all panned out the way it needed to pan out.

David McNeill: [0:21:36] Yeah. That makes sense. First you were working and building your career in Silicon Valley, working with a lot of tech companies there, then you made your way to Japan and ultimately to Singapore and back to the United States. I’m curious about what it was like if you could compare the difference in the working culture, the day to day culture at the office, between the Bay Area and the tech company there and then in Japan and of course in Singapore as well.

Dinasha Cellura: [0:22:03] Yeah, that’s interesting. Well I think the one thing paralleled really between the US and Japan was the work ethic. Immediately upon walking into, and I have a little bit of an edge case experience in Japan because I didn’t walk into a floor of 300 Japanese people sitting there like my husband did. I walked into an office in Shibuya, which is pretty central in Tokyo, of a bunch of transplants that were from…we used to call ourselves “the zoo.” I think what ASICS headquarters set out to do was to really kind of hire a more diverse globalized team and many of us spoke perfect Japanese, your present company included here, others of us, not so much. I think the whole goal was for us to help globalize the company because much of their transactional revenue was happening overseas. It was happening in the US. It was happening in Australia. They needed a team on the ground in Tokyo that could really rally the regions together. The regions were operating very uniquely in their own space and running their own brands pretty much.

I think it was a really impressive move by a Japanese company to create a diverse team like ourselves that came together and helped globalize the company and unify the company. We made a lot of headway doing that. But to answer your question because of that differentiation, it was very unique. When I walked in there was a little comfort in my manager was French. We had a Venezuelan, we had a Swedish, we had a few Americans, a handful of Americans, which was quite in ratio, in number with how many Americans actually were in Tokyo, which was, I wanna say, at the time I had learned from my blog, it was only like 15,000- 16,000 Americans that they were targeting as far as their email.

We were definitely quite few in number sitting in that office. I don’t know if it’s reflective of the real true immersion in the Japanese workplace, but I did get a sense of that when we would visit headquarters in Kobe. We’d go to headquarters in Kobe is when I was like eyes wide, just seeing they have a bell that chimes for breaks. Everybody’s sort of dressed somberly and a lot of rules are followed. The cafeteria is like being back in college. Meetings are very structured and not a lot is revealed of what people really think. I think that’s a huge difference between Americans and Japanese. Japanese are much more calculated and strategic in the way that they share their opinions and make decisions. That could probably be to a fault in some cases.

But our way is also to a fault in many cases where we’re very consensus driven and everybody’s voicing their opinion and there’s no reservation. That was interesting as well. But I feel like it led to when decisions were made, it was like a very strong firm movement in a certain direction for better or for worse. I also got to work on a team that was helping with the Olympics and Japan we just had 2020 Olympics in 2021, but just the commitment and the history, like the rich history that went into sponsoring the Olympics, being part of the Olympics then now working into hosting the Olympics. It was really cool to watch just the design and the artistry that went into our brand and our presence at the Olympics. It was a very cool way to learn about Japanese.

David McNeill: [0:26:52] Yeah. That was definitely a good spot to be in, to be able to see it happening on an international stage. As you said, working across all these global teams, it was certainly not your typical, I think working experience in Japan, but as you said, we’re still working for a Japanese company and there were many points along the way, along the weeks and months and years that we could see and feel some of the influence of the Japanese headquarter and the fact that we were in Japan, even if not the main office.

Dinasha Cellura: [0:27:23] Yeah. I think we always…we may have had our own approach, direction, ideas, but we always, at some point hit the, okay, Japanese decision making here. That was always the reality that we were at a Japanese company.

David McNeill: [0:27:41] Right. Then as you transitioned in the same company for that matter first into Singapore, and of course had other work experiences at other companies in Singapore as well, how did you see it change from Japan, to Singapore. They’re in the same rough region of the world, more or less let’s say, obviously very different from the Bay Area still, but I can imagine there was a big cultural shift that you felt at the workplace as well.

Dinasha Cellura: [0:28:09] Yeah. I think in Singapore, they did a really good job of, they were Singaporean through and through. I mean that office, they celebrated their culture, their holidays, their being together. The camaraderie was really similar to Japan. Everybody ate lunch together, but different in the way that they honored Japan’s design and commitment to the brand, but in their own way. They had their own flare to the way that they approached their business. They also had this unique, I think it’s akin to Europe because Europe has to deal with all these different markets and languages. I think other countries take that for granted, like how drastically different the populations are. Southeast Asia has the same challenge; the Philippines or Vietnamese and Indians, it’s just completely different and you get grouped into one region and it’s just like, absolutely not…it doesn’t apply. One message doesn’t apply at all.

That was really a learning experience for me to start to recognize, wow, like these people are all so different from each other. One thing that I really also was impressed with in Singapore, is it truly is a hub and a very welcomed space to all of those markets. You see the presence of everybody and I blended in. Which was an interesting thing for me because I’m American, I sound American, I was born and raised in America, but I look Sri Lankan. There’s a ton of Sri Lankans who are in Singapore working and living. It’s a typical migration path for freedom and opportunity. I started to realize that I didn’t know how to introduce myself anymore. In America, I would say I’m Sri Lankan, but I out there I couldn’t really say I’m Sri Lankan. I had to say I’m American.

Singapore’s very welcoming and they celebrate everyone’s holidays. The Hindus, the Christians, so you get to observe that and take part in all of the celebrations and the different areas of the city and just learn so much around that. It’s not like a one sided view of the calendar year.

David McNeill: [0:31:04] Yes, and as you were saying, I mean, at least I felt this way going to Japan as well. Is that just from the way that you look just when they see you on the street, they can kind of probably get a pretty good sense that we’re not Japanese by origin, they might maybe somewhere way back, or they might think something like that, but probably not the most recent generation. Whereas if you go to a more, let’s say international, certainly welcoming all different cultures type of place like Singapore yeah, you do run into that question of, are you local or are you maybe from a nearby country or things like that. Did it feel, I don’t know, obviously you were grappling with some of the differences between the two countries, but did it feel somehow more like home, even from that perspective or would you not necessarily say that and go that far?

Dinasha Cellura: [0:31:59] It felt more relative like it I had been to Sri Lanka many times in my childhood growing up and being closely connected to my family I’ve had close ties with my roots and my culture, but there’s definitely a dynamic there where you feel like you’re a fish out of water and you don’t belong, but you should. I definitely grappled with it in certain situations. Where if I would be surrounded by Indians and Sri Lankans and we’re having a conversation and they just couldn’t believe, they’re like, so you’ve never lived there? I’ve never lived there. It’s like, is that really your accent? Are you just putting it on right? A little bit of an identity crisis at times, but also just wonderful to be so close. I made a lot of trips to Sri Lanka. I visited my family and saw my grandmother. It was a few hours flight. I’ve never had that luxury growing up, so that was great.

David McNeill: [0:33:10] And did you have sort of a nice culture shock experience or I don’t know, international experience to move from a country where the language is just so difficult and hard to break into, to a country where English is extremely widely spoken. It’s sort of the common tongue across so many cultures and obviously probably helped you in your career to find those next opportunities as well. What was that like? Did it feel like a breath of fresh air?

Dinasha Cellura: [0:33:39] It definitely did. When we touched down we looked to place our kids at this amazing international school, and there was an American school there, the Singapore American School, which had been around since 1950; a large campus, like a college campus. One of the things that they had talked about was how in the early 1950s, they had mandated teaching English in all of the schools across Singapore. It seems like that decision in comparison to Japan, is really what eventually widespread the ability to speak English, which is great. But by and large, most people had that advantage of they didn’t just speak English. You would hear in the workplace, you’d hear Hindi being spoken or Mandarin. Everybody had a couple of languages at least in their arsenal so I didn’t have that advantage, unfortunately. I had my basic Japanese that helped me maybe a little here and there, but not enough.

David McNeill: [0:34:52] Sure, sure. It sounds like it was quite a good fit for you there. You and your family had great schools, you were building your career alongside your husband’s career as well. How did end up being that you moved back to the United States and what sort of decision-making process did you go through to make that decision?

Dinasha Cellura: [0:35:12] You know, it’s an interesting journey for us foreigners when we’re abroad. I think we all face the constant sort of tides inside of us, should I go back? Oh, you went back for the holidays and you saw some old friends and there’s like delusions of grandeur going on there. It continued to be sort of this haunting voice to both of us over the years that just got bigger and louder and louder and louder. Finally, we were thinking, oh maybe it’s time. My husband got an opportunity. Just kind of, it’s funny how you think about things enough, you put out in the universe enough and a kernel is born and that’s kind of what happened. I think we thought about it and we talked about it too much, something came along.

David McNeill: [0:36:16] You got what you were thinking about, whether you wanted it or not.

Dinasha Cellura: [0:36:18] Then we went here it is, let’s do it. Got something back in California. Actually, my husband’s manager in Tokyo had lived in Tokyo for 11 years up in the Roppongi towers. He had made his way back to California and he’s actually not from California, so he was living and working in California so he had the open door for my husband, he was like, Hey, why don’t you come back? You can work for me. My husband actually is still to this day working for him. Yeah. I basically just left my job that I was at in the paid media agency in Singapore. I just shut it down. I just felt like I didn’t want to go through the heavy lift of the transition and this was going back home and it just felt like I needed to just pull the plug and just pack up and figure this out. That’s what I did. I just pulled the plug and headed back out to the US with no plan.

David McNeill: [0:37:29] How long did it take for you to figure out your next plans from there? Did you just take it easy for a while or did you just jump right back into it? Just eager to get back into the San Francisco tech scene?

Dinasha Cellura: [0:37:42] Yeah, you know, I’m always trying to take it easy and then something about me just won’t let me rest. Yeah, we got back and started going out to San Francisco and bopping around and meeting up with old connections and it was not too long before I was hitting the pavement, starting to look for opportunities and it was pretty hot. The market was pretty hot. We landed in the summer of 2019. It didn’t take me too long, it took me a few months to find a new role. I think what was unique about it though, is you kind of feel at a loss coming back from abroad to at least to the US. 

Not, everybody’s going to look at your resume and say, wow. There were a lot of folks looking at my resume and going, okay, well are you still hitting all the buzz points that’s going on here? What’s going on in the microcosm of San Francisco and who do you know, and what tech company are you coming from before this. Versus, oh, look, you worked across all these markets and you have all this knowledge. Not a lot of that came through as I thought it might have. Even to this day, I wish I was leveraging more of my experience abroad than I am. That part’s tough to grapple with.

David McNeill: [0:39:22] That’s actually a really interesting point. I’ve heard different things from different people over the episodes in this podcast about, well look at all the skills that I developed abroad, or maybe it actually propelled their career forward in one way or another, gave them opportunities they might not have had in their home cities. By the time they come back, maybe it’s actually beneficial for them. But it sounds like obviously, it didn’t take away anything from your application by any stretch of the imagination, but maybe trying to get straight back into that Bay Area tech world, maybe there’s just more of an emphasis on exactly the tools that you’re using and maybe the other markets weren’t quite as advanced. Do you feel like it was more maybe a San Francisco-specific thing? Or I don’t know. Do you have any other thoughts or ideas for how people can leverage those experiences effectively in the job market?

Dinasha Cellura: [0:40:12] Yeah, I think I was able to definitely keep up with technology. In many areas, Asia was closer to for instance, the Chinese market, which is light-years ahead in certain spaces. Japan’s light-years ahead in certain spaces like robotics. There were trails of that experience and knowledge that still augmented my resume in a powerful way. But I think there’s a little bit of that Hollywood elitist happening in San Francisco. Where it’s sort of like who you know, where have you been, where you come from? Sort of like insular type of thing that it’s just that effect that you have on a community that’s so tightly wound. Yeah. I think also there’s movement from globalization. We moved into more of a digital space and now after the pandemic, and it’s just changed the game a little bit on the view of working in other markets.

David McNeill: [0:41:34] Yeah. That’s true as well, hopefully, a bit more mobility going forward or people choosing it for themselves even more so.

Dinasha Cellura: [0:41:42] That’s what I’d like to do. I’m definitely getting the sense and the motivation to find and explore ways that I can leverage my global experience.

David McNeill: [0:41:53] Absolutely.

Dinasha Cellura: [0:41:55] Or even go back out.

David McNeill: [0:41:57] Yeah, of course.

Dinasha Cellura: [0:41:57] That’s definitely on the table.

David McNeill: [0:41:59] That’s good to hear. I’m happy to hear that. But in those first months when you were coming back, so of course in the back of your mind when you’re abroad, like you said, living in Singapore wishing that you were able to see family more, maybe old friends going back to what’s comfortable to you back in the United States in some respects, and then you actually get there. Did you find that it matched your expectations or what type of re-entry culture shock did you experience, if any, on the way back?

Dinasha Cellura: [0:42:27] There’s a lot of truth to repatriation woes. It’s the whole “grass is not always greener” effect. You get back and everybody’s been living their lives while I’ve been gone. They have their own communities, they have their own jobs and their routines and you kind of have to set up new structures around interacting with the people that you came back to interact with, and the work pace, the kids in school that pace and schooling is different. There’s culture shock around many different corners. It’s a gut check for sure.

David McNeill: [0:43:17] Yeah. I can imagine but also, I guess as we wrap up our conversation here, I definitely wanted to give you an opportunity to talk about your new foundation and what you’re doing with that, helping people to go abroad. If you could just tell us the broad strokes of what you’ve been up to with that, of course, why you started it, how far it’s gotten so far and where people can find it online. That would be amazing.

Dinasha Cellura: [0:43:40] Yeah. Not to get into the unfortunate details, but we did experience a pretty heavy tragedy that struck our son, who we lost in the first year when we got back in an accident and rising from those ashes and of post-traumatic experience here, we decided to form a foundation called the Live Like Leo Foundation. It’s really giving an opportunity for youth to become global citizens by traveling abroad and not just traveling abroad, but also contributing to the communities abroad.

We just sent 16 students, high school to college students last summer to Costa Rica, where they were on a turtle reserve and they did consensus data. They interacted with the community, they learned about each other. Everybody was going through sort of during pandemic trauma and stress. They were all able to formulate bonds and experiences outside of their close space and communities they were in. It just made them bigger, bolder, better, as we say, global citizens. Our foundation is committed to continuing to sponsor and provide support to these types of students to go out with our partner global glimpse to Latin American countries and have this experience. We hope that they all will kind of learn from the experiences we’ve had, David. Further their life experiences abroad.

David McNeill: [0:45:40] Yeah, absolutely. I think it’s a wonderful organization, obviously built out of quite a tragic scenario and that hit home for me only, only as it can of course, nothing like what you and your family have been through, but just the goal of the organization and the positive messages. For me, I even connected with the Costa Rica part because I think when I was 10 or 11, somewhere around there, I went with my family to Costa Rica for two weeks or so. That was one of those initial international experiences that I still remember and look back at pictures at. Of course, those experiences we have when we were young; high school, elementary school, middle school, all those years, to be able to interact with foreign cultures, to go abroad and have an adventure, have an experience just really sets the stage for people to become global citizens and hopefully continue to go abroad and have those experiences like we’ve had.

So I was really into the foundation from day one and I’m super happy to have you on the show to be able to talk about it, of course, about your experience and naturally to share this with our listeners as well, in case they want to be able to get involved, donate, support their time or their energy or their money. If there’s anything that they can do now just let us know how we can really help the organization to take the next steps forward.

Dinasha Cellura: [0:47:02] Yeah, absolutely. I definitely relate to what you’re saying with our son, Leo, it’s absolutely shaped he was two and a half when we went to Japan and he grew up, his formative years, going to school and being a abroad and the level of inclusion and compassion and kindness, and just being blind to any type of differences between all of the children that he crossed paths with. He brought that back to the us and we really saw that his experiences abroad helped open his perspective. That’s the kind of thing that we want to pull through with these students. But yeah, definitely check us out on, and you can donate on our platform there, or even just buy any of our merch. We’ve got some fun merch with our logo on it. Also proceeds go to the foundation.

David McNeill: [0:48:08] Amazing. Well, I’ll definitely put that in the show notes, and any other details around how people can get involved, but it’s just a wonderful thing to be able to see the progress of the organization, your partnership as well, sending students to have these experiences and really to live like Leo. It’s amazing to connect and hear your story, love what you’re doing and look forward to seeing where it takes you in the future.

Dinasha Cellura: [0:48:31] Thanks so much.


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As the founder of Expat Empire, David McNeill is focused on inspiring people to move abroad and showing them how to do it. David started Expat Empire because he has a genuine passion for living abroad. He left the United States in 2014 and has since lived in Tokyo, Berlin, and Porto.