Belgium's heavenly chocolates may be like liquid gold to some, but Dr Ralf Emmers says its second largest city of Antwerp is home to something much more precious.
'We're the world's diamond capital,' the 31-year-old associate professor at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies declares with pride.
And while he laughingly admits that the Diamond City's 500,000 residents are 'not known for being modest' about their hometown - himself included - there is no disputing that it deserves its grand title. Some 70 per cent of the world's diamond trading is done there.
Born in Paris, Dr Emmers lived in Antwerp when he was eight to 18 years old before moving to Brussels and London for further studies.
Now a Singapore permanent resident, he has lived here with his wife for the past six years. He returns once a year to Antwerp to visit friends and family.
Dr Ralf Emmers
Here are his six recommendations to having a good time there.
1. Get there by train.
We have a very tiny airport, so it's best that you arrive by train at the Central Station, which was built in the 19th century.
You can take the train from any major European city like London or Paris and it'll take you right into the city centre.
It's quite romantic, it's cheaper than flying, and it's the most efficient way of seeing Europe because each city is just 200 to 300km away.
Price: About 82 euros (S$166) for a Paris-Antwerp adult ticket.
2. Check out The Diamond District
Diamonds have been cut and traded there for several centuries. You can get great deals - jewellery and diamonds can be 50 per cent cheaper than in Singapore.
It's also one of the few places in Europe where you can see orthodox Jews. You'll hear Yiddish, a kind of German-Polish dialect, on the streets.
There's plenty of Jewish food like falafel, a wrap with tomatoes and other vegetables.
One restaurant I'd recommend is Benny Falafel Restaurant.
Where: Next to Central Station
3. Savour mussels with Belgian fries and beer.
In summer, you must visit Maritime For Mussels, a restaurant in the old part of the city, for seafood and mussels.
The latter are cooked in boiling water with lots of onions.
On a hot day, you should have them with a cold beer and Belgian fries, and relax on the terrace.
Order the local beer, De Konick, which is much darker and stronger than most beers in Singapore.
4. Don't haggle
Bargaining is a no-no, it's not part of the culture. The price you see is always the price you pay, except when you're buying jewellery - and even then I don't recommend it. It's definitely not Bangkok.
5. Travel in style in a horse-pulled carriage
An interesting way to tour the old part of the city is to take these carriages. Carriagemen dressed in suits and top hats will take you on 10- to 25-minute rides, and give you a sense of what mediaeval Antwerp was like. The smaller carriages seat three to four people, while the larger ones seat up to 10.
Price: 13 to 23 euros per carriage, depending on size of carriage and length of ride.
Where: Carriages leave from Grote Market daily.
6. People-watch at a cafe
There is a real cafe culture in Antwerp, and you can just sit by the sidewalk, have a cappuccino or caffe latte, and people-watch. The gentleman serving you will usually be dressed in a bowtie, white shirt and black trousers. So just take your time and enjoy a relaxing afternoon.
Where: Kleine Bourla, 3 Kelderstraat
This is a fortnightly column where expatriates reveal little-known facts about their home countries.