Thursday, May 23, 2024

This is Singapore. This is what I Identify with.

 A twenty minute interview with two Naturalised Citizens.

One was born in Shanghai China, came to Singapore in 1997, then applied for Citizenship in mid-2000 (2004 or 2005). 

The other was born in Malaysia, grew up in Malaysia, studied there, but completed his education in the UK, worked there for a while before being sent to this part of the world, and worked from Singapore for some time and became a citizen in 2011.

Chinese Culture, and "Chineseness"

Hu Jun, the Shanghai-born Singaporean, has strong but indistinct (or incoherent) concept of "Chinese Culture" describing it as deep and complex (or complicated). (Maybe he should have used Mandarin, but he chose to speak in English.) However, he anchors his feeling or connection to China to something Singaporeans can understand - the love of Chinese (China) food. However, he concedes that China or Chinese Culture is not as open or informed by the world. 

Tou Chen, the Malaysian-born Singaporean, noted that what we (Singaporeans) may consider "Chinese culture" may be a regional element, but yes, there are "universal" Chinese values like respect for elders. However, he defines his identity more with his Nationality - Malaysia, and later Singaporean - than with his ethnicity. Except for the years he lived in UK. Then he identified himself more as Chinese, mainly because Chinese are a minority, and their culture is distinct from that of the UK main society's. 

(Note that while Singapore and Malaysia are described as "multi-cultural", and other cosmopolitan cities like New York and London are also described as "multi-cultural", the difference is that a"melting pot" multi-culturalism, means that you bring your cultural uniqueness to the melting pot, add it to the "cultural pot", and your cultural uniqueness is incorporated and becomes indistinct from the mainstream culture. Yes, you have brought pizza or chicken tikka masala, and words and phrases, but it is assimilated into the main culture. Max Chernov in one of his interviews noted that in UK or US, you feel the pressure to integrate into the mainstream "melting pot" culture. But in Singapore, you can be Chinese, Malay, Indian, Russian, French, etc.)

Tou Chen got emotional as he recalled how a foreign worker was cared and treated for COVID with government resources and he was moved by the govt's commitment to care for foreign workers, and there was no "chatter" about why resources should be expended on a foreign worker. He thought, if this was how foreign workers were treated, how would citizens be treated?

Hu Jun agreed that it was rare to find a government that thinks about "how to serve the people" - affordable housing, facilities for the seniors, etc. He is impressed that the SG govt is on the side of the people.  And this perhaps was what won him over. (He did not elaborate or explicitly expressed that. He seems more conversant and perhaps more articulate in Mandarin (or Putonghua), and his English was hesitant.)

These two naturalised citizens bring a "foreign" or outside perspective of Singapore. One has experienced a government that is not usually seen as "on the side of the people", and appreciates a govt that is committed to serving the people.

The other has not experienced a self-serving government, but he was impressed and touched by Singapore's "humanitarian" values. 

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