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Guest Contribution

Singapore: I Still Love You

I’m sorry, but I’m leaving you. I’ve fallen in love with somewhere else, and you wouldn’t like her. But London is the place for me. I’ve fallen for her dingy, narrow streets. The 24-hour bagels on Brick Lane; the club kids in neon and glitter falling out of Boombox at 3 in the morning; the bands with their urgent, clashing guitars, cigarettes and floppy hair” (Letter To Singapore, Zing).

As a member of this restless generation, I feel strongly for the author’s aspirations, disillusionment and angst. There is so much more outside. It seems. London, New York, Paris – they are very nice cities. Like the author, I want to escape the judging lens here to somewhere I can be myself, to be “gay or straight, man or woman”. I want to live in a living city where life is spontaneous, adventurous, and exciting. Somewhere where I’d be free from shackles. A utopia on the other side. Pastures are always greener on that other side.

Then, I read this article again.

I still want to stay in another city for a while; however, my motivation to leave stems not from despair but from a desire to explore and experiment the foreign. I always thought we were a little quick to dismiss things gone wrong as the result of systemic fault or the problem of the government. It is how each individual responds to their circumstance that accounts for the dynamism or the lack of it. “It’s like that, what. I’ll never change.” Her laments and resignation to leave seem to perpetuate the very quality of Singapore she’s escaping. If only more of us are willing to inherit Singapore with more optimism and energy… And there are actually conscious efforts put in by the different stakeholders in the country to move the society forward which are neglected.

The reason why the author feels more accepted elsewhere – “London will still embrace me” – could be due to the fact that she is a foreigner – figuratively – in the city. Truthfully, it does not hurt as much when one exercises his individualism in an unfamiliar place where all the looks he gets are from strangers. They could easily be mistaken as acceptance when in fact they are actually mere tolerance. Precisely because we have family and friends here in Singapore that we feel the need to keep up a self-induced expectation. We are more wary of trying, revealing because we fear to face and / or lose the people we know. Singapore, per se, does not convict people and people do judge however liberal the city is.

It would be depressing if one were to leave Singapore and face another round of rejection and disillusionment over time. While it seems to be always greener on the other outside, we are always the outsiders looking at the other side. It is not easy to negate everything we have and assimilate into a new world. I don’t know… I could be too pessimistic or optimistic…

This article was written by NT; always looking, always searching.

About guanyinmiao

A man of knowledge lives by acting, not by thinking about acting. Carlos Castaneda.


9 thoughts on “Singapore: I Still Love You

  1. Ah, and she’s but twenty. 🙂 Time will let her in on what diaspora truly mean and feel like. 😉

    There is also a good reason why so many had the chance to leave, and did leave, but eventually return home by choice. The retention of Singaporeans abroad is actually very low. The good news is, and I say that after spending half of my life abroad and meeting Singaporeans all over the world – that those who really do *leave* Singapore, seldom carry with them this dreaded sense of ‘flee’, but instead, speak fondly of the country and embrace fully the Singaporean identity (whether in full or in part) wherever they go. Those who do remain pessimistic will come around to knowing that the problem lies in themselves and not the country.

    And because truth is, the grass is not greener on the other side – the grass is greener wherever you water them. Despite Singapore not having water as a natural resource, it definitely gives more water to its people to water their grass than anywhere else in the world. Nor do Singaporeans know how to dig their own well to find water abroad. 😉

    Posted by fivetwosix | September 28, 2012, 8:31 am
    • well said!

      Posted by voiddecker | September 28, 2012, 3:13 pm
    • “The retention of Singaporeans abroad is actually very low” – where can one find data to support this statement ? and is “Singaporean” here refers to those still holding on to their citizenship and not including those that had given up? or just students?

      Posted by factfinder | September 28, 2012, 6:12 pm
      • The point here about retention was more about the awareness of being “second class citizens” wherever you move to outside of your birth land and the fair share of social disadvantage that comes with it from racism to employment – it’s not all rosy and happy because of simplistic sentiments of what “freedom” means. That said, a student’s experience overseas is also significantly different from a working adult trying to build a home away from “home”.

        It’s a shared sentiment amongst those who have moved abroad or traveled extensively for work (not leisure) – it is not strictly applicable to Singaporeans either. There are many studies on migration and diaspora that point to retention being driven by a tangible need of betterment measured by Maslov hierarchy of needs, and not just a simple “want” of a better lifestyle. Because that will also galvanise one’s ability to fight and persist through the very real social challenges of being a second class citizen and the magnification (and insecurities) of being the “other”.

        Singaporeans hold arguably the best passport in the world, and social benefits are not pale in comparison to most if not all developed countries/economies, to trade that citizenship off over petty grievances would be a mistake as many who would have gone down that path would stand to say. Of course to each his or her own, and there could be equally valid personal reasons that may propel one to exchange their citizenship – but as highlighted it’s strictly personal and far from representative of what the author of the article is attempting to preach on true betterment. 🙂

        Posted by fivetwosix | October 4, 2012, 11:39 pm
      • Oh allow me to also add that, while may not sound like a popular destination for the younger generation, but China’s “modern migrant/investment” cities such as Shanghai, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Qingdao, etc are often the more popular migration destination considering a variety of practical concerns from visa, employment prospects, language, adaptability, affordability, building a family there, etcetera. These are the very real concerns from an adult’s perspective vis-a-vis an international student who is likely just living off a scholarship or parental support and rightly unaware of survival concerns. If you take a quick look through the various countries’ immigration visa requirements and prospects it becomes apparent what migration truly, truly means. 🙂

        Posted by fivetwosix | October 4, 2012, 11:50 pm
    • haha i’m twenty too! haha!

      I feel that grass will always seem to be greener on the side that is not yours regardless whether we water our own plantation or not. Contentment is something that is very hard to realise realistically…and it’s true that Singapore, despite its many flaws, allows for social mobility which I am grateful to but at every level greed comes into play, people want more and for us I do feel that it’s a general trend that we lament and resign over what we can’t achieve at the present or if they can they’ll escape…not saying that there are none to take over the responsibility but there could be more people especially the youth to stand move against this social inertia…

      god…am i rambling…

      Posted by nicholastj | September 29, 2012, 4:20 am
      • Haha as I was mentioning in my reply to the other reader above that needs always trump wants at the end of the day, so “greed” is not difficult to fight as it may feel rhetorically – as the realities of “migration” will surface as one grows up on shoulder on responsibilities. But it is heartening that you point out the issue of contentment – indeed it is so much about it isn’t it? It is often not the case even when one discovers that Singapore is indeed greener or better or easier that contentment will automatically kick in. Contentment is still a learned behavior and attitude. 🙂

        Posted by fivetwosix | October 4, 2012, 11:53 pm


  1. Pingback: Daily SG: 28 Sep 2012 | The Singapore Daily - September 28, 2012

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