I decided to jump on the SG50 bandwagon and write a post about what Singapore means to me. After all, the government gave us an extra holiday. I don’t actually remember this ever happening in the 30 plus years I have lived in Singapore, so I suppose it’s a good time to hide at home, reflect and write while the rain pours outside.
For the people who don’t know me well, I’m not Singaporean. Even though I have lived in Singapore almost all my life and my entire family plus my wife is Singaporean. I may even be more Singaporean than some Singaporeans, yet I’m actually a permanent resident and have been since I was three years old.
I remember reciting the national pledge in both English and Mandarin while in primary school. I had no idea that I didn’t need to. My teachers certainly never pointed out that I was any different from the other kids. Til today, I still sing the National anthem and would have served National Service if I were a male. In fact, 2 of my cousins who are also PRs did do NS and reservist.
Despite all the things that bug me about Singapore, I am grateful to have been brought up here. It has given me many opportunities that would not have been achievable if my mother had settled elsewhere.
I love how safe we are in Singapore. There are few cities in the world where a young girl can venture out past midnight alone to have supper or watch movies without fear of being molested, raped or killed. After travelling to various cities around the world, I realise how blessed we are to live in a city where we have the freedom to enjoy everything and anything, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It enabled me to be independent at a young age. It also helped me to be brave and venture to new places without constantly looking back over my shoulder. On top of that, I feel fortunate to have grown up in a society that generally does not discriminate against women. While more can be done to remove the remnants of patriarchal laws and attitudes, I feel the fact that girls and boys are generally afforded the same level of education and opportunities is something that Singapore should be proud of.
I am glad the Singapore education system uses English as first language. It has provided many opportunities on the world stage as compared to some of our Asian neighbours. It allows us to communicate with our friends locally and around the world, many who come from diverse backgrounds and cultures. If nothing else, having English as first language has helped develop Singlish into the common language that we speak. I know many people think Singlish is nothing to be proud of. But if you look at it this way, it’s really a form of English dialect. I think it’s common for English to be spoken in different styles around the world and Singlish is truly uniquely Singapore. At the same time, while I know many of us take our bilingualism for granted, I now appreciate having being forced to learn Mandarin in school. It allows me to better appreciate our Chinese culture and communicate with the older generation, some of whom only speak Mandarin or dialect.
Singapore has provided me a great environment to grow up in, an excellent education system that allowed me to excel and opportunities to make what I want out of my life. Yes, there have been obstacles, but at least I have been given the tools to overcome them.
In the past few years, I have considered what it would be like to leave Singapore and build a life elsewhere. In a way, Singapore is like a security blanket to me. I hold on to it because it is so comfortable, but I know there will come a time when I will need to leave it behind.
It makes me sad thinking about it.
Singapore has changed a lot in 50 years. As a nation, Singapore has proven to be resilient, economically progressive and competitive. However, I wonder if Singapore has forgotten what it means to those who grew up in this country during the 80s and 90s.
As children, we were always assured by our parents that by studying hard and graduating with good results, we would be able to get a good job and afford a good life. The reality is life has become increasingly hard in Singapore. The cost of living has gone up so much that we are now one of the most expensive cities in the world, comparable to London and New York! Most of us live in HDB flats that are getting smaller and smaller in size. We are forced to rely on a public transportation system that is starting to buckle under the pressures of supporting a growing population. While our daily living expenses go up each year, our salaries are struggling to play catch up. The future of Singapore does not seem as bright as it did 30 years ago.
I know it is impossible to recreate the economic boom of the 80s and 90s. The world has definitely changed in the past three decades and it is unlikely that Singapore can replicate that success again. However, I still hope that the government will wake up and realise changes need to be made to ensure Singapore continues to provide a reasonable lifestyle for everyone. This includes reviewing salary standards, cost of housing, public transportation infrastructure and making sure that no one gets left behind. I know there have been some small changes since the last election. However, with the general elections looming, I feel a need to highlight that the changes are not happening fast enough. More needs to be done to ensure Singapore continues to grow as a nation and retains the people who are truly Singaporean.
Nevertheless, while I am critical about certain aspects of Singapore, I still feel very patriotic about my adopted country. I may be a PR, but I am proud to have a blue IC. Never mind that I may never hold a pink IC or red passport. I love Singapore and will always consider this to be my hometown. Happy SG50 Singapore! May we survive to celebrate SG100 with the same level of enthusiasm and success.
Photo taken during a SG50 rehearsal weekend.