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Celebrating Singapore’s diversity: foreign residents share what Singapore means to them

The Independent logo The Independent 9/8/2020 Natasha Zaman
a sign on the side of a road © The Independent Singapore

Every year on the 9th of August, Singapore celebrates its independence from Malaysia. With extravagant fireworks and celebrations, it is a time when the people of Singapore commemorate its history, achievements thus far, culture.

Due to the pandemic, this year’s celebration will be more solitary: performances will be televised without live audiences, parades will go around neighbourhoods and the iconic fighter jet spectacle will fly across the country, instead of having it all at one location.

With approximately 40 percent of the population consisting of foreigners such as permanent residents, S pass and work permit holders, a representation of Singapore would not be complete without the foreigners who have made Singapore their second home.

What does Singapore mean to them? Let’s hear it from the foreigners who have spent years here.

Senthil, 9 years in Singapore, originally from India

For Senthil, a furniture delivery person, his first few months working in Singapore was very tough as he often missed his family.

“First time I coming to Singapore, I cry (sic),” he said. Even after a few months, his mind was “still in India”.

However, he eventually adapted and now he prefers staying in Singapore. “After three months, I like Singapore already,” he said. “Now you ask me go back to India, I don’t want already (sic)” he added.

He works eight hours a day, six days a week. He usually uses his vacation days for going back home.

“Every year I go back home, 20 days, so three weeks (sic).”

When asked about his family, he said that he had just gotten married last year. However, due to his status as a work permit holder and income, he is unable to bring his spouse over as a dependent.

He did not elaborate more on his relationship with his wife but went on to express his gratitude to Singapore as a country that has provided him with the opportunity to earn money and support his family.

“Singapore is good,” he said referring to the availability of jobs here. “Now COVID-19, nobody working in India. In Singapore, everything Singapore support me: here I have food, I have money (sic).”

“I send back S$600 every month that’s why my family very happy (sic),” he said. “Singapore help not one person only. Singapore help my whole family (sic),” he added.

David, 6 years in Singapore, originally from Spain

As a wealth manager, Singapore’s position as a strong financial hub attracted David to Singapore initially.

“Singapore is a small country with a lot of opportunities. Also, things move in a very efficient manner,” he said.

He enjoys the security in Singapore and the easy access to South East Asia.

“I feel that collective rights here are more important than individual ones. I feel that’s why in times of a pandemic, when there is a higher need to be strict, Singapore has reacted much better as the citizens have behaved as a group, thinking with the others. In Europe, some people think that freedom is to be able to do whatever you want and for example, not wearing masks because it’s too hot instead of thinking as in Singapore in what is best as a group and as a country.”

Prior to working in Singapore, he worked in Barcelona and London. Now, he regards Singapore as his second home and expressed intentions to stay long-term.

“I would like to stay in Singapore for a long time. Actually one of my dreams is to be a permanent resident.”

However, growing up with a parent from the Island of Menorca, he misses the type of seafood available in that region of Spain which is unavailable here.

“My father is from the island of Menorca. Compared to the hot-water seafood available here, I prefer the seafood from the Island of Menorca. They’re tastier.”

Espino Romeo, 11 years in Singapore, originally from the Philippines

Similar to Senthil, Espino Romeo came to Singapore in search of jobs and higher pay, something that is not available in his home country. To him, Singapore is a country where he is able to work and support his family by sending money back every month.

“Because for us especially Pilipinos, I’m not saying all Pilipinos, but for me, we come here in Singapore for work only to support our family, because here the salary, compared to the Philippines is higher (sic).”

“That’s one of the reasons I like Singapore.”

Although he likes the opportunities available here, as a manager in the food and beverage industry, the hours are long and tough — he works six days a week, usually ten to eleven hours a day.

“Here in Singapore no time to enjoy life (sic). Everyday working one day off. Every day needs to work ten to eleven hours a day.”

“It’s very stress (sic),” he added.

Additionally, with his girlfriend and family back in the Philippines, he expressed his desire to return to the Philippines to live long-term.

“Working I like because of the salary but if you ask me to stay here forever, no.” /TISG

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