Stranger in my own country

I haven’t been out shopping on a weekend for a long while as I do not like crowded and noisy places. On Sunday, over the Hari Raya weekend, Rachel and I decided to catch a movie at Marina Square and do some window shopping in the city hall area.

Once I stepped out of the MRT station, I feel like a tourist in a foreign land. Seriously.

The sights and sounds of the people around me – I would say only one out of ten is clearly discernible as a second generation or above, Singapore-born Singaporean (you have to be really clear and specific on the term “Singaporean” since it is so loosely used nowadays).

Singapore is a young nation state. It took the government more than 40 years to build up a sense of national identity among our multi-racial and multi-cultural citizenry. Yet in the past few years, the rapid influx of foreigners to spur economic growth has quickly eroded whatever national identity that was slowly evolving.

Uniquely Singapore? Beyond food and a series of economic-related world firsts, what else defines Singapore?

These days, I find it interesting that one actually feel a sense of homeliness when you encounter a service staff who is Singaporean – whether at posh shopping malls, your neighbour shops, uppity restaurants or hawker centres.

I am not xenophobic, but it is strange isn’t it? Aren’t we in Singapore in the first place?

Hence the first question I asked Rachel when I met her outside Raffles City: “What country am I in?”


  1. i totally agree about the singaporean deficiency in town during public holidays. its like trying to spot an extinct animal. to get a shot of homeliness, u can try taking the train at 2plus, 3pm on weekdays – you get sec school kids and local aunties/uncles going out to gai gai 🙂

  2. Ok u don’t know me but I saw u that day with rachel sitting at the fountain thingy at basement of raffles city eating some da bao food? Burger? sandwich? I can’t tell.. I wanted to say hi but it was so crowded… Haha and also if I pass through the crowd then you eating I also paiseh disturb you. Haha next time if heng I catch you on the streets again, I’d definitely say hi to you! “Hi Alvin, I realy Alvinlogy! I’m your blog reader!!” lol =X

  3. walau…then i born in china how? lim bei si true blue singapore leh…my whole family all singaporean…simi singapore-born singaporean…then i not singaporean ah?

  4. Hi,

    I write this from Australia where I am the foreigner and it’s interesting to hear about your thoughts on so called ‘foreigners’ making Singaporeans feel foreign in their own land. I suppose as human beings, we all want to have a sense of identity and a sense of belonging. We also tend to remember bygone days as ‘better’ days.

    Indeed, the Singaporean identity has been crafted slowly over the years and there are many good things that are associated with being Singaporean. However, I hope that “this rapid influx of foreigners” doesn’t create a sense of ‘us’ and ‘them’ among Singaporeans as the national identity continues to evolve.

    I do not think that this erodes Singapore’s national identity but rather it’s an opportunity to further enhance what it means to be Singaporean. There are many things “beyond food and economic-related world firsts”(these things deserve our admiration and shouldn’t be taken for granted) that Singapore should be proud of.

    One of the things, is the peaceful harmony that exists between the races in Singapore. After travelling overseas and meeting people from different races and cultures, I realise more and more that we are so lucky to have a peaceful state that is a melting pot of races and cultures. It’s not just that people are peaceful but there’s also genuine dialogue between the different races. It is a very integrated society.

    I’d say it’s even better than Australia where it’s also multi-cultural and peaceful. I say that because of the ‘segregation’ I see happening. It’s not an explicit and overt segregation but it’s quite obvious. You have Asians living together in one suburb, interacting mainly with each other. Africans in another suburb, middle easterns mix with middle easterns, indians with indians, etc. In between all this, is bitterness and distrust.

    Looking at China, we see a lot of ethinc tension between the minority groups and the Han Chinese and things could flare up very easily like the recent Uyghur unrest.

    It is also important to remember that historically, Singapore has relied on ‘foreigners’ for growth ever since the British colonised it. By it’s very strategic location, Singapore has always been a port where people conduct trade and pass through. In fact, so called ‘2nd generation’ Singaporeans probably have ancestors who came to Singapore as ‘foreigners’ seeking better prospects.

    So lets not forget that foreigners are human beings as well.

    You might not realise it in Singapore but people around the world really admire what Singapore has achieved in terms of a peaceful and prosperous society.

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