I Feared You, Singapore, Until I Got To Know You
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Politics and Activism

I Feared You, Singapore, Until I Got To Know You

A letter to my home away from home.

I Feared You, Singapore, Until I Got To Know You
Lehigh University Admissions

Dear Singapore,

Six years ago, my mom became an expat. Her hard work and exceptional performance earned her and our family an opportunity to live in the United States, thousands of miles away from everything we were familiar with. I was thrown into an environment with people who had never heard of my hometown and had to quickly pick up a language that I barely understood. Two years later, when the culture shock had faded away and a new comfort zone was built, another international offer made its way to my mom. Four years ago, out of three potential destinations, my family chose you, the Lion City, to be our next home.

"Are you going back to China?" People from my town in the States asked.

I had to explain over and over that Singapore is a developed city-state in Southeast Asia, pretending that I knew something about it besides its geographic location.

I thought you were easy to deal with, Singapore. After all, before moving to the United States, I had lived in the same continent and spoke a relatively similar language. You proved me wrong.

Before I even stepped my foot on your soil, Singapore Airlines already confused me with a strange accent. It was almost like speaking English in Chinese tones. It petrified me even more when I found out that the only two languages I knewmandarin Chinese and English—were spoken differently. I realized that I basically pressed the F5 button on my life again. I was left out there by myself, not knowing how to communicate or who to talk to.

Singapore, You had (and still have) strict laws that I thought would drive me crazy. CCTV surveillance signs were everywhere, constantly reminding me that I was being watched. Shoplifters' names were put on signs to warn everyone else.

I feared you, Singapore, until I got to know you.

You provided me the safest, cleanest, and friendliest environment.

Crime rates in Singapore are some of the lowest in the world. Before Singapore, never had I ever been to a city where I could wander down the streets past 11 pm without any concern. Only tourists clutch their bags tightly against their chest. Singaporeans can claim seats at a hawker center food court by aggressively throwing pocket tissue at the table, but they would always leave the reserved seats untouched on the MRT (subway), return the extra change, and take their trash as they leave.

You made me more culturally aware and open-minded.

Although being an Asian country, Singapore is not homogenous. It is made up of Chinese, Malays, Indians, and other Asian and Eurasian populations. The government ensures that every neighborhood meets its ethnic quota.Singapore is a unique blend of the East and the West. You can experience the New-York-City vibe at the heart of the city on Orchard Road, while one MRT (subway) station down lies Little India. The cultural integration is also shown in their language that I once thought weird. Singaporean English takes phrases and slangs from almost every language spoken in Singapore and forms a pidgin language with loose English grammar and exotic vocabulary.

You gifted me the best friends.

I went to Singapore American School (SAS), the largest AP-curriculum school outside the United States. Even though being an American school, SAS has a study body that is as diverse as Singapore itself. For the first time, I met people who had lived the same nomad life, been in the same identity crisis, and gone through the same culture shock as me. I was no longer the foreign one. Studying in an American school in Asia made the lives in and out of school two separate worlds, but I learned to navigate my way around. I made both local and international friends in Singapore, and we keep in touch to this day.

Finally, you made me feel home.

I know I did not have the authentic, native Singaporean experience, but I would not have become who I am if it wasn't the Lion City. Singapore taught me to be accepting, disciplined, observant, and confident. At my college's flag parade, I proudly carried the flag of Singapore around campus, not only because Singapore was underrepresented but also because I couldn't be more grateful that I was once part of this nation.

Singapore, you are so much more than tourism, rain forest, and strict laws. Thank you for having me, Singapura.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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