What Makes Me Feel Singaporean?

Colloquialism aside, what are things Singapore residents say or do — sometimes out of habit or from memory — that make them feel like a local? We interviewed people from different age groups to find out what they think.

“Every Chinese New Year, I meet up with a group of ex-colleagues to lo hei. Our group of six women includes four Chinese, a Malay and myself — I’m of mixed parentage, Chinese, Eurasian and Indian — and I’m sure that it’s only in Singapore that we can come together like this in a halal restaurant to lo hei. The best part — our Malay friend is the one who organises this lo hei session each year! ”

Alison Jayaram, 52

“I feel “most Singaporean” when I’m in the company of four or more Singaporeans, and when the group consists of at least two or more different ethnic groups sharing a meal. The group could be ex-schoolmates, ex- or current colleagues, fellow churchgoers, or even neighbours. The key elements are the people of different races, religions and cultures, respecting each other and sharing a common language, English, with the occasional Singlish, Hokkien and Malay words thrown in for a good laugh. ”

Gordon Pinto, 53

“To me, the ultimate Singaporean double whammy is discussing food in Singlish. Words like ‘power’, ‘best’ and ‘steam’ become positively rapturous when given the Singlish inflection. ”

Ketan Shah, 40

“When we say the Singapore pledge. Errm… how to explain? … Dunno! ”

Zach Tan Hyee, 8

“I appreciate my pink IC (identity card) and the home that I grew up in. It’s where my beliefs and my values were formed. ”

Rosemarie Somaiah, 57

“I’m Japanese but I basically fit in with the Singapore lifestyle. Taking a bus to school, eating local food with multiracial friends in the school canteen and speaking Singlish with them…I feel Singaporean! ”

Misugi Tsumugu, 16

“Sitting down at a kopi tiam in a HDB heartland with five old uncles each nursing a Tiger or Heineken…there is nothing more local than that! ”

Kimble Ngo, 26

“Last National Day, when my Singaporean friend and I were on a business trip in Kunming, China, we were invited by a group of missionaries (largely Singaporeans) and their families to celebrate at one of their homes. During dinner, somebody turned on Skype and we all got to participate in the National Day parade (NPD) through the Internet. Like all NDPs, the National Anthem was soon relayed. At that moment, all of us, young and old, stood up to sing Majullah Singapura, followed by reciting the pledge in unison. It was spontaneous without anyone prompting or coercing us. Believe me, it was an awesome moment! All of us felt an unusual ‘oneness’. We were Singaporeans and we found ourselves expressing our love for our country in China. If you ask me what feels to be Singaporean, it was this episode in Kunming. ”

Gn Chiang Tat, 62

“Born and raised here, I learned to appreciate Singapore culture. It’s about …the Merlion, Singlish and the makan. These are what make Singapore home. ”

Ho Yan Yee, 18

“In school, students of different races and religious faiths get the same education…. It’s a common experience and we’re building a national identity at the same time. ”

Lucas Tee, 15


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