I am from the Teochew district of China (part of the Guangdong province) and have been staying in Singapore for almost half of my life (more than 10 years). I even have my Singaporean relatives here, who are the second/third generation Singaporeans. I think I have something to say about this.
My attitude towards Singapore changed over the years.
(First 2 years in Secondary School) Hate Singaporeans –>
(Next 2 years in Junior College) Start to Adapt to the society –>
(Next 4 years in University) Find that Singaporeans are actually quite nice –>
(Next 3 years in working place) Consider Singapore to be my home.
I arrived Singapore as a PRC scholar very long time ago. At first, I disliked Singapore. There are a few things I’ve experienced which made me hate the place and the people:
1) Some local workers, especially taxi drivers, really hate people from mainland China; and they verbally showed their hatred. I remember on one day, I took a taxi from Changi Airport upon arriving Singapore from my hometown. After knowing that I was from China, the taxi driver said a lot of insulting comments about people from China. And after I paid him money at the destination point, he went to the back of his car and threw out my luggage violently, and shouted at me some insulting words about China. Can you imagine a Singaporean taxi driver shouting insulting words to a 15-year-old girl from China for no reasons? That was exactly what I experienced on that night.
2) Singaporean Chinese speak very weird Mandarin. And they do not want to improve it. In fact, in my secondary school, all my schoolmates regard learning Chinese to be a chore. They hate the 华文 subject and hate learning Chinese language. When I talk to them using Mandarin, I need to slow down my speaking pace and use very very simple Chinese vocabulary so that they could understand.
3) I find that the society is kind of a bit superficial. This could be seen from the local television dramas and shows. It seemed to me that the locals are only concerned about food and some other really mundane things.
At the next stage of my life (junior college), I start to adapt to the society and find that Singapore is not as bad as what I thought.
1) As I am in one of the best junior colleges in Singapore, I start to change my opinion about Singaporeans. In fact, there are Singaporean Chinese who speak and write very good Chinese. And there are very smart Singaporean kids on different areas. And these smart kids do not look down on China people. On the other hand, they think that the presence of top scholars from China could motivate them to work harder.
2) I find that my Singaporean schoolmates are much less “complicated” than my schoolmates from China. I do not need to worry about any Singaporean girls gossiping my bad things behind me, because most of them simply would not do that.
During my university years, I travelled a lot and upon comparision, I find that Singapore is a nice place.
1) I start to speak like a Singaporean and dress like a Singaporean, unconsciously.
2) I no longer see “Singaporean” as one whole inseparable group of people. On the other hand, I recognize that there’s a heterogeneity among different Singaporeans, just as there’s a heterogeneity among different China mainlanders. I start to group people according to their personalities and make friends with those whose personalities I like, regardless of their nationalities. I have close Singaporean friends with whom I could exchange thoughts deeply.
3) I start to suffer from “reverse home sick” when I went back to China, i.e. I would miss Singapore when I went back home in China.
4) I find that I am so familiar with so many things about Singapore that I could actually be a local guide to those newcomers.
After graduation, I worked in Singapore for 3 years and I find that:
1) My colleagues from other countries consider me to be a “local”. They would seek opinions from me if they want to know something more about Singapore.
2) The food in Singapore is the best for me, even better than my hometown China. This is because there’s a mix of food from different cultures. I like to eat Thai food, Japanese food, Korean food, and even Indian food. There are also very good Chinese restaurants in Singapore. But in China, I could hardly find such kind of cultural diversity in restaurants.
3) I start to tell people “I am from Singapore” when I travelled overseas.
I am sure there are lots of people who are like me. Maybe my attitude at the beginning would reflect the thinkings of many Chinese mainlanders who newly arrive Singapore. But their attitude would gradually change. So while the Singaporeans are complaining about the loss of Singapore identity due to an influx of foreigners, perhaps people could take a look at my story and know how a girl from mainland China actually get “homogenized” by the Singapore society. After all, Singaporeans and mainland Chinese (especially people from southern China) share lots of cultural commonness.