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Expatriotism

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GordonGekko
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Expatriotism

Postby GordonGekko » Wed, 24 May 2006 3:38 am

Hi,

I know that most of you are/refer to yourselves as expats. I respect that many people do take up a job, stay for some years and then leave. For some it's what they have to do, for some others it is more of an adventure or indeed a "profession" in itself, as I know that many expats have lived all around the world before coming to Singapore.

What is your take on that we have an ongoing discussion about assimilation/integration in Europe and the US for newcomers, while many expats are viewed in a negative fashion by many Singaporeans as a group who do not want to assimilate/integrate to the Singaporean society?
In your opinion, is it harder to this in Singapore, than say, Australia?
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Re: Expatriotism

Postby Plavt » Wed, 24 May 2006 3:58 am

GordonGekko wrote:

What is your take on that we have an ongoing discussion about assimilation/integration in Europe and the US for newcomers, while many expats are viewed in a negative fashion by many Singaporeans as a group who do not want to assimilate/integrate to the Singaporean society?
In your opinion, is it harder to this in Singapore, than say, Australia?


GordonGekko,
I do not think foreigner can integrate fully into Singaporean society. The simple fact most have there roots elsewhere. As a friend ( a geography teacher whose first trip abroad was to Malaysia and Singapore) said: 'it is alright going abroad and having a look even spending a few years there but you can never really live there simply because you do not belong there'. I am in no doubt this is true. True some marry but marriage is between two people and not two cultures which can never meet. I am not sure I can believe Singaoreans view foreigners the way you have described above, is that your perception or do you have any evidence that is true?

Plavt.

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Postby riversandlakes » Wed, 24 May 2006 4:34 am

Define integration. I think I have assimilated just fine - just that I refuse to pick up Singlish? But you could argue that being Malaysian Chinese it's almost a no-brainer?
Back home, since young I have been uprooted many times. Perhaps that's why my mindset of "home is where the heart is." Singapore is my home now.

Then again, a Dutch ex-colleague of mine who married a Malaysian Chinese is one example of integration? His understanding of her wife's hometown of Kuala Lumpur and Chinese customs is astounding. I think this is a marriage of cultures?

On the other hand, a certain 20-year SPR lurking somewhere in this Forum still thinks he's a foreigner *hint* :twisted:
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Postby Mary Hatch Bailey » Wed, 24 May 2006 7:11 am

I have mentioned before that I have a very dear friend who recently moved with her husband and four kids from Singapore, to Hong Kong, to Australia. They never anticpated how tough the adjustment to Australia would be. The school systems are completely different; in temperament and curriculum, as well as being on the trimester sysytem. Their homeleaves are now opposite and there is no expat safety net. Here, if you want to have turkey for Thanksgiving, and you don't know anyone -- you can at least go to the American Club. That is not the case, at least in Sydney, where the American Club is more of a business club rather than social. Of course the many positives have helped with their adjustment, but it was an adjustment nonetheless.

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Postby sundaymorningstaple » Wed, 24 May 2006 10:26 am

Gordon,

Interesting point you bring up.

I actually addressed part of this just recently on another thread we had going. I will confine my answers to a "Western or Caucasian, if you must, type of Expatriate.


As I said there, I managed to assimilate quite nicely (albiet, with a lot of hard work on my part) but I had an advantage insomuch as my wife is local. This was probably what allowed me to assimilate at all. I have also pointed out that while I have assimilated, I did so knowing all along that no matter how permanent my life here may be, I know for a fact that I will not stay here. Even after 24 years I still know that I am a foreigner (from my point of view - an intruder from a local point of view) and will always be so. As an aside, I also find it much easily assimilating with Indians and Malays - possibly because they are also minorities?

As a married "expat couple", I am not sure whether true assimilation could ever take place here or in any Asian society (even if giving up their citizenship). I claim to have assimilated but even that is a misnomer of sorts because it is a constant effort on my part to try to be accepted in a local context. It is not a automatic thing for asians to accept "races" outside of their own with trust. (Please, lets not take that any further - we are all guilty to some extent or another)

Additionally, I really haven't seen Expatriate Families "try" to assimilate outside of saying Hi at the pool. The question here is why? Is it the standoffishness of the local or the superiority complex that most (not all) westerners seem to wear like a shroud or cloak?

Riversandlakes, you would have no problem in Singapore because there is no real difference between the two countries (most people have relatives in both). And yes, this 20+ years SPR is still a foreigner - I cannot speak mandarin, dialect, Tamil, Hindi or Malay (only english and that badly as well - I am after all an American :D ) This country is not conducive to total integration willingly, especially with the public housing policy amoung other things controlled by the government. If you go to Australia or the US where you live is controlled only by how much money you have to spend. It is not based on your race. This means even if I buy here I can live only where there is a spot where the 2% (Others) are available to buy. (Again, this is another subject but does impact on this discussion). As long as the races here do not have EQUAL rights to live where they see fit, then as a 2% minority I can ever feel "at home". (I know the reason for this, but it doesn't make it any more right - only pragmatic from the local perspective)

As far as the school systems being different, yes this is a problem, but so is moving from Europe to the US or vice-versa. All these are changes to routine, but the problem is much deeper than that.

The way I see it (I am probably wrong here but it is my view) is that Europeans (including the US, Aus, NZ & Europe) are predominantly caucasian. Singapore is predominantly Chinese. Therein, to me, is the difference. What I mean is Chinese, while most assume is a race (it is not), carries a heavy cultural burden. Caucasians on the other hand is a race and NOT a culture. In fact it is many and varied cultures. So while we may all look similar (caucasian) we are vastly different. This long history allows us the ability to accept most anybody (assuming we are not coveting their lands) :( I am not talking about racists here - they are in all cultures) But, throw out that wildcard and we will generally accept anybody and are more that willing to meet half way. In other words, we generally come across as approachable (while in our own countries).

The other problem is that Expatriates are, unknowingly, the cause of their own problems for the most part (both eastern and western expats). We are NOT ambassadors of our countries and without knowing it (subconsciously) we erect walls to protect us due to our own insecurities while in a foreign land. This is how all the stereotypes come about. British with their Stiff upper lips, Know-it-all Americans, and Loud, Belligerant Australians. These are all facades we put up unconsciously to protect ourselves. I used to very much dislike Australians when I first came to Singapore (the only Ozzies I ever met were here) They were as I just said. It was worse when they got drunk. Then I went to work in Australia for 6 months (Cairns, Darwin, Perth & Broome). It was like they exported all the riff-raff to Singapore. The people there are great! Why? There they are in their own environment so they do not need to protect themselves or put up a front. It changed my whole attitude about the people of that country. It also changed my perspective of all expatriates in general once I understood that they may be suffering from the false facade syndrome as well. Sure made a difference to me.

sms

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Postby Quasimodo » Wed, 24 May 2006 11:51 am

SMS: Word! =D>


(I'll contribute a bit later, though many good comments have already been made)
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Postby earthfriendly » Wed, 24 May 2006 12:23 pm

SMS, very insighful and well-written!

sundaymorningstaple wrote:
This country is not conducive to total integration willingly, especially with the public housing policy amoung other things controlled by the government. If you go to Australia or the US where you live is controlled only by how much money you have to spend. It is not based on your race. This means even if I buy here I can live only where there is a spot where the 2% (Others) are available to buy. (Again, this is another subject but does impact on this discussion). As long as the races here do not have EQUAL rights to live where they see fit, then as a 2% minority I can ever feel "at home". (I know the reason for this, but it doesn't make it any more right - only pragmatic from the local perspective)



This only applies to public housing. Expats are free to live anywhere they choose, only limited by their pocketbook, if they go with private housing.

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Postby sundaymorningstaple » Wed, 24 May 2006 1:18 pm

earthfriendly wrote:This only applies to public housing. Expats are free to live anywhere they choose, only limited by their pocketbook, if they go with private housing.


EF, I accept you analogy except for one thing. 85% of all housing in Singapore is controlled by the Government isn't it. (I've actually heard the percentage is actually 94% but too busy right at the moment to look for the figure) So, That still leaves me the right to only live in 17% of the country at best (and that's provided I have heaps of money to start with). 15% private housing and 2% of Government Housing (where I could buy for 150K not 1M to buy a condo or landed property). Not a lot of "freedom" is it?

sms

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Re: Expatriotism

Postby jpatokal » Wed, 24 May 2006 8:51 pm

GordonGekko wrote:What is your take on that we have an ongoing discussion about assimilation/integration in Europe and the US for newcomers, while many expats are viewed in a negative fashion by many Singaporeans as a group who do not want to assimilate/integrate to the Singaporean society?

I don't think Singapore, as a society, is in any way in favor of anybody "assimilating" or "integrating". This is not a melting pot: it's a bunch of little pots, one containing wantan mee, one containing rendang and one containing dhal, and the very idea of mixing them together is considered bizarre and rather revolting. Hence the dreaded "Race" box on so many applications, the propaganda emphasis on many cultures living in harmony, etc.

I think Singaporeans have a rather negative attitude towards expats to begin with, because they know full well that we're a pampered minority that both their government and their SPGs fawn on, and most of us are only here long enough to get a nice-looking line on our CVs and mint some cash because heading back. However, I think this prejudice decreases if you show that you've been around for a while and aren't going away anything soon -- even casual encounters (service staff, taxi drivers, whatever) often become a lot friendlier if I flash my IC, slurp my extra-chilli-and-spare-parts bak chor mee with authentic gusto, throw in a word of Singlish or two or say something reasonably up-to-date about local politics.
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Postby GordonGekko » Thu, 25 May 2006 5:04 am

Hey guys,

Really interesting stuff! SMS, I admire your writing!
Please go on, guys. I have a few questions, but I'll save them for a little later.
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Postby bushbride » Fri, 26 May 2006 4:23 pm

SMS,

Really you lay it on a little thick, don't you! You do make one point I agree with though:

"The other problem is that Expatriates are, unknowingly, the cause of their own problems for the most part (both eastern and western expats). We are NOT ambassadors of our countries and without knowing it (subconsciously) we erect walls to protect us due to our own insecurities while in a foreign land. This is how all the stereotypes come about."


...the following nationality bashing reinforces your point that 'like are attracted to like'.

I am an expat, I have European, Malay, Vietnamese, Japanese, Indian, Thai, Middle Eastener and Singaporean friends. - just to name a few.

My point? I believe that a certain level of integration into a culture is based on the type of person you are rather than where you are from.

Of course, you cannot fully assimilate into any culture, but you can attempt to understand and appreciate. And, this effort can be welcomed and returned.
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Postby sundaymorningstaple » Sat, 27 May 2006 12:04 am

bushbride wrote:..the following nationality bashing reinforces your point that 'like are attracted to like'.

I am an expat, I have European, Malay, Vietnamese, Japanese, Indian, Thai, Middle Eastener and Singaporean friends. - just to name a few.

My point? I believe that a certain level of integration into a culture is based on the type of person you are rather than where you are from.

Of course, you cannot fully assimilate into any culture, but you can attempt to understand and appreciate. And, this effort can be welcomed and returned.


You lose me here bushbride. :? What nationality bashing?

And your last three paragraphs basically just paraphrase what I said. After being in Asia for 24+ years I've got at least that many different nationalities as friends (I do use the term friends loosely).

Your point? I would change your statement only a little bit to "a certain level of perceived integration" as you will never see behind the facade that they are presenting to you. And, if they're asian you can bet they are better at it that you will ever be. Where you are from also has a big part in it, but you would have to be from somewhere hated for that to rear it's ugly head (like my being a Yank - everybody likes to hate us).

I do agree, the effort can and is welcomed & returned to a certain level.

sms

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Postby Wind In My Hair » Sat, 27 May 2006 12:45 am

sundaymorningstaple wrote:you will never see behind the facade that they are presenting to you. And, if they're asian you can bet they are better at it that you will ever be.

please explain.

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Postby sundaymorningstaple » Sat, 27 May 2006 12:53 am

Wind In My Hair wrote:
sundaymorningstaple wrote:you will never see behind the facade that they are presenting to you. And, if they're asian you can bet they are better at it that you will ever be.

please explain.


Considering the source of the question, I have no need to explain as you, being an asian, know exactly what I mean. And as for the term itself, facade you also have online dictionary at your disposal. As far as it being a stereotype (if that is what you are beating around the bush about ) Sure it is. But a well known and envied Trait/Skill especially in business. But, again, I don't need to tell you that either.

You obviously don't agree, Please explain?

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Postby Wind In My Hair » Sat, 27 May 2006 1:17 am

sundaymorningstaple wrote:Considering the source of the question, I have no need to explain as you, being an asian, know exactly what I mean. And as for the term itself, facade you also have online dictionary at your disposal. As far as it being a stereotype (if that is what you are beating around the bush about ) Sure it is. But a well known and envied Trait/Skill especially in business. But, again, I don't need to tell you that either.

You obviously don't agree, Please explain?

i wasn't confronting you SMS. just trying to understand how 'asian' behaviour is perceived by non-asians. given the bad air on the forum these days i should have known better than to phrase it the way i did.

so i don't agree or disagree. i'm too outspoken for my own good and don't think i personally have a facade, unless that includes not pouring my heart out to someone i've known for only 5 minutes. and in that sense we all have a facade since there are always secrets we keep to ourselves or bosom pals.

if facade means deliberately projecting an image of a person you are not, then maybe an asian trying to speak with an american or british accent is putting on a facade. yes there are some of those. but i don't think that's what you mean.

so what i'm trying to understand here is how you perceive an asian facade to be different from the facade that most people have with acquaintances, colleagues or basically anyone who isn't a confidante.


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