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Postby guruvishwanath » Sat, 27 May 2006 2:54 am

Extremely Interesting subject! And I am writing at 2:30 AM after having filled my stomach with some absolutely fab Kerala cuisine (I will provide details on request), great music and Teh Alia to top it off. :-)

Personally, I dont like to use the word assimilation. Being a trekkie, I find the word too "Borgish". You know! "Resistance is Futile". :o I prefer to use the term Integration.

A slight deviation to compare integration in US for the Indian diaspora.

I have found that quite a lot of my peers working in US are not open to the concept of integration. And I take my own classmates and my cousins etc. as examples (No! I am labling every Indian diaspora in US in the same vein as I am describing henceforth).

The Indian diaspora in US is very unique. They form a formidable community with solid economic clout. But there is a flaw. When I first went there, I found that my friends did not have a single acquaintance or friend outside of the Indian community. It was as if they had erected this huge wall which had a signboard "Non Indians not welcome". I wondered for years because human nature is filled with the need to be curious. You tend to learn about your surroundings and adapt accordingly. But this did not seem to be the case. Now, I am not saying its a bad thing, but its not a good thing either. When you form your own community that has a certain pre-requisite of what nationality you are, you are actually creating a bridge which does not exist for outsiders to cross.

My living in Singapore has given me friends that can rival a UN convention. And it is an exhilarating feeling that not only do you have the opportunity to learn but to share. My only take on my peers in US was that, being so far away you crave for all things Indian and hence you tend to gravitate towards everything Indian. I had some of my colleagues in my former employment tell me that it is very difficult to speak to the Indian staff because they stick to themselves. Initially, I labeled them as being a**l but then I realised its not true. They were just afraid. Fear was misguided but yet in their minds very real. Not physical harm. It was more of the fear of saying something which may be taken wrongly. And hence the need to ensure you are within your comfort zone so that such fears do not arise. Sadly, this creates the impression that Indians are unapproachable. Which is not true. We are very hospitable and good curry heads. :lol: We may sometimes smell of curry but hey! its the flavour and if CK had the formula to bottle a curry into a perfume, I am sure he would have done it. :D

Living in Singapore for all these years, I have seen people come and go. My best friend in Latin American who moved to Mexico. But we are still best friends and like family. My sister who came to visit was amazed at the assortment of people she met and she was thrilled to hang out for the 10 days she spent here. She had a changed perception on how life can be enhanced with such connections and the fact that in the end we are all the same. We are born and we die! In between is the rest of the stuff.

I am quite sure of one thing though. If I did indeed moved to US 12 years ago, I would have a very different person. Not for the worst but I would not have been a more knowledgeable, more open minded, and more confident.

Now coming back to original query on integration in Singapore. I break it down to a two things. People and Food. Basically, know the people to make adjustments to your attitude and behaviour. And then learn to breath normally when you walk through a hawker center. Why? When I first came here and walked into a hawker center, I nearly threw up because the smells were totally new and my senses were overpowered. :oops: Now! Somebody giveme a yong tau foo or a fish soup and I am sold..... :wink:

For those who have lived here for 10 years or more, I am sure you will understand when I say that today it is so much more easier to integrate than it was 10 years ago.

In the end it is upto the individual whether they are willing to integrate or not. I do know of people who refuse to integrate not because they are arrogant, but just because they do not find the need to do so as it would mean coming out of the comfort zone. I for one believe that you cannot force someone to integrate but you can share the joys of such integration which is only beneficial in the long run.

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Postby sundaymorningstaple » Sat, 27 May 2006 9:42 am

Wind In My Hair wrote: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. ...
.....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.


WIMH, I am not saying it is different, only better. You are right, I am not talking about the affectations that people put or (airs). Asians, from my perspective, seem to have the ability to keep their emotions in check much better than westerners. To a westerner is like a mask because we depend on emotions to be able to 'read' a conversation. How many times, even on this board with me, have you tried to state something only to have me mis-understand what you are trying to say. Subsequently my replies become slightly more strident in my typing? :oops: I don't mean anything by it as it is a normal "western" response of trying to hit the nail on the head. In my thought processes, your reply may be ambigeous "to me" because you are trying not to "offend" which leaves me the task of 'trying' to read between the lines (and usually getting it wrong - just like your earlier post!) :? On the other hand you tend to 'try' to be more circumspect but, as you say, you are not typical. And, when your emotions do become aroused (that sounds kinky) you start feeling uncomfortable and then end up taking a break form this forum. (see - you're not different - just a different level of tolerance). I don't think most of the Local Forumers who post here are typical - If they were they would be on the local forums where the vast majority are.

Did I make any sense at all? :???:

sms

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Postby bushbride » Sat, 27 May 2006 12:38 pm

sundaymorningstaple wrote:
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.

sms


SMS, I am completely agreeing with you. 'Like is attracted to like'. Absolutely no dispute there :D.

I did choose to make obvious that a person’s ability to integrate or 'assimilate' into another culture is entirely based on the individual personality. Either you intended to make this point, or you failed to articulate it clearly enough - hence my concise statement.

However, I would not change anything about my statement. That is, I would not put in a 'perceived' as you suggest.

Maybe you have a different idea about 'levels of perception', but I am proud to say that I see no 'facade' presented to me in my global friendships. Ahhhh, the beauty of great friendships, you can be exactly who you are and be comfortable with that!

Maybe you can explain to us what an 'acceptable level of perceived' integration would be for a foreigner..:D

Is it converting to the others culture entirely and giving up your own cultural upbringing that is required? Or, is it being welcomed into a home filled with ancient relatives who bless, bowed to, or smooched you in whatever their cultural ritual they have. Or is it being accepted by the culture as having your own differences and being able to discuss these?

BTW are you looking too hard, thinking that there is something deeper than what you have been presented with in the cultures? Maybe it is a culture that you ‘perceive’ to be 'superficial' to your expectations.
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Postby bushbride » Sat, 27 May 2006 12:46 pm

guruvishwanath wrote:
In the end it is upto the individual whether they are willing to integrate or not. I do know of people who refuse to integrate not because they are arrogant, but just because they do not find the need to do so as it would mean coming out of the comfort zone. I for one believe that you cannot force someone to integrate but you can share the joys of such integration which is only beneficial in the long run.


Totally agree Guru and well put!
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Postby sundaymorningstaple » Sat, 27 May 2006 3:56 pm

bushbride wrote:SMS, I am completely agreeing with you. 'Like is attracted to like'. Absolutely no dispute there :D.

I did choose to make obvious that a person’s ability to integrate or 'assimilate' into another culture is entirely based on the individual personality. Either you intended to make this point, or you failed to articulate it clearly enough - hence my concise statement.

BTW are you looking too hard, thinking that there is something deeper than what you have been presented with in the cultures? Maybe it is a culture that you ‘perceive’ to be 'superficial' to your expectations.


bushbride, I read your post before I left the office and thought about it during the 2 hr ride amongst the other things currently happening on the forum. I misread your first statement completely hence my question.

I think I just made the same mistake as others here insomuch as I "assumed" everybody here, due to the multinationality makeup of this board, would implicitly understand it would have to be relative to the effort one put in. Hoist by my own petard? (Wouldn't be the first time nor will it be the last)

But your perception does bring up a very good point which I have completely overlooked and will take a fair bit of inward reflection on my part. Who knows, I may just have a eurika moment or I may find out I am correcct in my assumptions. I'll have to re-evaluate I think ......... thinking........smell wood burning......oh no, my heads on fire again. (I been called a wooden head before! - One of the more nicer things I've been called).

Definitely food for thought. Thanks bushbride. :wink:

sms

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Postby sundaymorningstaple » Sat, 27 May 2006 4:38 pm

guruvishwanath,

Excellent post. Especially your POV re: US/Indian Community at large. I do have a personal interest in it as you may be aware of. I have read this before and even articles where it is very common for families to force an arranged marriage for a son/daughter with someone still in India. Somehow this still seems all wrong to me.

What I would llike clarified is are the majority of Indians in the US first generation Indians? And secondly, and possibly more important, is the segregation of the community primarily because there are enough numbers in the major cities to enable a "community" to be formed? I ask, because I am a small town boy and our community hospital has a number of Indian Doctors (Primarily Paediatricians although more of other specialities now days). In a small town they almost have to "integrate" to keep from being totally alone.


Secondly, If they are American Born Indians (born to first generation indian but born in the US), are these Indians being sent back to India for indoctrination or are they having a tendendancy to more easily integrate with the community at large?

Okay, back to the topic at hand.

Like your circle of friends here, my wife's family alone is like a mini United Nations. Mother & Father were both born in Madras or Chennai (?) but came to Singapore when small children. Within the immediate family we have American, British, Austrian, Eurasian, Chinese, Filippina, Malaysian chinese, Punjabi (bit of a problem with that one's parents as you can imagine - married a neice who is half tamil/half chinese), oh yeah, one married another Indian. Who woulda thought. :roll: The big difference here I believe may well be the fact that my wife's parents, grandparents and siblings are all catholics.

Yes, I also feel that is has become easier to integrate/assimilate here or at least to another deeper level (re: my answer to bushbride) When I came here in the very early '80's there was no way I could have lived in an HDB estate, I would have been made to feel like a leper and people (heartlanders of all races) would give you wide berth - you would not know or feel this as you are one of the three major races here so would tend to be accepted until you started talking and then your accent/inflections would give you away. I think, as more and more programs were being telecast it has eroded to some extent the suspicions of "outsiders" as even the heartlanders are being more and more English educated (also helps tremendously).

I do feel that the Indian community here in singapore would be just like riversandlakes, while he is from Malaysia, the Indian community isn't like an enclave or "little India" although there is a "little India and well the population is spread out over the entire population against their will. Also the community has been here as long as Singapore has so while it is a new country, you still have a abundance of temples and people to give you the mass to make the change easily. Not the same in the US. You going there is like me coming here 24 years ago. I think I could integrate more easily into a country like France, Germany or Italy.

You are right, this has turned into a very interesting post.

sms

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Postby Global Citizen » Sat, 27 May 2006 7:50 pm

[quote="guruvishwanath"]Extremely Interesting subject! And I am writing at 2:30 AM after having filled my stomach with some absolutely fab Kerala cuisine (I will provide details on request), great music and Teh Alia to top it off. :-)

I would like to hear more about the Kerala cuisine. Are you referring to a particular restaurant there? Details, details please. :)



A slight deviation to compare integration in US for the Indian diaspora.

I have found that quite a lot of my peers working in US are not open to the concept of integration. And I take my own classmates and my cousins etc. as examples (No! I am labling every Indian diaspora in US in the same vein as I am describing henceforth).

The Indian diaspora in US is very unique. They form a formidable community with solid economic clout. But there is a flaw. When I first went there, I found that my friends did not have a single acquaintance or friend outside of the Indian community. It was as if they had erected this huge wall which had a signboard "Non Indians not welcome". I wondered for years because human nature is filled with the need to be curious. You tend to learn about your surroundings and adapt accordingly. But this did not seem to be the case. Now, I am not saying its a bad thing, but its not a good thing either. When you form your own community that has a certain pre-requisite of what nationality you are, you are actually creating a bridge which does not exist for outsiders to cross.


I have also found this to be true of most of the Indians in Canada, Guru. The Indian immigrants who settled there after leaving their homes in India were/are as you correctly surmised most comfortable in their comfort zone of socialising within their own community. The reason that I often hear for this behaviour is: cultural differences between the East and West and wanting to instill Indian values within their kids because of the disparity in customs and traditions between the two.

This is also true of many communities that first migrated such as the Chinese, Greeks, Italians, peoples from the Caribbean and Africans.

The Indian kids born on US or Canadian soil however are a different kettle of fish.

They have friends outside of their own race and are already assimilated/intergrated to a certain extent. Their position is unique or peculiar as many have to live within 2 different cultures and maintain a balance of having to fit in outside of home with their peers and at home to please their parents and keep the heritage alive somewhat, maintain the status quo of their Indian cultural identity and values. Not always an easy
task as many grapple with conflicts between the two.

It always gets easier a few generations down in any community and to a larger extent the mindset of an individual is the key as to how well or how much one integrates within any society as has been said previously.
Last edited by Global Citizen on Sun, 28 May 2006 5:02 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Wind In My Hair » Sun, 28 May 2006 12:22 am

sundaymorningstaple wrote:WIMH, I am not saying it is different, only better. You are right, I am not talking about the affectations that people put or (airs). Asians, from my perspective, seem to have the ability to keep their emotions in check much better than westerners. To a westerner is like a mask because we depend on emotions to be able to 'read' a conversation. How many times, even on this board with me, have you tried to state something only to have me mis-understand what you are trying to say. Subsequently my replies become slightly more strident in my typing? :oops: I don't mean anything by it as it is a normal "western" response of trying to hit the nail on the head. In my thought processes, your reply may be ambigeous "to me" because you are trying not to "offend" which leaves me the task of 'trying' to read between the lines (and usually getting it wrong - just like your earlier post!) :? On the other hand you tend to 'try' to be more circumspect but, as you say, you are not typical. And, when your emotions do become aroused (that sounds kinky) you start feeling uncomfortable and then end up taking a break form this forum. (see - you're not different - just a different level of tolerance). I don't think most of the Local Forumers who post here are typical - If they were they would be on the local forums where the vast majority are.

Did I make any sense at all? :???:

sms


SMS, you made a lot of sense as always. and yes i realise my post was ambiguous so no worries about reading into it nuances that weren't there.

as for keeping emotions in check, perhaps it's due to the confucian emphasis on self-mastery. for example, when i get angry on this forum (a less 'kinky' way of putting it eh? :wink: ) i take a break not so much because i want to avoid an argument (i've always relished a good fight though more so in my younger days) but because of a conscious decision to gain control over myself. i am uncomfortable about the anger i feel within me, and not with the argument itself. my turn to ask if that makes sense?

back to the topic, i find that expats who take the trouble to understand differences in cultures and truly consider locals as equals will assimilate very quickly here. there are however those who pay lip service to getting along with locals but deep down continue to feel superior in some way, and this comes across no matter how hard one tries to hide or deny it. asian culture which values modesty is naturally repulsed by this perceived arrogance that is so often associated with expats.

my take is that any expat with the right attitude who's willing to make the effort will find a lot of help from local friends in assimilating here. singaporeans are generally a hospitable lot. but the slightest whiff of arrogance will probably mean you'll never feel really welcome here.

of course there are also the mundane practical obstacles like speaking with a western accent. i have taken several expat friends to meet my family and friends who speak perfectly good english, and they still tell me they understood only half of what the westerner said. i have often had to do english-to-english translations in their presence. and still after the westerner leaves they whisper that they didn't quite understand what he was saying. the westerner of course will say that he understood everything but ends up misunderstanding the entire gist. hilarious.

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Postby sundaymorningstaple » Sun, 28 May 2006 2:23 am

WIMH,

Believe me, your last statement made me laugh out loud here at 1:45 in the morning, hope I didn't wake anybody up. I have worked for the past 10 years for two local companies. In both cases I was and am still the only "westerner" in the company. The number of times that this has happened to me is beyond counting. Now days, when I go back to the US everybody in my home town asks me if I have been in a accident because I talk so slowly (comparatively). I have to tell them that if I talk at my normal Upper US East Coast speed nobody will ever understand a word I said no matter how clearly my diction might have been.

Yes, your leaving due to your own anger bubbling to the surface is exactly what I am referring to, that's the thing that most here are so good at keeping hidden and why we have such a hard time picking up the nuances. We depend on that anger, or like, or dislike, or revulsion to get our point across or how to formulate our reply or rebuttal as the case may be.

Oh yeah, at 58, I like Kinky! :mrgreen:

Okay, time to reveal another side of me. One of my biggest problems is the fact that I'm an Introvert by nature. I have a problem walking into a room cold and walking up to complete strangers and starting a conversation. If an introduction is made I'm fine but cold cannot lah! :(

So, when I first came over here how? The "Asian Reserve" as the west likes to call it presented a wall that would have been impossible for me to breach. The first 10 years really didn't make much difference as I worked on the offshore oilrigs so was not really in town much anyway. Then I started working in Singapore! How the devil was an introvert going to penetrate the natural aloof tendency of the local population (remember I'm talking about the late 80's early 90's here - a good 15 years or more ago) Then came an opportunity of a lifetime. I was offered a speaking role in an SBC Chinese Drama production back in 1988. Since then, I have appeared in speaking roles in over 100 different Chinese Dramas, the last was about 1.5 years ago. I started doing parttime acting with SBC then TCS then MediaCorp and MediaWorks as well as some local producers like Jack Neo. I worked with Zoe in her first lead role as Bobo in Pretty Faces all those many years ago, I've worked with almost anybody who was somebody there. Back when SBC was still under a statuatory board I was show in the first role depicting a mixed marriage which was still frowned upon by LKY back then. I was also the first Caucasian to be killed in a locally produced drama series (been done in 3 times now. I've played MDs, Doctors, Lawyers, POW's, Priests (really funny playing a catholic priest complete with cassock and being agnostic with a catholic wife) and numerous other parts.

See, I figured out something. Asians, while reserved, are a curious lot. And curiousity killed the cat as it were. As I use public transport by choice (Buses and trains) I'm in close proximity all the time. Because of my hair style (none) and beard I was easily recognized. Then due to their curiosity bad english or not they had to come up and ask "You work SBC ah? Mr. Brown las nite ah? I see you many year." All the walls came down. I don't act as much these past 5 years but in the earlier days I could walk into any hawker centre in Singapore and get recognized. One needs to find what works, that worked beautifully for me.

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Postby Mary Hatch Bailey » Sun, 28 May 2006 10:54 am

sundaymorningstaple wrote:Okay, time to reveal another side of me. One of my biggest problems is the fact that I'm an Introvert by nature. I have a problem walking into a room cold and walking up to complete strangers and starting a conversation. If an introduction is made I'm fine but cold cannot lah! :(

Then came an opportunity of a lifetime. I was offered a speaking role in an SBC Chinese Drama production back in 1988. Since then, I have appeared in speaking roles in over 100 different Chinese Dramas, the last was about 1.5 years ago. I started doing parttime acting with SBC then TCS then MediaCorp and MediaWorks as well as some local producers like Jack Neo. I worked with Zoe in her first lead role as Bobo in Pretty Faces all those many years ago, I've worked with almost anybody who was somebody there. Back when SBC was still under a statuatory board I was show in the first role depicting a mixed marriage which was still frowned upon by LKY back then. I was also the first Caucasian to be killed in a locally produced drama series (been done in 3 times now. I've played MDs, Doctors, Lawyers, POW's, Priests (really funny playing a catholic priest complete with cassock and being agnostic with a catholic wife) and numerous other parts.


Why SMS! You old dog you. :o Here we've had a star in our midst and we didn't even know it. :D

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Postby guruvishwanath » Sun, 28 May 2006 5:45 pm

SMS and Global Citizens!

I think you have pointed a small omission on my part. There are two types of generatational diaspora. One who migrated straight from India and ones who were born in the US Indian parents. It makes a lot of difference. The ones who would have gone after getting a job (I am talking in the past 15 years) would attempt for being more integrated. It also depends on where they live. For e.g. New Jersey has a very high populace of Indian community so much that some areas you just wont make out any difference as it would seem like you are back in India (well, at least the roads are wider, no garbage of street etc.) But maybe a small town makes it impossible to just closet up and hence you are FORCED to make a choice to integrate. Which in essence bodes very well.

The first generations or as I would term the ABCD (American Born Confused Desi) ** Desi is a slang in Hindi for Indian ** Their parents try very hard to ensure that they do not loose thier indianess being in a what they would percieve as a decadent society (I am not kidding as I have seen my own cousin try to push Indian values to hard that its just a matter of time when niece would rebel and do something stupid). The cultural value is the only tie that you have back to your roots and hence the strong push in that direction. It is actually a very strange situation as on side they profess to be modern but when it comes to things like marriage it is a whole new ball game. Do you know that although Indian men and women in US do integrate a large percentage would always marry another Indian. Because the family structure and society perception of your family back in India. I remember many years ago, I used to date this Chinese girl. For me, it was cool. My sister who came to visit was aghast that I would actually consider dating a chinese girl. :D I did not get angry with her because she has not been exposed beyond her realm of living and its only educating them makes them more understanding.

Even today, many of my friends ask how come I did not get arranged marriage or why dont I go to India and surely there will be a line of chicks who will be willing marry me? Well, I can assure you that there is no line anywhere. Not in even pleasant dreams. :shock: And the most common assumption is that although I date other women, I would eventually hook up with an Indian girl. I no longer respond to such queries seriously. I just laugh it off. But seriously, I am just a normal guy with enough understanding that it does not matter where the woman is from, it is only important on how you get along with the person.

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Postby guruvishwanath » Sun, 28 May 2006 6:16 pm

The Kerala cuisine place is called Kairali Bistro on Dalhousie Lane behind tekka mall in Little India. Quaint comfortable and damn bloody reasonable for good quality food.

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Postby Wind In My Hair » Sun, 28 May 2006 10:38 pm

guruvishwanath wrote:The first generations or as I would term the ABCD (American Born Confused Desi) ** Desi is a slang in Hindi for Indian **

very interesting post, guru. and i agree with your observation. i find that my friends who are ABC (American Born Chinese) or BBC (British Born Chinese) are generally integrated into their respective communities. they have the accent, the outlook, the attitude of their peers.

unfortunately though they are sometimes discriminated against by the local 'whites' who still see them as inferior. my BBC friend had a serious relationship with a white girl whose parents objected strongly and resulted in them breaking up. broke his heart and he is still single to this day.

singapore used to be like that where parents would be horrified if their children dated someone from another race or worse a foreigner. thankfully things are changing and our generation generally doesn't blink an eye at mixed marriages or relocation to another country.

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Postby Bremen » Mon, 29 May 2006 12:22 am

Wind In My Hair wrote:
singapore used to be like that where parents would be horrified if their children dated someone from another race or worse a foreigner. thankfully things are changing and our generation generally doesn't blink an eye at mixed marriages or relocation to another country.


Believe me, it's still there. I can't even count how often a local chinese girl has avoided me for fear of being labelled an SPG (even though they were a shopkeeper and I just wanted to ask about a shirt).
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Postby Wind In My Hair » Mon, 29 May 2006 11:27 am

Bremen wrote:
Wind In My Hair wrote:singapore used to be like that where parents would be horrified if their children dated someone from another race or worse a foreigner. thankfully things are changing and our generation generally doesn't blink an eye at mixed marriages or relocation to another country.


Believe me, it's still there. I can't even count how often a local chinese girl has avoided me for fear of being labelled an SPG (even though they were a shopkeeper and I just wanted to ask about a shirt).


not a very good businesswoman then is she? :wink: i can't believe anyone wouldn't sell a shirt to you for that reason, more likely just a disinterested and unmotivated salesgirl. and there are many more of those around than SPG-phobic ones i would think.

also, no offence but girls avoid men for many reasons and unless she told you explicitly that was the reason it would be unscientific to assume so. i'm not saying some girls don't have that phobia, they do, but i also think sometimes people read too much into things.

on another note, whereas expats in the past preferred staying in expat enclaves, i'm seeing many more expats in my housing estate, on the buses, in heartland shopping centres etc these days. 5 years ago they would have gotten stares, today nobody seems to notice. quite a pleasant sign of increasing assimiliation into local society.


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