Sunday, May 06, 2012

Singapore: Love it, or Leave it

I have been in Metro Vancouver for over 1 1/2 years now, having left Singapore in October 2010. Despite the time elapsed, I noticed that I am still spending a lot of my free time going online, reading about Singapore and Singapore-related blogs. In addition, I found myself still puzzled by the extraordinary visceral reactions by some acquaintances who regard people who emigrate as almost equivalent to "traitors". [Click here and here for examples.]

With the Vancouver Documentary Film Festival (DOXA) happening, I chanced upon the film "Italy: Love It, or Leave It". The film's premise of exploring why Italians choose to stay or leave their country intrigued me. I thought that the documentary may help me better understand such similar choices by my fellow Singaporeans to stay/leave the little red dot. [Aside: I highly recommend the film if you have a chance to catch it.]

Italy: Love it, or Leave it

At the end of the movie, my mind was buzzing. Instead of walking to the nearest train station and heading home, I decided to stroll around downtown Vancouver to let my thoughts settle.
[Aside: Walking around to allow my thoughts to settle down is a habit that I picked up from my late paternal grandfather. When we were young, he would bring my younger brother and I (his 2 favourite grandchildren) for long walks around Chinatown after dinner.]

I walked passed this building in Vancouver downtown. 

"Red Burrito" reflected on the glass panel.
Yup, that's me taking the photo.

I walked for about 2 hours, from the vicinity of Yaletown-Roundhouse station to Waterfront station, looping around the Gastown tourist area (the 2nd time I've been there). Along the way, I passed by the above building in Vancouver downtown and a random thought came to my mind... 

Burritos! Originally a Mexican food, now popular in B.C. My guess is that burritos came to Canada, together with its Mexican and Latin American immigrants. Then I thought about how the typical Singaporeans love our local food. Singapore-style laksa, Nonya kueh, stir-fry satay bee-hoon, pepper/chilli crab with Chinese buns [馒头],  etc. None of which would have been possible if not for the intermingling of cultures and cuisines of our (mostly immigrant) forefathers. In fact, I wondered if it was any coincidence that 17 of the top 50 restaurants in Canada (i.e. almost 2 out of 5) are in B.C. which has a high percentage of immigrant population.

Towards the end of my walk, a bulb lighted in my head. [Note: I want to avoid spoiling the film for you, so I shall not explain about the film's inspiration for my thoughts.] Yes, there are Singaporeans who choose to stay because it is their birthplace, and they believe in fighting to improve Singapore. Yes, there are Singaporeans who leave for various reasons. [In my case, I don't think that the required changes will be implemented and successfully reap rewards within my lifetime.] Of course, there are also Singaporeans who choose to stay, but complain and complain -- the NATO (no action, talk only) whiners.

IMHO, it may be a good thing that those who are unhappy in Singapore, quit Singapore, and those who believe in a their vision of a better Singapore, stay-on to rebuild it. In this way, Singapore loses its unhappy folks and the receiving host countries gain residents who are happy to have another chance to build a fulfilling life. On both sides, each country's net happiness is increased. What a win-win!

Finally, considering the "Law of Attraction", I have a fresh insight to why some acquaintances have such visceral reactions to my critical comments about Singapore. Afterall, if my criticisms add oil to the flames of the "NATO whiners", it will negate the positivism of folks who are fighting to improve Singapore.

p.s. If any Singapore film maker gets round to making a Singapore equivalent (e.g. "Singapore: Love it, or Leave it") of the Italian documentary, I would sure love to catch the film.


  1. Great that I've stumbled on your blog via Alex Au's blog. I too have left Singapore for Australia and having sifted through your post, I share your experiences of working in a restructured hospital and the difference in workplace conditions abroad.

    I too have experienced vilification not just from my colleagues prior to leaving, but also from friends, acquaintances and even relatives alike. There seem to be a negative stigma associated with leaving for greener pastures. I suppose it's because of the unfailing belief Singaporeans in general have for their ministers.

    Keep the posts flowing.

  2. Hi Malcolm,

    Thanks for visiting and commenting on my blog. Thanks also for sharing about the similarity of your experience. That is an interesting idea that the stigma of emigration could be related to Singaporeans' belief in their ministers.

    Thanks and cheers, WD.