For the longest time, I’ve never really belonged to a place. It took me some time, but I finally learnt to embrace it and learn to get the best of both worlds.
As I travelled more and lived in a bunch of countries, the type of people that I can relate to changes. For instance, I can rarely connect to an individual who has never lived in another place, or not understand the cross-cultural perspective that a different society brings.
Thankfully, I am lucky enough to find plenty of beautiful souls. It took me a long time, but I finally found a belonging in the type of people that are similar.
And that brings me to an unusual situation in Singapore. Growing up in Singapore, I am a real local. I love my breakfast toast with egg, I can whip up a delicious Singaporean meal when I’m abroad and I also know my country’s history very well. E.g. maritime and port industry, key drivers of GDP, cultural influence of how Singapore is what she is right now, and the places less travelled. I know my country, my roots, my beginnings.
Yet, I don’t really have local friends. Sure, I have friends from high school and we would hangout once a year. However, to meet new friends has proven to be a huge challenge. The thing with Asians is that we are very collective. If you look, speak and behave like me, you are my family in a foreign place. I don’t exactly speak, behave or think like a typical Singaporean. 15 months back in this country, people would still ask me if I am Singaporean and I always struggle to fit in. I’ve learnt to live with the isolation.
Hence, the only people I can relate to is the expat community. It’s nothing new, since I was an expat abroad and have always hung out with the expat community in Singapore. However, this time, the expat community becomes my main group of friends. I’m so used to the usual comments like “you’re not a real Asian” or “you’re a fake Singaporean” or “you’re actually European”.
Is that bad? Nah, I’ve learnt to live with this too. Others can make comments and say what they perceive of me, but I know who I am and what I stand for. Couldn’t care less about others’ comments.
So in that strange way, I’ve learnt to balance both the local and expat world. There are expats that are localised, while I am a local that is globalised. It’s great that I get to tap into both worlds — both local heritage and global mindset. I am enjoying this thoroughly. It’s the best of both worlds.
In the end, you just have to learn to make the best out of it. I was initially devastated that I could not find my belonging in Singapore. I was planning to leave within the first 4 weeks of returning. It took me about 3 months to fully balance the difference, find my belonging and embrace the present. Right now, there is nothing in the world that I would change. I found “my people” right here in Singapore, as there are “my people” around the world.
It’s everything I’ve always wanted — a group of people that meets regularly to talk about nerdy things in life. Just like what I had in Hong Kong, and we talked about psychology, neuroscience, cultures, art, people, food. Here in Singapore, we talk about my other favourite nerdy topics like financial markets, economics, geopolitics. My heart is so full. I’m so grateful and so lucky to have met these amazing brains.
What a lucky motherfucker I am!
Ps: humans are social creatures. We crave belonging because it fuels our identity as a person. So it makes me truly happy to find my belonging back here in Singapore.