“For the past 28 years, I’ve felt like a foreigner in a country that I call home. This feeling is very strong when I fill up documents that ask for my identity. Where were you born? What is your citizenship? When faced with such questions, I always question where I belong.
I was born in Singapore but I am a Hong Kong citizen. I am a child of immigrants from Hong Kong. My father came to Singapore in the 90s to help out with my grandfather’s business. My mother joined him not too long after he settled down here.
My grandfather’s business involved supplying plastic moulds to manufacturing plants in Singapore. My father was the designated driver to deliver these moulds. When the Asian financial crisis hit, his business was gravely impacted. My grandfather decided to fold the business and leave Singapore.
After the business folded, my parents did odd jobs to get by. Work wasn’t easy and my parents weren’t sure if they would stay in Singapore for good as most of our extended families were still in Hong Kong. So, they decided to apply for permanent residency instead of a full citizenship.
Fast forward to today, we are still going by our everyday lives in Tanglin Halt. My parents sold our flat in Tuen Mun to build a life here. Most taxi drivers still recognise Tanglin Halt for its 10-story flats. That’s how we gave directions – ‘Uncle, 10-storey Tanglin Halt.‘
Going to public schools, I’ve always enjoyed mixing around with children from different cultures. I’ve never felt different except for the time when my friends received bursary awards.
Why wasn’t I getting any bursary awards even though I was in the top ten percent? I recall an incident in primary three when a young girl sneered at me saying, ‘You cannot get because you’re not Singaporean!’
Whenever I tell people that I am from Hong Kong, they get excited. ‘Oh, you can speak Cantonese? Do you watch Young & Dangerous? Can you be my tour guide when I visit Hong Kong?’
I always disappoint them by telling them that I am not any of the things they’d wish I would be. In fact, I have Singaporean friends who visit Hong Kong more than I do.
Growing up, my parents didn’t really expose me to Hong Kong traditions or cultures. Since they are always working, I was raised by a Singaporean family. Throughout my life from primary school to JC, I was living like any Singaporean student would in a First World nation.
I became distant from Hong Kong. In fact, when I visit Hong Kong twice a year, I felt more like a tourist than a citizen. Although my entire extended family lives there, I became detached because I wasn’t able to communicate in Cantonese. I always look forward to coming home to Singapore when I am in Hong Kong.
In Jan 2021, I received an email from ICA informing me that my application to be a Singapore citizen is approved. Who would’ve thought that to renounce my Hong Kong citizenship and be temporarily stateless would cost me $100.
I hope to get my pink IC soon as I can’t wait to re-discover my identity with a nation that I couldn’t call home for the past 28 years. Citizenship is an important bridge to one’s identity. It gives a sense of security and belonging to a place that we call home.
I am sure there are many who feel the same way as I do – born and raised in a country we can’t call home and questioning our identity. I do want to reach out to those who feel as I did because I didn’t have anyone to talk to when I was going through the same.” – Melody, 28
Interview by: Hisham Zainal