Migrant Blood

My maternal grandparents were both from China. Decades ago, they migrated to Malaysia and lived there ever since. Even till their deaths, they did not return to China. My paternal grandfather was from China but I knew very little about him. He died in Singapore. My paternal grandmother was from Malacca, Malaysia, still healthy at a ripe age of 85.

My father was born in Selangor, Malaysia. He came to Singapore at a very young age. My mother was from Pahang, Malaysia. She came to Singapore in her late teens, got to know my dad and he made his best decision of his life by marrying my mother.

Jen's paternal grandfather was from China. I'm not too sure about her grandmother and her maternal grandparents. Her dad was from Hong Kong and her mum is a Malaysian. Jen holds a Malaysian passport though she grew up entirely in Singapore and know not a word of Malay.

Like my parents' case, I wouldn't have been born or gotten married and started a family with Jen if somebody didn't decide to migrate somewhere else a long time ago. Among these list of foreigners, I am the only true born and breed Singaporean. Unfortunately, I am tainted with the Singaporean blood that makes me resistant to change, extremely risk adverse, dare not to speak up and a serial moaning complainer. Many of my generation and the current batch of youth were embossed with the curse since birth.

How could we not be? The younger generation were born with MRT trains, air conditioned public facilities and covered link ways all set up for them. Cooked food is readily available in every nook and cranny of the island. From the day a Singaporean baby is born, everything he goes through is scarily systematically predictable. It is almost as if we are products of a manufacturing factoring, being segregating in different conveyer lanes according to our quality without a chance to redeem ourselves if we do not make the cut in a stage too early. Likewise, the elites are assumed infallible for life.

But it was written in the stars. My bloodline were migrants so were Jen's. I decided to move out of Singapore in spite of all my fears. Just as my parents and grandparents did, to seek a better world for themselves and their future generations. 

No one questions any of their filial piety. Because being filial does not mean being physical ensnared by your parents' side. How many of us have gotten married, moved out, not visited nor making a telephone call to the parents in weeks or even months? So much for being with the parents by staying in Singapore. I call my mum once a week, twice if I could and I miss my family and dogs every single day.

I wondered how my mum felt when she came to Singapore empty handed as a young adult, leaving her parents in Malaysia. I have never asked her about it before. Was it because she knew, thus she let me go?


  1. I could have apply for Aust PR in 1998 and even 1999 after graduating with an Australian degree and started working in 1997.
    But becos my elder bro was in USA then and highly likely that he will not return to S'pore after graduating with a postgrad degree, my mum requested me to apply for Aust PR only after she passed away and I quietly followed what she said in view that I was the "only son" left in S'pore then.
    But in 2011 after more than a decade of being the "only son" in S'pore, I have finally decided to apply for Aust PR with the blessing from my wife but without the knowledge of my mum, it was a painful decision for me but if I didn't plan for our retirement and the future of our children, who will plan for us? It's like buying "insurance" for us and also our children and we never know when we need to claim our "insurance".
    The most fortunate people are those foreigners with S'pore PR, they can work in S'pore and save up for their retirement back home and can live comfortably everafter.
    So if they can, why we can't?
    On the hindsight I should have applied for Aust PR earlier in my younger age but however be late than never.

    1. Parents can be so selfish. Good on you. At least you are not!

    2. I hope you can still make it. You can always apply first... cos it takes quite a lot of time to be approved. And after it is approved, you have quite a lot of time to wait until you finally need to move.

      So doing it earlier is right.

      Your post reminded me of one of my initial thought, Malaysians with Singapore PR. Best of both world. As Singaporeans where can we go to have a good salary and in a stronger currency? Not many.

  2. I think in those days, people move in search of a better environment and opportunities.

    It is harder for people to understand why you and me, and many others before us, chose to move to Australia when Singapore is such a great place (I can not and will not deny this fact. I also agree with you SG is not so great in many other areas but you get the drift).

    Friends said I will lose touch with friends, relatives, family and will not feel comfortable in a foreign land.

    I asked them how many friends or relatives they keep regular contact with or spend time with (Sorry facebook time don't count :) ) and how often do they spend time with their parents or siblings and families?

    Not a lot, usually. Worse, some are not even on talking terms with family or parents.

    Are we comfortable in SG? Are we happy driving on the roads? Are we comfortable in a bus or MRT? Are we comfortable when out and about? Are we comfortable in our own country?

    I find I have not lost a lot, if any, from moving here.
    Apart from the fact that I cannot spend time with my parents on weekends over a meal and being there when they are in need.

    I have made many friends here in Perth. Migrants and locals. I know all my neighbours like I did in SG. The other day, my Aussie neighbout helped get a locksmith when I was locked out of my place. And offered coffee!

    I like to think of Singaporeans as a bird in a cage. Locked up and fed well for too long, dare not fly out even when the cage is finally open.

    Like my parents, I am sure your mum would prefer you are close to her. But parents being parents, they will always try to let their children do what they wish to do (excluding the really bad stuff of course). It is very difficult for them to say NO.

    Your mum probably also know it is not that great in that cage so they let you go (Hey this reminds me of a great phrase "If you really love the person, you have to let the person go: :). I believe your mum loves you too.

    One thing I've noticed about Malaysians is they are more mobile than Singaporeans in going places. People asked why there are not many prominent Singaporeans in Australia. The Malaysians started moving many years ago! I believe this is partly due to a less kiasi attitude and partly lack of opportunities at home.

    Aussies themselves also have a migrant history. Great Britain :)

    I believe some scientist claim that the first people started in Africa and migrated all over the place :)

    No worries, mate. We're all the same :)

    1. Paiseh, my reply as long as your blog!

    2. The great long phrase should be: “If you love something set it free. If it comes back it’s yours. If not, it was never meant to be”.

      There, I just made your reply even longer..

    3. Den, the beauty of the phrase is, if you really love someone, you will let them go if they wish to leave you for a better place or person because you want them to be happy :)

      Very few can do that in real life I guess but the phrase is still very meaningful :)

    4. Hey Pat, don't paiseh, I enjoyed reading your post :)

  3. Few days ago, I had a tradie in to do the windows. He was a nice, friendly chap and somehow we got to talking about the Australian High Comm (don't ask me why). He mentioned that his friend lost all his documents overseas and went to his consultate to ask to be sent home. And they did. I asked, "How did they know he was Australian, without documents?" He replied, "Good question. Looking at you, they would have questions." (I don't think he meant it with malice, he was just stating a fact, probably based on my race and accent.)

    6 months ago, I was seriously contemplating taking up citizenship here and giving up Singaporean citizenship. Now, I wonder if I will, because even with a piece of paper, I will never be one because I will never be made to feel like one. I can only say that the Singapore of our forefathers made them and us feel like citizens. And that's the one thing they did right.

  4. To add on, I was at ICA last month to collect my passport and this auntie sat down beside me and asked me, "Are you a Singaporean?" "Yes", I said. The next question threw me. "Born here and grew up here?" For the first time since I migrated, I felt reverse discrimination. I felt proud to be a Singaporean for the first time in a really long time. We chatted for quite a bit and I actually missed feeling like a daughter of Singapore.

  5. Thanks for sharing! Like you, I am the only true born and breed Singaporean in my family :)

  6. Living in cities other than Singapore has been a really fruitful experience for me, because it make me realise the world is bigger than what you thought it is even if you read news from all over the world. Kind of put things into perspective.

    However I think to remain or to move is largely a personal choice. The grass always tend to be greener on the other side... There are plenty of push and pull factors. Not going into too much personal details, if my brother and sister have not stayed in Singapore, I may not have the luxury of going wherever I wish to go, so it may not be fair to say that for those who stayed dare not fly out even when the cage is finally open...

    Of course in some sense Singapore can be a scary place because if you miss the boat, it's hard to get on board later in life. It's not impossible, just very very hard I think. But this could be the same in some other cities as well. Due to the socio-economic standing of your parents, your choices in life is a lot narrower unless you are willing to perserve and fight the system?

    1. Lee, i was not referring to migration only when I wrote about the bird not flying out even why the cage is finally open.

      I was referring to how Singaporeans are conditioned througout their lives that they would be unwilling or afraid to, even when they are finally allowed to, do some things they feel they should be allowed to do.

      Despite the unhappiness over quite a few issues, do you think the average Singaporean will go out and protest if they are allowed to? When it is not limited to Speakers Corner with a Police post conveniently located?

      My point is all the education and conditioning make us lose our abilities to do certain things. The caged bird would likely have gained weight and lost the muscles in its wings to fly. Never mind it's mind.