One in 35 people in the world is living in a foreign land. That figure is based on a New York Times article which said:
Whereas from 1910 to 2012, the world’s population increased slightly more than fourfold, from 1.6 billion to more than 7 billion, the number of people living in countries other than their own as migrants increased nearly sevenfold, from roughly 33 million to more than 200 million.
The article was on US immigration policy. It made me think of Singapore because I had just been reading an article on NPR headlined Millions of immigrants cause tension in Singapore. There had been a similar article in the New York Times also recently.
Singaporeans are not wrong to feel that their subway, schools and public housing are becoming more crowded. They are. But they’re still up to first world standards, and the best in Southeast Asia.
The article went on to say:
At a recent citizenship ceremony, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong encouraged new Singaporeans to try harder to assimilate.
“Pick up Singapore customs, lifestyles, norms, social rules,” he urged the new citizens. “Be conscious that this is something which you need to do. And watch out also for the little cultural differences which I’m sure there will still be. Know about them, and try to bridge them.”
The Prime Minister was right. People have to adapt to their surroundings, and there’s so much to love about Singapore.
The New York Times article quoted a man from China who became a Singapore citizen in the 1990s but was thinking of returning to China upon retirement.
Do the majority of immigrants want to return to their roots? I don’t know.
I think when you fall in love with a foreign land, a foreign culture or a foreign language, you develop a strong attachment to it.
Look at writers like Joseph Conrad and Vladimir Nabokov. English was not their first language, yet they rank among the greatest English writers.
There have been others since then. Naipaul, Salman Rushdie, Vikram Seth, Amitav Ghosh are all ethnic Indians, yet they are some of the finest writers in the English literary world. Singapore has talented poets and writers, too. Writers who love the English language and use it with grace and finesse even though it is not their mother tongue.
Linguistically, they too are immigrants. Immigrants who have made themselves at home in a foreign language.
I wouldn’t knock immigrants. But first they must, as Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said, “pick up Singapore customs, lifestyles, norms, social rules”.
When it comes to language, of course, that means picking up words and phrases, learning the grammar and syntax.
Go easy if you see any howlers here. I still have a lot to learn.