May 29th, 1999-Singapore: I was born. It wasn’t until 2015, 16 years later, before I realized how fortunate I was to have been raised in such an amazing country. For so long, I would sit at the lunch table with my friends and complain about Singapore; complain about how boring it was and small the island-nation is. One night in early June 2015, I was having dinner with some friends at the Chocolate and Cheese Bar located at the top of the Marina Bay Sands. Once we were seated at our table, I looked around to see a stunning 360-degree view Singapore. The sky was dark, yet a perfect shade of blue. The Central Business District was densely packed with tall, funky buildings. The large laser lights filled the whole island with red, green and gold strobes. Right at that moment, I realized how much love I had for Singapore, and how Singapore defines who I am as a person.
Visit Singapore and you’ll find an island with possibly the most diverse population. Chinese, Malay, Indonesian, Indian, Americans, Europeans, and the list goes on and on. Never before have I visited a country with so much diversity. I’ve always taken for granted that I am surrounded everyday by people from all over the world. I’ve taken for granted that I have been able to travel to exotic places. I’ve taken for granted that I know can say that I know somebody from each continent. It took me 16 years to realize that not every teenager has this experience, and not every teenager is able to understand what true culture is. Although I am American and Greek by blood, I feel like I am so much more than that. I have a little bit of Singapore in me, a little bit of Japan, and a whole lot of culture and respect for everybody’s backgrounds and beliefs.
Singapore is a place that houses expats, especially from the US. Going to Singapore American School, I understand the expat way of life far too well. Each year, anywhere from 120-150 new families move to Singapore, mainly from the US. The good thing about this is the sheer number of people I meet and become close with. However, no matter how many times friends come and go, saying goodbye is something that nobody ever gets used to. These families come and are used to their neighborhood gatherings, long car rides to visit their families, and the feeling of belonging wherever they are in the US. Coming to Singapore is usually a culture shock for them. They are so intrigued that you can be in Chinatown one minute, and drive 10 minutes to get to Little India, and another 5 minutes to get to Arab Street. The amazement I see in these expat families is fascinating to me, as I just assume that all countries are as diverse as Singapore. My appreciation for the exposure to all of this has grown immensely in the last few months, especially after my annual 2-month trip back to California.
As Singapore celebrates its 50th birthday this year, I am so grateful that I have a place in the world that I can always call home. Even though when I come back to visit Singapore in 10 years, it will probably be so different, I’m sure that the culture will be just as colorful, if not more, and that’s what makes Singapore so amazing. No matter who you are, where you come from or what you believe in, you’ll feel so warm and welcomed in our little tiny island. I have so much love for this little red dot, 1-degree north of the equator. Singapore, you will forever be a part of me, and I can’t wait to see what the next 2 years have in store for us.