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Bertha HarianBertha Harian


Another letter home

Dear Mom and Dad,

I write to tell you that I’m coming home. I can’t stand this place anymore. I stick out like a sore thumb. I know you want me to earn more money so that we can all live a good life at home. But it’s getting tougher and tougher for me.

The locals are getting xenophobic and racist – even if they don’t want to admit it. They say that locals should come first. Strange. I always thought they believe in meritocracy which is why I came here to work in the first place.
And it WAS a good place. Colleagues were friendly and people were kind.

Now those colleagues have complained to the government officials that some of us are being hired because the boss is one of us. Never mind that the company isn’t even a local one.

I show them my university degree and they sniff at it. So many foreigners with university degrees who can’t compare with their own graduates, they say. I tell them that they didn’t want to do my job in the first place which was why I was hired. They say it’s because I asked for less salary…Can you believe this? I suppose they don’t care if the company went bankrupt or if it re-locates elsewhere. Where will they work then? Serve them right if they have to go abroad to work like me.

The locals say we stick together and don’t want to “integrate’’. When I tell them this is natural, they say we’re stuck up. But you know, even among the locals, you don’t see much interaction between races. In fact the locals know less about the country than people like me! We had to go on orientation programmes. I bet most have never even been to a museum!

When I go to the doctor, I get asked about my nationality and my citizenship. I pay more, you know, as a foreigner. Soon I will be paying even more in all sorts of areas because the government wants to make clear that it favours its own locals. It is all political in my view. The government wants to win elections. It has been spooked by protests. One more is coming up on May Day.

When I eat where the locals eat (because it’s cheaper) I get stared at. Now I eat at places where they don’t eat (and it’s expensive). I try to speak the way they do but I cannot mimic their accent. They don’t even speak proper English and they look down on those who do! At least, my English is grammatical even if it is not so good!

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I’m quite sure I get charged more at shops because I am a foreigner. I tell shop owners that I am not a tourist and that I live and work here but somehow that makes things even worse. Next time, I will say I am a tourist.

As for the Internet, I can’t go online without someone saying something about foreigners. I can’t even defend myself without being flamed. One of my friends from the Philippines lost his temper and started ranting. Now his account has been hacked and the locals are threatening to do all sorts of things to him. All he said was that the locals think too much about themselves and expect too much. He’s now worried that they know where he works…

By the way, my landlord is upping the rent. Space is premium he said. Plenty of people want to rent. I will pay – because it is better than living in the workers’ dormitories. My company is also taking back the company car. The boss says it’s too difficult to maintain and he has to keep costs down. So now I take the train, stuck among the smelly locals. In fact, I’m lucky if I can catch the first train. Sometimes I take a taxi and the cabby asks me immediately where I am from. It’s uncomfortable. In the past, I never had to say so often where I come from.

So Mom and Dad, once my contract is up, I am coming home. Nothing like being among your own kind. What’s the weather like in Singapore? Still as hot and humid?

Your loving son.

Written By

An ex-journalist who can't get enough of the news after being in the business for 26 years

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