Singaporeans in Germany celebrate National Day early with PM Lee

(From left) Dr Florian Klotz, a German engineer and his Singaporean wife, Dr Anna Costa, and their son, Immanuel Klotz, pose for a picture with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in Germany, Bayerischer Hof Hotel in Munich on July 9, 2017.
(From left) Dr Florian Klotz, a German engineer and his Singaporean wife, Dr Anna Costa, and their son, Immanuel Klotz, pose for a picture with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in Germany, Bayerischer Hof Hotel in Munich on July 9, 2017.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
(From left) Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong taking a photograph with Mrs Daliyana Ravi, Mrs Flora Tan-Makowski, Mrs Hatijah Nuss, Mrs Amy Kiesgen, Mrs Lee and Madam Kim Goh Huey Chyiy at Bayerischer Hof Hotel in Munich on July 9, 2017.
(From left) Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong taking a photograph with Mrs Daliyana Ravi, Mrs Flora Tan-Makowski, Mrs Hatijah Nuss, Mrs Amy Kiesgen, Mrs Lee and Madam Kim Goh Huey Chyiy at Bayerischer Hof Hotel in Munich on July 9, 2017.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

MUNICH - When Mrs Amy Kiesgen moved to Germany with her German husband in 1994, there were only about 200 Singaporeans in the country.

"When I first came, I was alone. I saw Asians, but they were not Singaporeans," the 59-year-old housewife said.

That feeling of isolation drove the Singaporean to set up a group for Singaporeans based in Germany in 2006, when the Singapore embassy broached the idea to her.

She started a Facebook page, Singaporeans in Germany, a year later.

Get The Straits Times
newsletters in your inbox

The group regularly organizes events for Singaporeans living in different German cities.

On Sunday (July 9), Mrs Kiesgen was one of more than 300 Singaporeans who turned up at the Bayerischer Hof Hotel in Munich to celebrate National Day a month early with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

PM Lee, who is on a six-day working visit to Germany, flew to the capital of Bavaria a day after he attended the Group of 20 (G-20) Leaders' Summit in Hamburg, where he met various world leaders including United States President Donald Trump, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. He also met Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin .

Said Mr Lee of his meetings with his counterparts: "All these are important friends and connections that Singapore has. And each time we touch base with them, it's not just about what we can do further but also a signal to both sides, to our people and to the world, that relations are in good order and we are moving ahead."

Speaking at the reception on Sunday, PM Lee said: "I do many National Day parties every year, but seldom so far from home, seldom so early, and hardly ever so warm."

On the G-20 summit, he said: "It was a very useful meeting for Singapore to attend, both because of what we discussed in the meeting, but also because there's a chance for me to meet other leaders, to touch base with them."

Singapore is not a member of the G-20, which comprises the world's major economies. It has been invited as a representative of the Global Governance Group, an informal grouping of 30 small and medium-sized countries, and PM Lee had urged leaders to strengthen multilateral trade.

At the reception, Mr Lee drew laughter from the guests when he quipped: "I met President Trump yesterday, you might have read about it. I assure you it was me."

A photo of the two leaders posted on Mr Trump's Instagram account yesterday had wrongly identified Mr Lee as Indonesian president Joko Widodo. The caption was later corrected.

Mr Lee also noted that Singapore and its economy is doing well - the economy may grow by 2.5 per cent this year, he said, better than the 2 per cent growth recorded last year.

He also took a group photo with the guests, and mingled with them.

They include Mrs Hatijah Nuss, 59, who moved to Germany 31 years ago with her husband. She is the community leader for Singaporeans in Cologne, and teaches English to tertiary students.

She said events to bring Singaporeans together are organised at least three times a year - during festivals and occasions like Chinese New Year, Hari Raya, and National Day. There are currently more than 2,000 Singaporeans in Germany.

Such gatherings are usually potluck-style, and she would whip up dishes like chicken curry. Like many other Singaporeans in Germany, she returns home at least once a year. "My husband misses durians," she said.

Mr Teo Song Wei, 29, moved to Munich nearly two years ago to work as a car designer for a startup . He misses chicken rice from home, and the dish is the first thing he eats every time he returns home. "I've tried to cook it on my own, but it's not the same," he said.

And while there is no work available for him as a car designer back in Singapore now, he plans to return home eventually to contribute to the country. "Hopefully I'll get a HDB flat," he said.