PICTURES

Prime Minister Lee meets Singaporeans based in France at evening reception

PM Lee Hsien Loong speaks to Ivy Goh Nair (in green) and her husband Chandran Nair (second from left), at a tea session in Shangri-La, Oct 27 2013. -- ST PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA
PM Lee Hsien Loong speaks to Ivy Goh Nair (in green) and her husband Chandran Nair (second from left), at a tea session in Shangri-La, Oct 27 2013. -- ST PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA
PM Lee Hsien Loong and Ho Ching speak to Singaporean students, (from left) Karen Chia, 37, Joanne Tan, 23, Krystal Lee, 23, Xiu Wei, 25, and Wu Shuang, 23, during a tea session at Shangri-La hotel, 27 October 2013. The tea session was attended by Sin
PM Lee Hsien Loong and Ho Ching speak to Singaporean students, (from left) Karen Chia, 37, Joanne Tan, 23, Krystal Lee, 23, Xiu Wei, 25, and Wu Shuang, 23, during a tea session at Shangri-La hotel, 27 October 2013. The tea session was attended by Singaporean professionals and students based in Paris. -- ST PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA 
PM Lee Hsien Loong speaks to Mr Lee Kok Thong, Head of Defence Technology office in Europe, Mindef (second from left), and his wife Susie Lim (in red) and Mr Hui Chzi-Hon, Nielsen business intelligence manager (Europe), during a tea session, 27 Octob
PM Lee Hsien Loong speaks to Mr Lee Kok Thong, Head of Defence Technology office in Europe, Mindef (second from left), and his wife Susie Lim (in red) and Mr Hui Chzi-Hon, Nielsen business intelligence manager (Europe), during a tea session, 27 October 2013. The tea session was held at the Shangri-La hotel and attended by Singaporeans. -- ST PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA 
PM Lee Hsien Loong speaks to Lee Lee Camilleri-Chu, a Singaporean who owns a shoe shop in Paris. -- ST PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA  
PM Lee Hsien Loong speaks to Lee Lee Camilleri-Chu, a Singaporean who owns a shoe shop in Paris. -- ST PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA  

PARIS - One Singaporean came to France by herself when she was 19 and in search of an adventure, and today, 37 years later, is still living there.

Another has been studying in Paris for three years on a sponsorship from a French university.

A third Singaporean is into his second year in the country, working for a French company.

On a drizzly Sunday evening, about 25 Singaporeans based in France gathered at the Shangri-la Hotel to meet Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who is in the country for an official visit.

For an hour and a half, they chatted with Mr Lee and Mrs Lee, as well as Members of Parliament Christopher de Souza and Chia Shi Lu, who are part of the delegation.

There are an estimated 700 Singaporeans living in France, among them Mrs Lee Lee Camilleri-Chu, 56.

She was working for a French company when she decided, at 19, to find out what it was like working in France.

She barely knew how to speak the language and her family, friends and bosses thought she was crazy. But she loved it there, got married, has three sons who are now grown, and has called France home since.

But she has retained her Singaporean passport. "With my face, I would never look French," said Mrs Camilleri-Chu, who runs a shop selling shoes with orthopaedic soles.

While she loves the culture, food and architecture of France, she also misses Singapore, she said, especially its food.

For Ms Joanne Tan, 23, France has been home for three years after she was offered a scholarship from Sciences Po, where she is doing economics. The Singaporean Students' Association in France has about 35 active members currently, she said, although its Facebook page has more than 400 members.

Like the other two Singaporeans, Mr Jerome Teng, 38, market manager for French oil and energy company Total, had to pick up the language when he moved there.

His French is now good enough to get by, he said.

The Singaporeans said that unlike cities like London where the Singaporeans living there get together more often, the Singapore spirit is not as strong in Paris, one reason being that the Singaporeans are based in scattered parts of the country.

When the Singapore Club holds events, it's hard to get them into Paris, said Mrs Camilleri-Chu.

But at Sunday night's reception, the spirit was quite palpable, and the night ended with much laughter as they gathered for a group photo with PM Lee and Mrs Lee.