Immigration and integration

Picking up Singlish for 'camouflage': Life as an immigrant in Singapore

Fifteen years ago, Singapore liberalised its immigration policy. It was reversed in 2009 following widespread unhappiness. The National Integration Council was set up the same year to help the newcomers ease into society. A decade on, The Sunday Times finds out how those young immigrants who arrived at the height of anti-immigration tensions are doing.

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China-born Ou Ningfei, Indian national Mark Sathyan and Israeli Dr Ori Sasson are immigrants who have made Singapore their home. They share their experiences and challenges integrating into society.
Israel-born Dr Ori Sasson recalled being told by a civil society activist at a closed-door dialogue in 2012: "We don't want you here." Left: As it was "uncool" to be from China, Mr Ou Ningfei "over-compensated" by going out of his way to do well in E
As it was "uncool" to be from China, Mr Ou Ningfei "over-compensated" by going out of his way to do well in English and English Literature in school. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
Israel-born Dr Ori Sasson recalled being told by a civil society activist at a closed-door dialogue in 2012: "We don't want you here." Left: As it was "uncool" to be from China, Mr Ou Ningfei "over-compensated" by going out of his way to do well in E
Mr Mark Sathyan was on the receiving end of jibes from classmates when he first arrived here in 2005. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM
Israel-born Dr Ori Sasson recalled being told by a civil society activist at a closed-door dialogue in 2012: "We don't want you here." Left: As it was "uncool" to be from China, Mr Ou Ningfei "over-compensated" by going out of his way to do well in E
Israel-born Dr Ori Sasson recalled being told by a civil society activist at a closed-door dialogue in 2012: "We don't want you here." ST PHOTO: GIN TAY
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As a pupil in Yung An Primary School in Jurong, Ou Ningfei was bullied. "If we played games like basketball or football in school, I would always be the last to be picked. Or people would call me 'Chinaman'," recounted Mr Ou, now 30.

As an immigrant from Ningbo, China, who arrived with his parents who worked in shipping, it did not help that negative stereotypes of Chinese nationals were rife. Mr Ou swung to the other extreme so as to blend in with his classmates.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 04, 2019, with the headline Picking up Singlish for 'camouflage': Life as an immigrant in Singapore. Subscribe