Singaporeans in Germany celebrate National Day early with PM

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong meeting guests at a National Day reception in Munich yesterday. Among them were Singaporean psychologist Anna Costa, 32, her German husband, 35-year-old engineer Florian Klotz (far left), and their 10-month-old son Imma
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong meeting guests at a National Day reception in Munich yesterday. Among them were Singaporean psychologist Anna Costa, 32, her German husband, 35-year-old engineer Florian Klotz (far left), and their 10-month-old son Immanuel.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

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.

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

Yesterday, 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.

Mr 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.

PM ON MEETINGS WITH OTHER LEADERS

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. So I think it's been a good visit this time in Germany.

PM LEE HSIEN LOONG, in a short speech to Singaporeans at a reception in Munich.

Speaking at the reception yesterday, Mr 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 was invited as a representative of the Global Governance Group, an informal grouping of 30 small and medium-sized countries, and Mr 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 photograph of the two leaders posted on Mr Trump's Instagram account yesterday wrongly identified Mr Lee as Indonesian President Joko Widodo. The caption was later corrected.

Mr Lee also noted that Singapore and its economy are 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.

Those present included 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, for occasions like Chinese New Year, Hari Raya and National Day. There are currently over 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 be a car designer at a start-up. He misses chicken rice, and it 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 an HDB flat," he said.

VIDEO: Watch the video Singing Majulah Singapura in Munich. str.sg/PMmunich

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 10, 2017, with the headline 'Singaporeans in Germany celebrate National Day early with PM'. Print Edition | Subscribe