Don’t Give Up Your Citizenship

Throughout my 3.5 years here, I occasionally talk to Mum over Skype when Sis is home. This is because Mum is not very IT-savvy and that she was Chinese-educated didn’t help. Sis had to be around to help her turn on the PC and log in to Skype for her before we could talk. But since Dad got her a Samsung Galaxy phone some time last year, we have been Whatsapp-ing from time to time.

As the female parent, Mum is naturally more concerned about my future family life. Every now and then, she would ask if I have a girlfriend, and why I’m at home instead of out with someone. Very unlike my school days where she would ask why I’m out and not at home. Parents. Such confused beings. They spend the first 12 months of our lives teaching us to walk and talk, and the next 12 years telling us to sit down and be quiet. If the old man of ancient Chinese story didn’t sell spears and shields, the Chinese term for “contradiction” might’ve been “父母” instead of “矛盾”.

When I first started working in Japan, Mum would always ask me to return home. The March 11 earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear reactor triple disaster dealt her the trump card. Unfortunately for her, I had a royal flush in my desire to remain. Later, she began to understand that I really like being here, and gave up asking me to return. She would say, “if you want to be there forever, go ahead. Just don’t give up your citizenship, okay?”

Some time later, she articulated her reasons for worrying about my being here alone. She said she would feel more at ease if I had someone by my side, which means I should get married soon. And she would go, “find a nice girl and settle down there, but no matter what, don’t give up your citizenship, okay?”

She seems really worried about me giving up my Singapore citizenship although I have no plans to do so. At least not now. But the more interesting thing was her reasons to not want me to give up my citizenship. It was simple. CPF. Not that I have much money in there since I spent more time working here than back in Singapore. But I was surprised that her pragmatism didn’t surprise me. It sounded more normal than anything else to have a pragmatic reason. I wasn’t too impressed with that reason though because for one, I can’t get that money till I’m 65. Who’s going to guarantee I’m going to live till then? I’m not dumb enough to assume I’ll live past the average male Singaporean age of 80. For all you know, I might just die after posting this. Further, since we will only be able to withdraw the money on a monthly basis instead of in one lump sum, with the amount of money I have in there, I’ll probably be getting $10/month when I reach retirement age.

That was what I thought. But now, I think the CPF is a good system. I’ve heard my share of Singaporeans complaining about the CPF system, but it’s so much better than what they have in Japan. For one, the amount of money Japanese people in their 20s and 30s are paying into their pension now will more likely than not be halved by the time they retire due to an aging population. But your CPF account is giving you 2.5% interest rate. Even if the rate were as bad as what banks offer, at the very least, the amount increases. Though hopefully faster than inflation would.

Regardless, I am holding on to my citizenship really not because of CPF. It’s more for HDB and the convenience of travel. I doubt I will buy an HDB, but apparently, if I do give up my citizenship, I cannot hold on to it if I were to live long enough to inherit one. By law, I would be forced to sell it. Doesn’t make sense to sell something I can still hold on to and make money out of for the next 5 decades or so.

Stop lamenting the lack of patriotism. Let’s face it, Singaporeans aren’t the only ones thinking that way. In 2010, 3% of the world’s population lived outside their country of origin. That comes up to approximately 214 million people. Even if only 1% of these people lack patriotism, that would be 2.14 million people, almost as many foreigners there are in Singapore. Besides, who’s to say those remaining in the country are patriots? I know tons of people wanting to leave their country still living in their country, and that is not exclusive to Singaporeans. I do know a number of Japanese people who hate Japan enough to want to leave, and the number of Japanese people I know aren’t even that many.

To be fair, the work environment in Singapore is much much better. That could be why people are flocking there. But I value private life more. If I could work in Singapore and live in Japan, that would be the best, but utopia doesn’t exist. The next best bet would be to get into a foreign MNC. Or if you are a Singapore company looking to expand, please have an office here and hire me. I can shine your boots with my tongue.

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