Jasmine is Malaysian-American and has spent the majority of her life in Singapore. She’s currently in between the United States where she’s studied and Singapore where her family is.
What do you usually say when someone asks you where you’re from?
It really depends where I’m at in the world. If I’m in Singapore, I’d say I’m half Malaysian/American but I grew up in Singapore. If I’m in the US, I’d just say I’m from Singapore.
After Crazy Rich Asians came out, a lot more Americans were aware of the existence of Singapore but when I was younger, they’d just assume it was in China because I look Chinese. Now however, Singapore’s associated with the ultra-rich, malls and wealth, and that’s obviously a half-truth.
What country is “home” to you currently and why?
Definitely Singapore because of how many years I lived here and my immediate family still live in Singapore. It’s also the one place I feel total comfort and familiarity with. Even though I most recently lived in the US for 6 years, it doesn’t necessarily feel like home because the majority of people didn’t grow up the way that I did.
If Singapore is more of a home to you, would you picture yourself settling down here?
When I was younger and especially when I was in college, it was a definite “yes.” Going to an international school played a part in shaping my perception of Singapore. I was in this bubble and had this image that Singapore was absolutely perfect and beautiful.
Now that I’m older and currently working in Singapore, I’m not sure if it’s quite the right fit for me. It feels a little too small and familiar I guess. I’ll definitely move around a lot more, but it also depends on what happens to my parents. I may move back again for a bit but I’d ideally prefer to explore other parts of the region before that.
Moving on to a more personal question. This is an ongoing debate amongst the TCK community with different opinions, hence wanted to get your thoughts on it. The debate opposes the fact that TCKs feel that their partner should be TCK because being a TCK and being made of different cultures is not something everyone understands and they’d prefer to be with someone who does. The other side feels that love has no boundaries and that a non-TCK can offer refreshing perspective and a stronger sense of stability.
When I first started college in the US, I felt like I used the excuse of “I think I just want to be with another TCK” because it’s hard for your average American to understand how I grew up. Also, I’m half Asian so I wanted to date someone who respected both Asian and Western values right off the bat. Now that’s changed because I’m dating your average American, who has always grown up in the same state and that’s really changed my perspective for the better.
It’s completely possible to be with someone with a different background but I think most people want to be with someone who is similar to them because that usually means they are understood. Now that I’m “older” I feel like it was unfair of me to cut off a certain group of people and say that only TCKs will understand what I’ve gone through. If the other person is open-minded and values/respects the same ideals, things should work out. Obviously, the older you get, the less black and white things and your ideals become much more flexible.
Have you ever had to move back to your “original” home? If so, how has that been?
Yeah, it’s happening now and it’s so much more of an adjustment than I thought it would be. Especially since it happened so unexpectedly. Even though I lived here for so many years, no one I was remotely close to still lives here because in your international school life, your friends move when their parents move.
Granted, I’ve loved being able to work side by side with Singaporeans for the first time and learn more about the “true” Singapore through them. It makes me feel more connected to a place that I’d loosely call my home, but now feel completely comfortable labeling Singapore as.