If you travel round the world, you would not be surprised to see Chinese in almost every country, some live there and work there and are immigrants from China or Taiwan.
But as a Singaporean, you would somehow be surprised to meet a Singaporean Chinese. And you would definitely identify with the way the Singaporean Chinese speaks, the accent, and mostly by the use of “lahs, lehs and lors.”
Yes, we may identify ourselves as Chinese. But in more than one aspect, we are different from Chinese from other countries in the world.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong shared something similar at the opening of the Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre.
“…the Chinese Singaporean is proud of his Chinese culture – but also increasingly conscious that his ‘Chineseness’ is different from the Chineseness of the Malaysian and Indonesian Chinese, or the Chineseness of the people in China or Hong Kong or Taiwan…”
The shared Chinese culture we have is manifested in the values of hard work, charity and respect for the elderly amongst others.
But in the way we speak, dress and in the type of dishes we eat, we are more or less different from the other Chinese in perhaps Indonesia, Philippines, Japan, and even in Europe.
We may even speak Mandarin, which is known in China as Putonghua (普通话). But you can tell the difference between a Singaporean Chinese and a Chinese from Mainland China for sure.
Cliche as it may seem, we’re same same, but different. We’re Chinese, but different from a Chinese from China, or Hong Kong, or Malaysia – we’re Singaporean Chinese.