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pap.new voters




When Ms Jessica Zhuang, 36, had to give up her Chinese citizenship, she did not struggle emotionally.

“The only thing was, when I brought my Chinese passport to the embassy, I thought I might get scolded for renouncing my citizenship. Maybe it was a bit of a guilty conscience, but they didn’t scold me,” she said with a laugh.

Ms Zhuang, who became a citizen in August last year, felt she had completely assimilated into life in Singapore, where she has lived for most of her adult life.

“I’m used to life here,” she said, speaking to CNA in a mix of Mandarin and English. “Some Singaporeans have become my true friends – people I can turn to when I have problems.

“My family, house and job are all in Singapore. I don’t plan to leave. Becoming a citizen was a very natural thing,” said Ms Zhuang, who works as a research fellow at the National University of Singapore. She got married in Singapore and has an eight-year-old daughter.


Ms Jessica Zhuang said she celebrated National Day long before she became a citizen. (Photo: CNA/Gaya Chandramohan)

Ms Zhuang moved here when she was 18 and completed her undergraduate studies at NUS.

She recalls attending a National Day Parade (NDP) preview show one year when she was still a student.

“I found it quite magical, because National Day in China is a serious occasion with military displays, and the emcees are solemn,” she said.

Singapore’s NDP, on the other hand, seemed like an occasion for younger people.

“I was told I just have to wear red or white, the emcees kept saying ‘make some noise’. I thought to myself, this is how National Day is celebrated? It was quite shocking to me,” she said.

“It felt so joyful and celebratory, like a birthday party. It was refreshing.”

Nowadays, she celebrates National Day by watching the parade or going to see fireworks. One year, she and a friend baked a red velvet National Day cake.


In 2021, Ms Jessica Zhuang and her friend made a cake decorated with the Singapore flag and Merlion on National Day. (Photo: Jessica Zhuang)

Asked what makes her Singaporean, Ms Zhuang said with a smile: “I know how to order coffee at the coffeeshops – kopi-c, teh-c siew dai, I know kosong too. That’s something I learnt here.”




When he arrived in Singapore from India on a work permit in 1995, Mr Nadanasigamani Senthil did not set foot into a Housing and Development Board (HDB) flat in his first seven years of living here.
A construction worker then, he lived in temporary accommodation at work sites.
But Mr Senthil had a dream – he wanted to have his own flat one day. When he shopped at wet markets, he would look at the blocks of flats around him, wondering what they looked like inside and dreaming of a future that seemed impossible.
He took up courses at polytechnics and the Institute of Technical Education so he could get an Employment Pass, which is for foreign professionals, managers and executives.
Eventually he applied to be a permanent resident, and this was approved in 2001. He rented an HDB flat with some friends, but still dreamt of buying his own flat one day.
“I never ever (thought) I can buy a house from HDB, cause that time (my) salary very low,” said Mr Senthil.
In 2008, he finally became a Singaporean and the next year, bought his first flat.
Mr Nadanasigamani Senthil fulfilled his dream of buying an HDB flat in 2009, and moved into his home in 2011. (Photo: CNA/Syamil Sapari)
Now 48 and a director of an electrical engineering company, Mr Senthil said Singaporeans have been kind to him and his family.
He recounted a story about his mother being offered a seat on public transport when she visited him in Singapore, comparing it to an unpleasant encounter she had in India.
“The bus conductor (in India) scolded my mother, saying: ‘You’re old already, why did you come and take the bus? Just stay at home’,” he said, adding that his mother still talks about Singapore fondly.
“The kindness (in) Singapore and … the unity attracted me,” he said.
Mr Nadanasigamani Senthil poses for a picture outside Teck Ghee Vista Residents' Network, where he is a volunteer. (CNA/Syamil Sapari)
Mr Senthil volunteers at Teck Ghee Vista Residents’ Network, where he is involved in organising programmes for senior citizens, food distribution, workshops to repair appliances and more.
For National Day, he and other volunteers arrange a dinner and games for residents.
Married with a son who is 21 months old and a second child on the way, Mr Senthil said his wife is supportive of his volunteer work.
“Sometimes I bring my wife and my child to Marina Bay to watch the fireworks, together with all our fellow residents," he said. "We’re very happy, and we enjoy that."




After completing junior college in Singapore, Mrs Marcella Teo, now 28, moved to Australia, took a gap year, then started her undergraduate studies in Perth.
Up until the age of 21, she was a citizen of both Singapore and Australia but had to make a decision before she turned 22.
Mrs Marcella Teo returns to Singapore to meet family and friends around once a year. (Photo: Marcella Teo)
Mrs Teo chose to be Singaporean, but still lives in Perth and is married to an Asian-Australian.
“My mother, even though she has lived in Singapore for more than 30 years, she has never given up her Australian citizenship either.
“I think I understood that only when I got to the point where I realised, I would never give up my Singapore citizenship,” said Mrs Teo, who works as a speech pathologist.



Growing up in Singapore, she felt she did not truly belong because she was “half ang moh”. But when she visited her family in Australia, she was introduced as a “Singaporean cousin”.
She also said she did not know what it meant to be Australian, and wanted to live in Australia before she decided which citizenship to keep.
“I distinctly didn’t want Singaporean friends,” she said of her initial years in Perth. “I was like, I’m not moving countries to just hang out with Singaporeans.”
But in doing so, she realised how much being Singaporean was a part of her identity.
She played host to Australian friends when she was back in Singapore during school breaks.


When she was in Australia, she would be on the lookout for chai tow kway, or fried carrot cake, even though she knew it was not as good as what she could get in Singapore.
Mrs Marcella Teo at an Asian restaurant in Australia that serves fried carrot cake. (Photo: Marcella Teo)
On National Day, she still makes an effort to wear red and white, and listen to old National Day songs on YouTube.
“I got to a point where I was like, actually this is who I am,” said Mrs Teo. “I am Singaporean and it would feel weird to me to say I’m not, or I’m no longer.”