Having lived in Melbourne for over seven years, I now consider this home for the moment. That said I am very aware that Singapore is where my heart lies and where my roots are. One of my top priorities when my son was born, was to find ways for him to learn about his diverse cultural heritage. After all, by the age of five, he would already be immersed into Aussie culture.
It actually struck me when he was just six weeks that my son would never experience the childhood I grew up with. He may never learn slang words, never visit a wet market or watch a local drama series on Channel 8. These poignant truths convinced me extra effort on my part would be needed to ensure he stays culturally connected to Singapore.
Getting familiar Singaporean flavours
Food is possibly the biggest way my son gets his cultural fix. Thankfully we’re pretty blessed in Melbourne and are able to get decent authentic hawker food, and I’ve made it a point to introduce them to my son Aiden from the get-go. Aiden’s favourite dishes are Hainanese chicken rice, sar hor fun and salted fish fried rice.
At home, usual home-cooked favourites are herbal chicken, bak kut teh, fried rice, chicken stew and satay chicken – as Singaporean as it can get. I hope to be able to teach him how to cook these dishes when he is older.
Fruits Singaporeans are familiar with can be bought in Melbourne seasonally, so, whenever I can, I embark on a fruit feast with Aiden. Just recently, we were lucky enough to chance upon rambutan and mandarin oranges. He also loves mango, young coconut, longans, dragon fruit and, wait for it, durian.
Exploring Singapore through books
One of the things I struggle with being in Australia is having no access to local books or libraries. So it’s definitely on my to-do list to buy some local books on our next trip back to Singapore.
Luckily for me, technology helps to bridge the physical distance and I found a few trusted titles online, including Gasing boy by Lee-Ling Ho and Pura the cat by Soon Meng Tan. Reading these books with my son helps him explore bits of Singapore without actually living there.
Keeping the culture alive with festive gear
Just because Chinese New Year isn’t a big celebration in Australia doesn’t stop us from celebrating with a bang here in Melbourne. Aiden will get a new Mandarin-style outfit and that gets a full weekend of wear. He loves it because it is roomy and doesn’t restrict how he plays.
We also play Chinese New Year music videos on YouTube to add to the festivities and, this year, Aiden was particularly entertained by lion dance troop performances.
Use playtime to learn about Singapore
My best friends sent me some building blocks that make up iconic spots of Singapore when I was pregnant with Aiden. Two years on and Aiden is finally old enough to understand what to do with the blocks and I have a great time explaining where Marina Bay Sands, the Singapore Flyer and the Esplanade theatres are. He loves the blocks because they are just the right size for his little fingers and it is compact enough to travel around. I also reinforce places of interest with pictures of iconic venues.
My goal is to ensure that my son understands Eurasian/Chinese/Singaporean culture. It’s a big feat among all the other aspects of parenting but I’m so pleased that little practices we have in Singapore, such as ‘not wearing shoes indoors’ and ‘respect for his elders’ and loving local cuisine are already part of his daily routine.
Deborah Goon is a nature-loving foodie based in Melbourne who appreciates good design, travel and cake. She’s also a single-mother to a cheeky two-year-old boy with the brightest smile ever.