Singaporean, American, Chinese, Taiwanese – Meet Christina Liew and What She Loves About Singapore
Christina Liew officially calls Singapore home. An American of Taiwanese decent she met her Singaporean husband, Alvin, in Boston.
So, what were you doing in Boston Christina when you bumped into Alvin?
I had been living in Boston since 1994, when I started my undergraduate studies at Boston University. I was working in marketing at a publishing company when we met in 2000. It was a casual sports outing on a Sunday afternoon, organized by some mutual friends (he played basketball and I played street hockey.) The group all went out to dinner afterward, and we ended up sitting next to each other and talked the whole evening.
Did you ever think you would have been calling Singapore home on that first date?
No! In fact, I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that I didn’t know exactly where Singapore was when we met. I went home and Googled it.
Tell us about your background….
My parents are both from China, whose families were part of a wave of immigrants to Taiwan during the Cultural Revolution. They grew up with a strong Taiwanese identity, although their families identified heavily with their provincial/dialect groups (Szechuan and Fuzhou.) I was born in Taipei, and knew nothing else but Taipei until immigrating to the United States in 1984. My husband and I moved to Singapore in 2005, and we had our son Jeremy in 2007. So essentially, I am a third-generation immigrant in a
family of lifelong immigrants, all of whom spent large portions of our adult lives adapting to a new culture. So we are raising our son to be proud as a Singaporean and American (and Chinese, and Taiwanese)! There will be much for him to draw from as he grows up and figures out his own identity, which we believe is a wonderful thing.
What is it you do? We hear you are a great runner and you also have a soft spot for charities that make a difference. Tell us more.
I work in business development for a cool nonprofit in Singapore called The Chain Reaction Project, with three of my favorite people in the world. We develop and run cause-related adventures that raise awareness and funds for critical social issues, such as human trafficking, malnutrition, and nation-building.
I am also part of the Executive Committee for UN Women Singapore, which promotes equality and empowerment of women worldwide. It is an issue area that I am passionate about. I truly believe that the world’s most urgent problems can be solved if women are engaged in a meaningful way.
I am also a runner. I had been fairly athletic during my younger years, but rediscovered running in my thirties. I try to run 5-6 road races each year, including a half marathon. It is the single most healthy and freeing thing in my life!
What is the best thing about living in Singapore?
I never took Singapore’s safety or cleanliness seriously until I gave birth to my son. I realized that these two things cannot be taken for granted or claimed as an entitlement, but to be accepted with gratitude. I also love living among a heterogeneous population. I never knew much about Hindu, Malay or Arab communities until I came here, and now I have a new level of respect and appreciation for them.
Singapore’s straits history is all about blending. Over a hundred years ago people from different backgrounds got married and blended. Were there challenges in mixing you and your husband’s two backgrounds?
I had somewhat naively assumed that just because my husband and I were both ethnically Chinese, we would have few challenges as we integrated our lives and our families. This was not the case. For a start, my family had been well integrated into American culture, traditions and practices in the 25+ years that we lived there. We did not celebrate Chinese New Year (which was appalling to my Singaporean mother-in-law). We did not observe Qingming or other Taoist practices (my family is Christian.) And our families definitely had different ideas about child-raising!
The top three things about Singapore you boast to visitors about?
1) The food.
2) The food.
3) The food. And I am only partly joking. The caliber of local and international cuisine in Singapore is unbeatable. We have hawkers who have perfected their specialty dishes over many decades, and we have Michelin-starred chefs who have hit the ground running with great restaurants and bars. What else can a girl who loves food wish for?
What is your favorite local flavor?
I love the different smells of Singapore. I love the smell of the salty ocean, of sambal sauce being fried, of asphalt being mixed, of plumeria and jasmine flowers from the abundance of trees.
Straits Canopy is all about celebrating the beauty of blending. Can you share with us one aspect of blending that makes it so great?
Diversity is a beautiful thing. Different (and even contrasting) perspectives should be embraced if we expect to broaden our horizons and become globally-minded citizens. The world is not the same as it was 50, 30 or even 10 years ago. If we don’t welcome and celebrate the coming together of cultures and people, we will become stagnant as a country.
Thank you Christina! We loved talking to you! You can check out the work Christina is passionate about here at The Chain Reaction Project.
All images taken by Suasti Lye