By Kai Teo
Dear Swedish people, I’m an immigrant.
And in case you’re wondering, I’m not Muslim. Because I know that scares some of you. Like how burkas are a big threat the Swedish culture. And how Muslim men are roaming your streets oppressing your women.
I’m from Singapore. No, it’s not part of China. And we don’t eat cats. Yes, that’s right, the only thing you know about my country is that chewing gum is banned there. We agree that it’s a weird law, but it doesn’t make all Singaporeans weird.
And please don’t lump me into this group of people you’d often call “Asians”. You see someone with yellow skin, and you’re like, “Oh, Asian person”. There’re 4.4 billion Asians on this planet today, and we’re all quite different in many ways.
I don’t own a convenience store called “Double Happiness”, nor am I the chef of a Chinese Restaurant called “Fook Yoo” (which is actually Cantonese, and funnily, translates to bliss and prosperity). I don’t know kung fu. And please don’t say that I look like Jackie Chan (Hong Kong), or Bruce Lee (Hong Kong), or Steve Aoki (Japanese), just because they’re the only other Asians that you can actually name.
I’m a writer. And yes, please don’t be surprised that my English is better than yours. We actually have a pretty decent education system in Singapore that teaches us that knowing more than one language can be useful in life.
Please don’t go, “You Asians have beautiful hair! And your skin is so smooth!” and proceed to stroke me. I’m not a cat.
I’m not here to steal your job either. I don’t want to work in ICA or LIDL. I can’t speak your language well enough to actually take over what you’re currently doing. I’m just here, doing my thing, living my life.
I’m not here to corrupt your culture’s values. Nor am I here to try to influence you to adopt the Singaporean culture. Neither am I milking your welfare system.
Dear Swedish people, I’m an immigrant. And I’m really thankful for living here.
I’m sure the majority of immigrants and refugees coming through your borders feel the same way. I want to thank you for letting those who are fleeing from war-torn countries know that human beings do care for one another, regardless of race and creed. I want to thank you for not seeing a young Muslim boy as a threat to your national security, but as a young life with a bright future. I want to thank you for lending a helping hand to the refugees. And I want to thank you for taking to the streets in a demonstration to show support for refugee aid.
Your country is immensely beautiful. And so are you.
Sure, you stand far apart from one another while waiting for the bus, you write anonymous passive-aggressive notes to your neighbours when they exceed their laundry time slot, and get offended when people take the last potato chip in the bag.
But I’ve seen you take time to stop outside the supermarket, sat down beside a homeless person and asked how he or she has been. I’ve seen you help out at refugee centres selflessly, giving up sleep and your social life. And I’ve felt how you opened your arms to me when I needed comfort.
Dear Swedish people, you are beautiful. Please remain this way.
Your xenophobic racists are not you. Your Muslim-fearing bigots are not you. Jimmie Åkersson is not you.
So please, don’t let them convince you that Sweden is under siege. Stop letting them make you believe that the immigrants are here to implement Shariah law. Stop listening to their fear-mongering rumours of refugees coming here to ruin your social security.
Your white-power extremists are not you. Just as terrorists don’t represent the Islamic religion.
No self-respecting human being wants to be a burden to the society. Immigrants and refugees know that the initial stages of our integration do take a toll on the country’s financial resources. And you, of all people, understand that being reliant on someone else never feels good. Just try to recall the last time you asked for help from a stranger.
We don’t take your hospitality for granted. And we’re not blind to how safe and secure your society is. Many refugees are here just to be able to not die. And the last thing they want, is to rock the boat and turn a safe haven into the living hell they’ve escaped from.
Most people really, just want a normal life, like the one you and I are lucky enough to have, just because miraculously, we have been born in a safe country. We all want to have jobs, take care of our families, and to be able to have a bunch of supportive friends.
And we’re extremely grateful that your hearts, and your doors are open to us, the immigrants. Give us a chance, because we’re sure that with our warmth, we’ll even make your coldest winters bearable.
Dear Swedish people, please continue being the role models for the world, and continue showing everyone that our future is one that truly has no borders.
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