How overseas Singaporeans are celebrating National Day this year
From making Hainanese chicken rice from scratch to screening the NDP at a lecture theatre on campus
Although phase two (heightened alert) may have dampened the excitement that typically accompanies National Day, these Singaporeans living overseas continue to celebrate the Republic and its culture in their own special way.
After moving to Melbourne, Australia, in 2005 for his family to experience a "less stressful lifestyle" and "more affordability", Mr Ronald Perera, 60, wanted to build a network with like-minded Singaporeans in the area.
While he returned to Singapore every year for festive occasions like Easter and Christmas to visit his mother, extended family and friends, the Covid-19 travel restrictions have disrupted his plans for the second year running.
Mr Perera, a managing director of a management corporation, told The New Paper: "Since my mother suffers from dementia, it has been difficult for her to travel to Australia and as such, it has become quite difficult to manage the longing to see my family back home."
To cope with his homesickness, he created a space for Singaporeans in Melbourne to bond over their shared experiences and nostalgia.
The former grassroots leader set up the Singapore Australia Association, and it currently has 20 members.
Other than coming together to celebrate festivities such as Chinese New Year and Deepavali, members also embark on food adventures, researching and scouting for restaurants that serve authentic local delicacies.
Mr Perera said: "I hope the events we organise and the outings we plan help give young Singaporeans who plan to settle in Melbourne a sense of home, where they can slowly integrate into Australian culture while being in a familiar environment."
Even as Melbourne eased restrictions last Tuesday after yet another lockdown, there is still a capacity limit for events, which has put a stop to the association's inaugural National Day event, the Singapore Festival.
Nevertheless, Mr Perera plans to hold the festival to honour Singapore's 56th birthday at a later date.
He plans on reaching out to vendors in Australia that sell local snacks like satay and kueh and have these treats displayed at a physical fair that both Singaporeans and Australians can enjoy, alongside broadcasting National Day songs and organising traditional games.
After moving to Perth, Australia, in 2016 for his pre-tertiary education, Mr Viknash VM, a final-year accounting and economics undergraduate at the University of Western Australia (UWA), has made it a habit of returning to Singapore during his summer breaks.
While living on campus, he lends his voice to issues that international students face, including working rights and welfare-related concerns.
When Mr Viknash, 23, had the opportunity to head home last year, after Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs reached out to all Singaporeans studying abroad, he decided to fulfil his role and responsibilities as the International Students' Department president in UWA's Student Guild instead.
He told TNP: "It was important for me to stay behind and help other international students affected by Covid-19, in terms of providing them with resources to cope with their mental health and financial support like Visa extensions."
On his student department's social media page, Mr Viknash educates Australian students at UWA on the importance of multiculturalism and respecting one another's differences.
He also conducts a Step Up! Bystander training programme on campus, to shed light on calling out racist behaviour in a constructive manner. He added that the emphasis on multiculturalism, in his experience as a minority, and moving towards understanding the root of recent racial tensions in Singapore has contributed to the steps he has taken to address similar concerns Down Under.
"Our guild celebrates National Day every year by booking an entire lecture theatre and streaming the National Day Parade.
"We also arrange for local snacks from Old Chang Kee and teh tarik, while reminiscing about the good times we have had in Singapore."
Food often acts as a common ground and universal language for diverse individuals, which is something Miss Trishna Goklani subscribes to strongly.
She moved to London, England, in 2016 to pursue a degree in fashion journalism, and has continued to work in the digital media scene there.
She last visited Singapore in December 2019 to attend her cousin's wedding, but has not been home since due to the pandemic.
Miss Goklani, 27, the digital and social lead at an independent online marketplace, told TNP: "When there is a restriction posed on visiting Singapore, the yearning to visit my family increases as well.
"Every time I felt homesick, I would always whip up some of the local hawker dishes like bak kut teh, or text my grandmother for some authentic Indian recipes that I can recreate."
For National Day this year, she hopes to prepare Hainanese chicken rice from scratch.
Miss Goklani has incorporated local cuisine into her life in London, even introducing them to her British boyfriend.
She said: "I am glad I can share a part of my identity through food with him, and he has integrated a part of my culture into his lifestyle as well, which is always very heartwarming."