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Benson Ang
Tuesday, Oct 7, 2014

Singapore

We're Singaporeans

The Straits Times | Benson Ang | Tuesday, Oct 7, 2014

Mr Michael Shelley, general manager of an events company, with his daughter, Talya (both above), and Madam Rosalynn Heramis, who is often thought to be an Indonesian, Nepalese or Indian.

They are true-blue Singaporeans who were born and bred here, as were some of their parents.

Yet, many Eurasians are often mistaken for foreigners because of their European-looking features and Western-sounding surnames.

Just ask Asian Games gold medallist swimmer Joseph Schooling. In the past week, the 19-year-old's Eurasian looks have attracted more attention than his swimming feats.

Netizens have called him an "ang moh" (a Hokkien term for "Caucasian") and a foreign talent.

The online fuss prompted his businessman father Colin to tell The Straits Times last week - in Malay, no less - that he is a "true son of Singapore".

Their last name Schooling originated in Germany. Joseph Schooling's great- grandfather, an officer in the British army, came from England and married a local Portuguese-Eurasian. His grandfather and father were born in Singapore.

Eurasian Singaporeans tell SundayLife! that such mix-ups over their nationality are part and parcel of their lives.

Take, for example, Madam Rosalynn Heramis, 36, who runs a business providing transportation services.

She is of Spanish, Filipino, Portuguese and Chinese descent, but people often mistake her for Indonesian, Nepalese or Indian.

"Every other day, I get called a 'wai guo ren'," says the brunette with long wavy hair, using the Chinese term for "foreigner".

"An auntie at a coffee shop once said I had an Indian-sounding name and big eyes, so I must come from India. I felt irritated, but I didn't hold it against her as it was an honest mistake."

Mr Graham Ong-Webb, 39, who has English, German, Dutch, Chinese and Indian blood, is often taken for an American or Israeli.

Says the political risk consultant with a fair complexion and brown eyes: "Once, I showed my pink IC to a wonton mee seller who didn't believe I was born here, saying anyone can be Singaporean if he stayed long enough."

Mr Michael Shelley, 57, has English, German, Portuguese, Spanish, Thai and Indonesian blood and is often assumed to be a British national because of his fair skin colour.

Says the general manager of an events company: "Sometimes, shopkeepers call me names in Hokkien or Malay, assuming I don't understand what they are saying.

"When the comments are too negative, I just walk out of the shop without buying anything. I don't want to give my business to such nasty people."

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