MUNICH: When Mr Kong Junjie and his wife Laura Ng first moved to Germany almost three years ago, it wasn't all smooth sailing.
The couple faced “some racism” at first, Ms Ng, a Master’s student, recalled. Mr Kong, an engineer working for a German firm in Dresden, also said it took a while for them to get used to living on their own.
“It was quite a bit of a culture shock,” the 30-year-old said. “In Germany, you have to be independent, and fend for yourself.”
Currently, more than 2,000 Singaporeans reside in Munich, most of whom are working professionals in areas such as aviation, IT and engineering. The number of professionals coming to Germany from Singapore has tripled over the past four to five years, according to one community leader.
It is this growing Singapore community that Mr Kong and Ms Ng said helped them adjust and integrate, even as they learned German. They were also drawn by the country’s pro-family policies and flexible working hours, a sentiment echoed by many of their compatriots living there.
On Sunday (Jul 9), the couple joined about 400 other Singaporeans at the Bayerischer Hof Hotel in Munich for an early National Day reception with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
Mr Kong said these events help them get together with other Singaporeans from other states. “And when you meet your ministers, you still feel a sense of belonging to the country,” he said. “When you sing the national anthem you feel like, oh there’s still something ...”
“He was singing really loudly,” Ms Ng added.
“I've come across many Singaporeans in Germany, but their heart is still at home,” said housewife and freelance translator Amy Kiesgen, who helps organise such events for the Singapore community in Germany.
Mr Lee, who arrived in Munich on Sunday after spending two days at the G20 Leader’s Summit in Hamburg, also stressed the importance of friendship, namely Singapore’s relations with other countries.
Besides taking part in summit discussions, Mr Lee also took part in several high-level bilateral meetings, including meetings with US President Donald Trump, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
“All these are important friends and connections which Singapore has,” Mr Lee said. “And each time we touch base with them, it's not just about to talk about what we can do further together, but also a signal to both sides, to our people, to our officials, to the world, that relations are in good order and we are moving ahead."
Mr Lee also highlighted the friendship between Germany and Singapore, from his close ties with Chancellor Angela Merkel, to the “robust” investment and trade links between both countries.
Germany is Singapore’s largest EU trading partner, while Singapore is Germany’s largest trading partner in Southeast Asia. More than 1,600 German companies are based in Singapore and are involved in sectors like electronics and engineering, among others.
These major German corporations and Mittelstand, which refers to small- and medium-sized companies, are expanding in Singapore and using it as an innovation hub, and Singapore firms are, likewise, investing in Germany in areas like aerospace and hospitality.
Mr Lee, who will be meeting top German business leaders on Monday, told the audience in Munich that there were many companies there “who have invested in Singapore, are old friends of Singapore, and we'd like to see them, thank them and encourage them to do more".