A Match Made in Heaven, Singapore-Style
This is a tale of two people from different lands who met in sunny Singapore. It all started with a HDB upgrading project in Henderson and chronicles how Hakim Lorenz, a Bangladeshi who arrived in Singapore armed only with hope, wits and ambition managed to overcome the spectre of stereotyping and adversity, with the support of the lady of his dreams, Patricia.
Hakim the Scholar Construction Worker
Originally hailing from Khulna, Bangladesh, Hakim, was a bright and ambitious college student. However, tragedy struck. His relatively young schoolteacher father had passed away suddenly from a rare illness. His bereft homemaker mother, hard-pressed to pay for the education of his two younger sisters who were showing great promise in their studies, was at her wit’s end. Hakim had no choice but to drop out in the second year of his Bachelor of Commerce degree in university. To help his mother and to support the family finances, Hakim decided to sign on with a construction firm and came to Singapore to work in 2006. Despite his youth and inexperience, Hakim had a friendly manner and an excellent work ethic. Within two years, he was promoted to project supervisor. In 2008, he was tasked with overseeing a work crew of a HDB upgrading project in Henderson. One of his responsibilities was to communicate with the residents and to ensure that they had minimal disruptions. That was when he met Patricia.
Patricia the Intrepid Linguist
Born in Germany, Patricia spent a large portion of her growing years in the United Kingdom. After receiving a Masters in Archaeology and a post graduate degree from BBC Scotland, Patricia decided to widen her horizons and see the world. She travelled and worked in France, Australia, Thailand and Malaysia in both marketing and education. Finally, she came to Singapore to work, and lived in Henderson, in one of the HDB blocks that was being upgraded at the time. This was how she came to know Hakim.
Building a Life Together
Hakim’s kindness and genuine concern for all the residents affected by the upgrading impressed Patricia. When the upgrading works were completed, Hakim kept in touch with Patricia. Eventually, love blossomed. They married in March, 2009, and chose to stay in Singapore, which they described as one of the most conducive places in the world to live and work.
“To me, Singapore is the best place,” said Hakim, emphatically. “It was daunting at first because I come from such a different culture and speak a different language. Patricia helped me a lot after we got married, but honestly, Singapore has so many options available if you are willing to work hard,” he said.
Hakim tried his hand at various jobs over the years. At every step of the way, he would conscientiously upgrade his skills, equipping himself with various certifications. Today, he is a manager at a commodity trading company, overseeing not only the documentation but also the accounting, finance and banking of the firm.
Grateful for all that he has managed to achieve in Singapore, Hakim is an active member of the Fengshan Neighbourhood Committee. He regularly organizes and participates in grassroots activities such as neighbourhood Music Nights, and celebrations for Fengshan residents such as the Mid-Autumn Festival and Halloween Fright Night. “This is my way of giving back to Singapore,” he explained. Patricia chimed in, “Hakim truly cares about people. He relished his experience working with the residents, especially the elderly, during his days at the HDB Upgrading. With the Neighbourhood Committee, he gets ample opportunity to continue interacting with and helping residents.”
The Ideal Melting Pot to Live, Work, and Play
Patricia, who is now Coordinator for German Language at the Center of Modern Languages in Nanyang Technological University, agrees with Hakim that Singapore is one of the best places to live and work. “Compared to many other countries in the region, Singapore is the one country where I can move about freely as a woman without constant fear of harassment,” she said. “In one other country that I shall not name, I was harassed almost daily. Crime was high, and I would always have to be on my guard. This is not something that I have to worry about at all in Singapore,” she said.
From a professional standpoint, Patricia also feels that Singapore holds diverse and ample career opportunities for educators like her. “There are so many world-class private and public tertiary institutions in Singapore,” she said, smiling.
Hakim and Patricia both firmly believe that Singapore is one of the best countries for mixed-race marriages. “This is one of the few places in the world where we can feel truly comfortable, where there are not so many expectations as to how we should act or conduct ourselves,” said Hakim. Patricia add, “There is such a diversity of cultures and races here that we can have German food for lunch, and Bengali cuisine for dinner. It makes living here very easy for us,” she said.
Hakim added, “If not for Singapore, I would not have come so far in life. To me, this is home. This is my community, my kampong, and that is why I am passionate about volunteering. Just seeing a child's face light up at the Christmas Celebration when we give out the presents - that makes it all worthwhile.”
For Hakim and Patricia, Happily Ever After does exist, and it can be found right here, in Singapore.