Brain drain, once removed


Penangites have been leaving the state to work in other parts of Malaysia and throughout the world, at least since the 1960s. The ties they retain with their home state vary, depending on family and working conditions. They are seen as part of a “brain drain”, a term many now consider a misnomer, not only because it is not always about brains but also because the drain is multidirectional. In fact, it is very often a loop. Something we know less about is the fate of the children of these relocated Penangites, who grow up overseas and whose parents often drag them home to Penang for festive seasons to visit grandparents they know little about. For them, Penang is a place they imagine more than remember. Ooi Kee Beng talks to 23-year-old Petrina Lin Weilynn, daughter of Penangites who left to work in Hong Kong in the early 1980s, about her imaginings and memories.

Petrina Lin Weilynn was born in Penang in 1986 and bundled to Hong Kong when she was just a few months old. Her father has been working at Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post since 1983, where he is now a business editor. Her mother left her job as a graphic designer at the now defunct The Straits Echo to join him and now works as an administrative assistant at the church the family attends in Hong Kong.

Petrina, tell us something about yourself.

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