By Kai Teo
Singapore, the economic superpower of Southeast Asia, the land of freakishly tall glass buildings, and the home of the world-famous Chilli Crab. In less than 50 years, the country has progressed from a busy colonial port to what it is today – a glitzy, money-churning city that never sleeps, and one where it is still illegal for a man to fuck another man in the ass.
Whenever I tell someone that I’m from Singapore, everyone says the same shit, “Oh, chewing gum is banned there?” Yes, it still is. And we don’t see this ban being lifted anytime soon, given the health hazards of gum and how chewing too much of it can lead to problems like depression and schizophrenia. Singaporeans need to be protected against this evil.
The city-state is a melting curry pot of different cultures, beliefs and ethnicities. And this rojak, a delicious mix of 75% Chinese, 13% Malays, 10% Indians, and a pinch of everyone from everywhere, spiced with a heavy dose of the peculiar one-party political system, has created an entirely new cultural dish we now serve as “Uniquely Singapore”.
Through years of intensive research (living there for 25 fucking years), we have compiled a list of observations about the locals that might have eluded angmoh (literally red hair, yes, that’s what we call you white people) eyes. So here we go:
1. Singaporeans are obsessed with their devices, and the Korean drama series they have on them.
There’s zero eye contact on public transport. The Singaporean has his or her eyes perpetually fixated on their Samsung Galaxies or iPhones. And everyone is squeezing in an episode of their favourite Korean drama while being squeezed like sardines on buses and trains.
Anyone who is seen to be bobbing their head to their music will be filmed and the clip will be posted onto the local forum called Stomp with the title “Mad man enjoying his music a little too much. Is he on drugs?”
2. There’s a reserved seat on the train for the handicapped, pregnant or elderly. And this seat is avoided like the plague.
A huge sticker looms over the seat closest to the train door. It says “Reserved Seating” and shows a hunchback with a cane, someone in a dress with a weirdly shaped belly, a suggestive image of a limp looking small person bouncing on the lap of a bigger person, and another with an extremely short crutch and a leg with fish scales.
If you don’t look like any of the above creatures, taking this special seat imposes on you special responsibilities. You are socially expected to give up your seat when that special someone is within a 1m radius from you. However, if the person falls outside the radius, standing up and walking over to offer your seat might jeopardise its availability, yes, because someone less deserving might just grab it.
But hey, this responsibility is completely relinquished when you take the non-reserved seat just beside it. You can sleep in peace or watch your Korean drama without any interruption. Even when a heavily pregnant lady is standing right in front of you, it’s not your fault. You didn’t get her pregnant. The sleeping boy in army uniform in the reserved seat should be the one giving up his seat. Blame him. Post a video on Stomp.
3.When buying food, the Singaporean always picks the stall with the longest queue.
Longer queues simply mean better food. The Singaporean is unable to distinguish between popularity and food quality, neither can he or she make out whether the queue is a result of slow service. The craving for good local cuisine has blinded a majority of the population. And we’re not to blame, once you’ve tried the Katong Laksa, your soul belongs to the sweaty pot-bellied lady behind the counter.
Rule of thumb: when there’s a queue, join it.
4. Singaporeans are distressed more by taxi fare hikes than the fact that gay marriages are still not legal in the country.
Whenever the Land Transport Authority (LTA) announces a 50-cent increase in the taxi fares, the entire country suddenly unites and goes fucking berserk. For a day or two, that’s everything you’ll see on your Facebook feeds, aside from the occasional instagram picture of someone’s lunch, which he or she has queued up for 45 minutes for.
Singaporeans seem rather apathetic when it comes to issues that do not concern them. “I take the cab daily. So a fare hike would greatly impair my financial abilities, which directly translates to taking one less cab ride a month.” Our LGBT community is seldom being spoken up for, gender (in)equality rarely mentioned, the jarring rich-poor divide hardly ever contested, and immigrant rights are only brought into the spotlight whenever there’s a riot (once).
5. Our different ethnic groups live in harmony, but interracial or inter-class couples are as rare as cheap housing.
“We can be neighbours, we can be colleagues, we can even go out for a beer once in a while. But I will never marry you, because we are of different races.” That’s what many Singaporeans subconsciously think, but will never say.
Buddha Mag has mentioned this point before. And we would once again like to point out that the one mixed couple that you have on your Facebook does not refute this observation.
There’s loads of inbreeding going on in terms of ethnicity and social classes. University graduates seldom date those who have not completed their O Levels. If a female degree holder marries a hawker, their relationship would turn up on the news as “An inspiring love story”.
6. Singaporean girls who date angmohs are frowned upon, but a Singaporean boy with an angmoh girlfriend is someone to look up to.
Really discomforting point. But local girls who are seen with white men are sometimes labelled SPGs, short for Sarong Party Girls – overly westernised Singaporean girls who have forgotten their roots and blinded by the riches of the supreme white male. They are usually associated with loose morals, lack of traditional values, materialism and promiscuity.
But wait, a Singaporean man with a blond girlfriend? Rare as fuck. But once you’ve scored, it’s so much win. The girls are paraded like trophies to their friends, signifying his victory over the fetters of white superiority and his prowess in overcoming the odds of his penis size. Other local boys he walks past give him a subtle nod of approval, a silent salute, and a mental pat on the back, as if to tell him “Good job, you’ve done us proud.”
We have no idea how this happened. But it’s prevalent. Angmohs, next time you visit, remember, this is what we think about you.
7. Singaporeans don’t seem to be very proud of Singlish. And whenever we start talking to an angmoh, we put on a fucking weird accent.
Singlish is a unique language that we have meticulously crafted over decades of multiculturalism. It’s English with a thick Chinese twang, garnished with a colourful sprinkle of real and made-up words from Mandarin, Malay and Tamil.
There’s no English substitute for the word “giap”. Nothing conveys as much doubt as “meh?”. No term can indicate as much unwillingness as a draggy “leh”. And calling someone a “cheebye “ is a lot harsher than saying that he or she is a “cunt”.
Languages were invented to convey ideas and facilitate communication. And Singlish is at the apex of efficient communication. Try deciphering this sentence, “Eh, can liddat one meh? Later you kena how? Better siam lah.” Type it into Google Translate and what appears as a shortened translation in English is 245 words long.
But angmohs rarely understand our special language and their brave attempt at inserting a “lah” at the end of their sentences usually sound a little stupid. So we ditch our Singlish and start speaking English. Well, sort of. It’s still got a local twang, but uncomfortably infused with the American accent we’ve acquired from Gossip Girls or Breaking Bad. Hey, at least we try.
8. Most Singaporeans were brought up being spanked and threats that go along the lines of “If you’re naughty, the police will catch you.”
Completely aligned with our country’s policy of caning criminals, many Singaporeans were brought up being spanked by all kinds of household objects, such as the feather duster, a flip flop, a ruler, and in more serious cases, daddy’s leather belt. It might sound like child abuse to the western world, but we’ve come to accept that as Asian discipline and tough love.
There’s even a Chinese saying that goes, “Spanking is caring. Scolding is loving.”
That’s some fucked up shit. And that’s why we haven’t really petitioned against the caning of criminals. We usually adopt the passive stance of “if you don’t commit a crime, you won’t get caned.”
I’ve grown up to be really afraid of the cops. “If I’m naughty, they will catch me.” My parents made cops sound like they’re assholes, and even though I’m a law abiding citizen, these days, whenever I see a cop car, I jump into the bushes.
So why is Singapore so safe and so damn squeaky-clean? Here’s a little example: we don’t litter because that carries a fine of about 200 dollars for first-time offenders and if you get caught again, you’ll be made to sweep the streets in a neon orange vest that says “Corrective Work Order”.
You’ve been warned.
9. Car parking skills is a national concern.
Singaporeans are obsessed about bad parking. When someone parks his or her car badly and accidentally occupies more than one lot, there will be someone who will curse you, your family, your ancestors and your neighbour’s dog.
And if you’re driving an expensive car (ok, every car is expensive in Singapore, but we’re talking about luxury shit like Mercedes, BMWs, Ferraris and Lamborghinis), one wrong move and you will be immediately condemned as a rich spoilt brat with a shitty personality. And someone will take a photo of your inconsiderate parking and post it up online. Shame on you.
10. Singaporeans complain about everything. But when someone complains about Singaporeans, we suddenly become very patriotic.
If you wanna see hardcore patriotism, tell Singaporeans that they’re a bunch poor people. Anton Casey, a Brit working in the city, felt the wrath of the Singaporean community when he posted some rather unsavoury comments about the income level of public commuters.
The entire nation united and pummelled him with Singaporean pride, insulting everything from his penis size to his hair loss problem. He was eventually frightened off when death threats started coming in.
We don’t care too much about loads of things. But step on the wrong foot, and watch the Singaporean online community mutilate you post by post, comment by comment.
Disclaimer: The above comments are careful observations based on in-depth knowledge and experience. The Singaporeans described here do not represent the entire country, and the caustic tone has been chosen for entertainment value and do not convey any real hate. Please don’t get too defensive. If you would like to send death threats, terms and conditions might apply.