I’ve lived in and out of Singapore over the years, travelled through four continents and am always sometimes surprised by how others view me once they find out my nationality. Here are some exchanges I’ve found common over the years.
1. They’re surprised we speak English
Them: “Where is your accent from?”
Them: “Wow! Your English is amazing!”
Me: “Er. Thanks! Yours is not bad either.”
2. They can’t understand how ethnicity and nationality are different.
Them: “Where are you from?”
Them: “Really?! You don’t look Singaporean.”
Me: “I don’t? Well I am. Second-generation.”
Them: “No. Where are you parents from?”
Me: “They’re from Singapore.”
Them: “Er…. So you’re from India/China?”
2. They find us overly by-the-book
Me: “What time is the bus coming?”
Them: “Around 5pm.”
Me: “Is it around 5pm? Or 5pm? The sign says 4:30pm”
Them: “Between 4:30pm and 5pm.”
Me: “What?!?! But it says!!!!” *begins to self-destruct*
3. They are envious of how very clean & green Singapore is
Them: “Ah yes. Singapore. I was there in 2001. Very clean. Very green.”
Me: “Yes. Yes it is.”
4. They pass judgment about how controlled Singapore is
Them: “Ooooh no chewing gum! Careful not to dance on the bar top. You might get caned.”
Me: “Yes. It’s a hard life. Not sure how we do it really. It was nice to have met you…” *walks away*
5. They think they know the local lingo
Them: “Oh Singaporean! Hello lah!”
Me: “That’s not how it works. There is a grammar and a syntax to Singlish. Seriously, don’t try.”
Them: “Oh so strict you are lah! Aiyo lah!”
Me: “Please stop.”
6. They think we’re overly uptight
Them: “Wow, you’re pretty uptight. Relax.”
Me: “ONE DOES NOT SIMPLY ANYHOW USE ‘LAH’ OKAY!”
7. And that we like to complain…
Me: “So it’s 5:15pm and the bus is still not here. Why is that? Can I speak to your manager?”
Them: “Dude it’s 15 minutes, chill.”
Me: “I have to be somewhere at 5:30pm! I am deeply disappointed by the service you have provided today.” *frantically begins to type strongly-worded complaint email to management*
8. And we’re food-obsessed
Them: “For lunch I know this great restaurant that serves carbonara.”
Me: “OMG yum! Carbonara Napoli style? Or Sicillian?! What about putanesca? I LOVE putanesca. But with fusilli not fettucine. Never fettucine. Okay what about dinner.We should totally start planning dinner now.”
Them: “It’s 9am! Can you calm down about the food? Jeez.”
Aw hell, maybe no one understands us. Or perhaps I’m just insane. (Ed: Distinct possibility!) At the end of a long trip there is no better feeling than getting into the taxi at Changi Airport, slamming the door and saying “Uncle, Beach Rd” Only to have a heated intense, Singlish-drenched discussion about prawn noodles, briyani and ah balling. Aaaahhh the green green grass of home.
We Singaporeans have plenty of complaints – from train delays to haze.
So, we wanted to find out what Singaporeans on the street have to say.
Are we really a miserable bunch of unhappy people?
Click here to look at our video!