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6 sure-fire ways to irritate a Singaporean. (And classy ways to respond.)

Helloooo everyone!

Today’s post is on the 6 sure-fire ways to irritate a Singaporean and how to respond classily when you are irritated.

Tomorrow’s post would be on the 5 sure-fire ways Singaporeans irritate people overseas, and what not to do to embarrass yourself.

Writing both posts for fun to celebrate national day. Here goes! Enjoy~

Irritating statement #1. Ask a Singaporean, “Where is Singapore? Is Singapore in China?”

Why it irritates: Well, as Singaporeans, our forefathers spent a good 51 years building up the nation of Singapore since its independence in 1965. Given that we rank No. 1 in many, many things, such as world’s best city to do business/ economic prospects, best universities, exploiting global digital economy, best airport, best national airline, hearing “Where is Singapore? Is Singapore in China?” is very humbling.

Except that most Singaporeans are not very humble. 😀 So hearing this irritates the hell out of us and we tend to get defensive. Especially for students who  had worked very hard for their NUS/NTU certificates, only to be told to do elementary English tests for masters admission in certain universities who make all Asians do English test, but exempts all EU/EEA folks. How very global! 🙂

<<How to respond classily

Strategy #1: Agree with them.

[By Calvin Soh]:

“Hi, where are you from?”

“I’m from Singapore.”

“Which part of China is that?”

“It’s the Capital.”

“Really, I thought it was Beijing or Shanghai.”

“Oh, those are the new capitals. We were the original one.”

“Wow, I didn’t know that.”

“Man is finite but knowledge is infinite.” (Say it Confucius-like.)

Strategy 2: “No, Singapore is not in China, it is in Africa”.

When the listener expresses his shock, say, “Really! You can google it.

Screenshot 2016-08-06 21.28.29.png

If you get the answer: “But you don’t look South African!”, respond with “Oh dear, are you racist?”

Irritating statement #2: “Wow! Why is your English so good!”

Why it irritates: Because English is actually the first language of many Singaporeans. And because we are not exactly a very humble bunch, we expect the whole world to know.

In addition, why is there an expectation that all Asians speak really shit English? Actually this statement has the same impact as  hearing「日本語は上手ですね。」/ “Your Japanese is awesome!” when you say one simple line of Japanese, such as “konnichiwa”.

<<How to respond classily 

Strategy #1: Consider not taking it too personally. Because low expectations is always very good! You can spy on people, avoid work, and eavesdrop because people think your English isn’t very good.

Strategy #2: Simply smile and state that English is your first language, and English is taught in school from a very young age.

Irritating statement #3: “Why is your English so bad?”

Why it irritates: Assume that you get to know a Singaporean (like myself) through this blog. You know I write well. Then you meet me and SHIT, you don’t understand what I am talking about because I think fast, talk fast, and speak funny English all the time.

Actually I’m not speaking English, but Singlish. Xiaxue did an excellent video on Singlish here:

<<Classy ways to cope

Strategy #1: Laugh it off!

“Hahaha, no lah, I’m speaking Singlish. If you speak Singlish in Singapore and you’re angmoh, you get free coffee you know?”

Strategy #2: Aiyah, learn to speak proper English and switch effectively lah.

That’s what the Singaporean government has been trying to get us locals to do over the past 20+ years, isn’t it.

Irritating Action #4: Try cutting a Singaporean’s queue.

Why it irritates: Look, you cannot cut a Singaporean’s queue. Queuing is every Singaporean’s national past-time and favorite hobby. It doesn’t even matter what we queue up for–be it to pay for limited editions MacDonalds’ Hello Kitties, discounts, freebies, food, drinks, special offer, timed-sales, etc.

Given how “kiasu” –loosely defined as “the fear of losing out”– we are, we hate it when people cut out queue because it shows disrespect. And this hatred is regardless of nationality, we are irritated when fellow Singaporeans cut our queue also. There has also been previous cases of fights (look here, here, here) breaking out because people cut queues.


<<How to Cope

THE ONLY STRATEGY: Don’t cut our queue!!!!!

Irritating StatementS #5: “Your country hangs people, no? Your legal system sends young people like Amos Yee to jail, no? Your prime minister prohibits freedom of expression by suing the CPF blogger, no? Your country canes innocent people for petty crimes such as vandalism, no?”

Why it irritates: As I said, Singaporeans are super proud and defensive of their country. Wendy suggests that we learnt the defensiveness from our founding father Lee Kuan Yew. You can watch how passionately he defends Singapore in this video:

Normally if you make this sort of statements, you’d get three typical sort of responses:

(A) “If you are not happy, don’t come/ leave Singapore lah! We got so many people, so crowded here already! Do us a favour and leave lah.”

(B) “We don’t interfere in the politics of your country. What rights do you have to interfere with ours? “

(C) “Erm, so? Singapore is doing well economically, so people accept the restrictions. How is YOUR country doing economically? Oh, in debt? I wonder why. -smiles-

<< How to respond classily

Strategy #1: Explain that Singapore is a multicultural, multiracial society. We definitely need controlled freedom of speech, if not people might really misconstrue words and contexts and start randomly starting riots.

Strategy #2| By Calvin Soh again: Point out how expensive our houses and cars are. Hello, our cars are the most expensive on earth! So imagine if people randomly burn your sibeh costly HDBs and cars. How would YOU like it? Of course we have to send them to jail or fine them!

Last Irritating Statement #6: “Why did you come to our country to work? Are there no jobs in your country?”

Why it irritates: A couple of Singaporeans I know get this on a regular basis, and it makes them want to puke. Again, it shows that the ignorant foreigner don’t know where Singapore is. And being proud Singaporeans, we feel a sense of defensiveness.

<< The way to cope

Strategy: Say–

“Oh, no, it is because your country is wayyyy cheaper to live in. Did you know when I came here to work, I was so happy, because everything is SOOO cheap? From cars to houses to water bills to clothes!” –blinks innocently

Okay! I hope you learnt some stuffs from this fun post today! If you have any other responses to any one of these 6 irritating statements/ actions, let me know–Leave a comment or PM!

Meanwhile, continue being proud of being a Singaporean lah! We are doing great–just don’t go around irritating people. And happy National Day, everyone!

Click here to read the part 2/2 of this NDP fun series– the Top 5 ways Singaporeans irritate everyone else (and how not to embarrass yourselves)!



  1. Phui-Ling Parker says

    Well WW, I had a lot of fun reading your blog. I found it amusing as well as entertaining. Since I ‘ve lived abroad for more than 30 years, I come across those 6 things often. I like the classy responses because one stands out as a winner but sometimes I can give defensive answers depending on my mood.

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