Hi! This is part 2/2 of the NDP fun series, on the top 5 ways Singaporeans irritate others. Part 1/2 is on the 6 sure-fire ways to irritate a Singaporean. (And classy ways to respond.)
Here goes~ Enjoy!
Irritating trait #1: Talk about money all the time, even over casual dinner with friends.
How it is like: Over dinner with Singaporeans, someone will definitely talk about “how much” something is. It can be how much the new car is, how much one is earning, how big a deal one recently closed, how much the cost of the new house is, and with the greatest worry/concern—
“WHAAAA! Sure or not? So expensive ah? You got negotiate/bargain or not??? HUH? Never ask for discount ah? How cannnnn?????”
Why it might irritate foreigners/ some fellow Singaporeans: Because casual dinner to some foreigners is to chill and forget about work, not to compare how much you are earning. Actually, I personally believe that sometimes the intention is not to compare, but simply just Singaporeans frankly saying what we think.
For example, my French/ Italian/ Austrian friends would be like “Oh this Shiraz/ Chateau Margaux 1990/ Macallan 18 is soooooo good.” over dinner. But some Singaporeans might ask, “Huh the alcohol, expensive or not?” and might spoil the relaxed atmosphere.
Why are Singaporeans like that ah? Haha, because everything in Singapore is expensive. So we have been trained to think in terms of money, cost and benefit first.
Solution: Observe your environment, context and atmosphere first before talking. As a guideline, talk about anything but cost/ price/ money. In general, I get along very well with French people, because I curiously ask them a long list of questions about French wine, and they seem more than happy to answer.
Show genuine interest in the people you are dining with, and their culture.
Irritating trait #2: Singaporeans are very competitive and must win all the time. Most of us don’t like losing or compromising/ eating humble pie.
How it is like: Go to your Facebook, write the status–
“Singapore sucks! Country X is way better, all Singaporeans are really dumb!”
and see what happens. Or try–
“PAP seriously SUCKS! the 70% is stupid, I hate Singapore!”
Oh before you start flaming me, I’m actually a very open and avid PAP supporter with the greatest respect for my MP Khaw Boon Wan. But sometimes PAP supporters totally overreact. If you post any of the above statuses, most likely you will get this army of really angry, very, very reactive and defensive Singaporeans who won’t even bother to see your view on why you think “the other side” is dumb.
Why it might irritate foreigners/ some fellow Singaporeans: Because sometimes people talk and share their most honest opinion to learn, understand, and reach a middle ground. So if I am not tactful and just blurt out my most honest opinion, and you over-react, all positive communication ends. Our discussion then becomes a polarisation of right and wrong, without each party really listening to each other.
If a discussion becomes a debate where it is all about winning, then how do we become more broad-minded, innovative and willing to learn from one another?
Have you ever heard about the phrase “turn the other cheek”? Well, when someone slaps you, the angry reaction of a normal human being would be to slap back.
However, the Singaporean will not only slap back, he/she will slap back with statistics, factual evidence, and detailed quotations in BLACK AND WHITE about how you are wrong and a huge disturbance to society. Then he will ask his friends to slap along with him. By black and white I mean even the filing of police reports–We even have a law for sedation.
Anyway this is something which could happen within Singapore, so when a Singaporean goes overseas and behaves like that, he/she is either seen as very inspiring, or highly irritating. 😉 So just take note lah.
Why are we like that? I think it is because Singapore society is quite stressful to be in, with so many places being over-crowded and us being trained to be competitive since young. Coupled with a “kiasu“/the fear of losing out mentality, we just don’t like losing, I guess. Being competitive and always wanting to win can be seen as a consequence of survival instinct and a lack mentality, rather than malicious intent.
Solution: Relax, do give and take sometimes. No big deal.
Irritating trait #3: Singaporeans like to offer unsolicited advice.
How it is like:
E.g 1: “I am going to Taiwan alone tomorrow…”
Friend: “ALONE? TOMORROW? Don’t go lah! So dangerous! You first time overseas right? Right? Cannot speak mandarin properly right? Don’t go lah aiyoh!”
E.g. 2: “Ma, I’m going to NUS orientation. Yay, can play games and make a lot of friends! Maybe I can even get a boyfriend!”
Mom: “HUH! Didn’t you read the news about NUS? They said there are very lewd games there! Don’t go lah, so dangerous! Later you get molested how? The school also one kind, how can allow such rowdy games ah?!” etcetc [True incident by the way]
Why it might irritate foreigners/ some fellow Singaporeans: Because they didn’t ask for your opinion.
Well actually this has started to irritate me too, because when people keep on offering unsolicited advice–regardless of intentions– it indicates that they don’t trust your judgement, or don’t even bother to listen to how you came to the decision you made.
So offering unsolicited advice is related to not taking time to closely listen to your friends’ perspective, to seek empathy.
Well, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
Why are we like that? I think to some extent, this is influenced by the structure of the society, because PAP’s political leadership is rather paternalistic. The government/ state knows best for each citizen, and “you follow what I say, cannot anyhow, and don’t question”.
Solution: Ask for permission before offering advice. Say, “Can I have your permission to give advice?” or “May I make a little comment about my deep concern over your trip?”
Listen to your friend before offering unsolicited advice. Maybe her trip to Taiwan is fully sponsored? 😛 A lot of Singaporeans I know don’t listen, partially listen, assume a lot, then offer irritating “I know best” or “what do you know?” advice.
You see, if people do that to you, even if the advice is good, you’d still get irritated. LOL.
Irritating trait #4: Singaporeans LOVE freebies. Some of us HOARD freebies.
How it is like: It’s 100% okay to love freebies. But taking more freebies than expected, or hoarding freebies is no good.
Okay, here is a true story.
On a side note–here is a picture of the pretty Kelly with Godfrey Gao:
Haha I deviate.
Anyway, you see, during fashion shows, there would sometimes be complimentary pretty little items such as keychains from the fashion house on the seats. These complimentary keychains are for the distinguished guests to keep– One for each guest! If some seats (especially for the back rows) are not taken, then the items should remain on the seats.
Well there is this really notorious lady who would somehow get to attend most of the fashion shows in Singapore, sit at the back row, and then sweep ALL the little fashion items from some of the empty back seats. So when one particular show ended (I remember it was Anne Fontaine), I saw her carry 8 paper bags away with her.
Oh and she openly does it without shame. I’m okay with shameless people in general if they do things with a purpose. But why does she need or want so many keychains?? To sell, or keep and hoard at home?
Some Singaporeans are great hoarders by the way. Anyway hoarding is a psychological condition, and the hoarding of freebies sure irritates fellow Singaporeans, because there is this question of “what for?” and perhaps too, an implication of greed.
Why are we like that? It’s the lack mentality. Also, we fear losing out in a super expensive country. Therefore we love freebies.
Solution: It’s okay to love freebies! But don’t take a lot more freebies than expected–collect freebies with a purpose, not to hoard at home, or sell!
Actually, another solution would be to dress really, really well. You see, usually freebies-collectors don’t dress well, so people look down on them when they hoard things. However, if you make it a point to dress well, wear heels, put on makeup, and then leave with 8 paper bags, most likely people won’t regard you as a cheap person. Instead, they will think you are a … STAFF. HAHAHAHA.
So dress well! Dressing well never hurts! 😉
Irritating trait #5: BAD DRESSING and a total lack of fashion sense.
How it is like: HAHAHA I AM TOTALLY GUILTY OF THIS.
Basically I wear whatever I want and/or am lazy to dress up. When I was in Japan, some of my Japanese friends were a bit horrified when I wore slippers to school. Or go to school with my hair wet (I was studying at Waseda then, one of the top elite universities, and my hostel was just 5 minutes away) I remember wearing a lot of lace when I was at Waseda, because I like lace! So sometimes I look a bit too lolita-ish haha!
There was one time when I was hiking Mt Rokko with my friend Pea, and the dad of my exbf (ex is Japanese) in HEELS. Almost died, from both stupidity and physical pain, because the hike down Mt. Rokko was not informed beforehand.
There was another time I turned up in Japan for a formal event looking like a gyaru, and it sort of shocked everyone haha! So basically yes, no fashion consciousness at all.
Why it might irritate foreigners/ fellow Singaporeans: This lack of fashion consciousness irritates friends sometimes because if I stand out, they will stand out with me. Sometimes we just don’t want to stand out!
And sometimes it is not a question of “you should only hang out with people who will accept you”. It is more of my friends accept me, BUT “I just have no fashion sense!”
And what if the way you dress is so bad, it is embarrassing to be seen with you?
Haha this is really quite funny. Hey if this is you, please don’t worry. I was like that once. I sometimes still go out in pyjamas to buy food from K-market, which is 9 minute walk from my house in Finland. But NOW, I learn how to cover up so I don’t look like I am wearing pyjamas hahahaha!
Why are we like that? I think a lot of Singaporeans don’t really care about what they wear. However, this is changing, especially with the “Instagram generation” of young people born after 1990s and the millennials.
The reason simply is because in my generation (1980s~ and before), we have no role models. I loved how Daniel Boey–Singapore’s Fashion Godfather–says it here. If we have no prior role models to refer to, it is easy to anyhow dress or anyhow pair our dressing.
Think about it–Why do Europeans dress well? This is because they have a long and rich heritage + tradition to fall back on. If you are a European, you simply copy what your mom wore, and you won’t go too wrong. It’s intuitive. However, dressing in “Western clothes” is not intuitive to Asians, so we require fashion role models, models, and fashion magazines as guidelines.
What happens when the Singaporeans don’t read fashion magazines, because dressing well is seen as “troublesome”, “vanity”, and “a waste of time”?
Solution: Find models you like, whose body shape is similar to yours, and copy how they dress in accordance to different/ several social contexts!
Okay I hope you have enjoyed this NDP series on how to irritate people and how not to be irritated!
Happy Birthday, Singapore and fellow Singaporeans! I love you guys and let’s make Singapore even greater on the world’s stage for the next 51 years!
P/S. Am I qualified to write this? Actually yes, because I’d unwittingly irritated so many foreigners before hahaha. But after we become friends they are kind enough to let me know how mildly irritated they had once been. I’d stayed, studied and worked in Japan and have close ties with folks in East-Asia (aka Korea, Japan, China), across South-east Asia and I’m currently based with Europe.
Actually the point of this post is NOT to ask Singaporeans to change. The point is to ask us to take note and be aware. =) Because with awareness comes the greater capacity to make more friendships and form more business ties across countries.
What do you think ? Let me know via PM or in the comments! 🙂