May 2009


One of the most fascinating conversations ive ever had with the ang mohs, Arabs and other ethnic groups that i meet here is when i have to share a bit more about the sunny island that i hail from.  You see, contrary to popular belief (mostly held by the MIWs), seriously not many people know the Little Red Dot.  Most of their experiences with Singapore can be categorised into:

(a) “Yes, of course i know Singapore.  It is clean and green.  What’s that?  Oh, unfortunately i couldn’t see more of your country as i was on transit at the airport”

(b) “You are from Singapore eh?  So tell me, is it true that you can’t chew gum there?”  [note: a variation of this is when im speaking to an American, in which case he would say that he recalled us caning/spanking some American kid].

(c) “You are a Singaporean?!!?  So you are a commie! Interesting…”

Anyway, the most exasperating moment is when i had to explain what is the language of Singaporeans.  You see, this is a complicated process that requires a lot of patience from both sides!  A sample dialogue goes like this:

ang moh: so you are from Singapore? wow, great [note: usually said in a fake way that you can tell] … so may i know what language does the Singaporean people speak?

me: oh, we speak English as we are a multi-ethnic society.

ang moh: oh i see, so English is your national language?

me: oh, nope.  it is Malay actually … according to the Constitution anyway.

ang moh: right.  so you can speak Malay, great.

me: erm, no.  actually i cant put a sentence in Malay beyond my national anthem.  my mother tongue is actually Chinese/Mandarin so i learnt that instead.  im a Chinese you see.  

ang moh:  ok, so since you are a Chinese, you speak Chinese all the time right?  you must be fluent in Mandarin then. 

me: erhhh, no again.  i actually use English most of the time as its the language most used at the workplace and in schools etc. 

ang moh: hmmm … ok, Malay is your national language but you don’t speak it, Chinese is your mother tongue but you aren’t exactly fluent in it, while you are good in English but you aren’t exactly a native speaker … how strange!

me: i know its confusing … but have i told you that i can speak Cantonese too, which is what the people from Hong Kong speaks?!

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the dreaded summer heat is fast coming … yup, the thermometer’s been on a steady increase since i was last in cairo … sweaty armpits and perspiration will be the order of the day soon …

also, since last week, daylight savings kicked in and i am now officially GMT+3 on the time zone … wats that you say?  why should you care that i am 5 hours behind s’pore time instead of 6 hours behind a week ago?  …

oh …