Monthly Archives: February 2010

#8 Bird’s nest

As nasty as it sounds, Singaporean People love Bird’s nest. Yeah, I’m talking about the actual nest that birds make (and no, I don’t know why the B in Bird is capitalized). They dissolve it in water, throw in a couple of cubes of chicken essence to cover the smell and then force their unsuspecting children to drink it. But no, that’s not even the worst part, because Bird’s nests are made from… wait for it… wait for it… bird saliva. As if it isn’t already bad enough that several hundred thousands of birds have been robbed of their homes and are now being forced to live the simple life as hobos. Nope, no more house parties (nest parties?) and tricked out cribs for you…. just the long, nomadic life of a vagabond.

Anyway, I digress. Singaporean People (especially Singaporean Moms) love Bird’s nest because they believe that it cures everything. Have a stomachache? No need for charcoal tablets, just have some Bird’s nest soup. Failing calculus? Better eat ginko nuts to improve your memory, and then wash it down with some Bird’s nest soup. Balding problems? Don’t waste your money on Yun Nam Hair Care, Bird’s nest will cure that. Have acne problems? Bird’s nest is the new Proactive. Can’t get it on in the bedroom? Down a shot of Bird’s nest soup and bust out your A game foo!

Singaporean People love Bird’s nest so much that they’ve even bottled up the essence for convenience sake. Instead of lugging around a couple of bulky nests, they can instead carry Bird’s nest essence around in a flask, taking the occasional swig like a baller.

One time, in Primary School, everyone got a complementary bottle of Bird’s nest (so that we could drink it and become smarter, presumably) but I gave mine to my chinese tutor in hopes of distracting her from my recent F in ting xie. She cracked open the cap like a gangster and poured that shit into her Thermos, before lapping it up like it was the Fountain of Youth. She still found out about my failing grade though, and made me write out Li Bai’s ridiculous poem (You know the one about him sitting by his bed and looking at the moon like a loser?) 20 times.

#7 Emasculation

The Singaporean Woman is a curious creature. She looks demure, gentle and soft-spoken, but do not be fooled by this, because she is fierce. And I don’t mean Christian Siriano fierce either. She won’t hesistate to make her man carry her handbag, even if it’s pink, sparkly and not even big enough to fit anything more than a ping pong ball. Don’t think that you’re being manly and macho by carrying her bag for her. You are not carrying her bag because she’s too weak to carry her own handbag, you are carrying it because it is a display of power. In other words, she’s showing everyone that she’s got you twisted around her pinkie. What’s that I hear? Oh yeah, it’s your Singaporean Woman saying “Bitch, make me a sandwich please.”

Now if there’s one thing that you don’t want to do, it’s piss off a Singaporean Woman. You know that term, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned”? Yeah, totally the Singaporean Woman. If you anger her, she will hit you, and it will be painful. You might even bruise up. Or if you really piss her off, she might club your balls with her Charles and Keith peeptoes. And she probably won’t be sorry about it.

Also, don’t attribute her moodswings/temper tantrums on PMS. Ever. You’ll be sorry, because if there’s one thing a hormonal and irritable Singaporean Woman cannot tolerate, it’s someone telling her that she’s hormonal and irritable because of PMS. You may think that PMS is like a free pass for a woman to go all Godzilla on you, but it is not. Blaming a Singaporean Woman’s irrational behavior/extreme moodswings on PMS is like saying that she’s being a complete bizznatch for no reason but because she feels like it. The best thing to do when dealing with moodswings and temper tantrums is to 1) Placate your angry/scary significant other with chocolate, champagne or cuddles or 2) Escape (hopefully unscathed).

#6 Saying Lah

Lah to Singaporeans is like what Hella is to Californians (or Bay Area folk, to be specific). They use it all the time in multiple contexts, and can’t go two sentences without saying it (sometimes unconsciously).

Often times, Lah is used to complement a sentence. This seemingly simple three-letter word can be used in various contexts: to emphasize a point, to soften a sentence, or for reassurance. Singaporeans love Lah because it has the ability to indicate a range of tones, all with the power of one syllable. See examples below.

Emphasizing a point: She’s damn hot lah!

Softening a sentence: No lah, I’m too tired to go Zouk and tio bu (Hokkien term for dance, but can also be used to refer to clubbing, or in my Singaporean Dad’s words, “frequenting a discotheque”.)

Reassurance: No lah, you’re not fat at all. Anyway, so what if your mother calls you ah pui? (slang for fatty, fugly or having too much junk in your trunk) Tyra Banks is fat also what and she’s got her own talk show!

You can use Lah to indicate impatience (Hurry up lah!), invitation (Just eat, lah.) or even disbelief (No laaaaaaah.). Do not underestimate the power of Lah because of its plain Jane exterior. Lah is zen, but Lah is also complex. If John Maynard Keynes were Singaporean, he’d totally write about the paradox of Lah instead of the paradox of thrift. Because Lah is awesome possum.

I hope you now understand why Singaporeans love saying Lah (perhaps even more than they love complaining. See #4. ) If Google were a word in the Singlish vocabulary, it would be Lah. Minimalist but impossibly useful. But remember, (in the words of Spiderman’s uncle) with great power comes great responsibility. Use Lah wisely, and use it right. Or you might end up offending someone, and then I’ll tell you, “See lah, told you so.”

#5 Tough love

The Singaporean Mom, like most mothers across all Asian cultures, wants her child to be the best. The difference with a Singaporean Mom is that she is competitive. Really competitive. Like outta-the-way beeyotch! competitive.

When it comes to her kid, the Singaporean Mom will go to any extent to ensure that he/she achieves far more than his/her  peers (or friends’/relatives’ children). You will start attending ballet lessons the moment you can walk on your own, nevermind that you dance like Hagrid. You will also start having Chinese tuition with a hardcore lao shi that won’t hesitate to beat your hand with a ruler and force you to recite passages Journey to the West when you fail your ting xie, all while wearing a floral pants suit straight out of the 1970s.

From Speech and Drama class to Abacus lessons, the Singaporean Mom will ensure that you have enough extra-curriculars to beef up your college applications even before you start Primary School. And rest assured, you will excel in these activities, even if you have no use for an Abacus whatsoever.

Do not be fooled by the Singaporean Mom’s demure exterior, because she is one tough cookie.  She does not accept failure, quitting or anything less than an A (so yes, you should hang your head in shame for getting that B in Chemistry). If Ms. Trunchbull were Asian, she’d be the perfect Singaporean Mom, sans riding pants and boots.

Of course, the Singaporean Mom is only tough on you because she wants to ensure that you don’t grow up to be a failure (and also so she can brag about your latest report card to Aunty So-and-So). And if you really do suck at Math, she will tutor you (aka force you to complete copious amounts of extra homework), so there’s really nothing to fear when it comes to Singaporean Moms. Unless you talk back to her, then she will go all Hitler on your ass and give you a reason to be afraid.

#4 Complaining

Singaporeans are infamous for their innate ability to complain about anything, from the “too many” announcements on the MRT (deemed “noise pollution”) to the air-conditioning in shopping centers (deemed “freezing and a cold waiting to happen”). Often times, they will complain about something that has not being done, and then complain about how it sucks when it is done.

Disgruntled Singaporeans will use all forms of media to ensure that their complaints are heard, including writing in to The Straits Times and talking smack about people/places/anything really online.

Singaporeans are especially fond of complaining on forums and blogs, because it allows them to hide behind a facade of anonymity. Don’t like how your maid listens to your husband and not you? Complain about that skank on Maid Library (Yes, there is a local forum dedicated to the trials and tribulations of having a maid, I kid you not. Google it.) Unhappy about how you cannot buy gum in Singapore without getting a prescription? Start a ‘Singapore Sucks’ Facebook group and threaten to migrate to Australia (even though you know you won’t). Offended that online TV portals are broadcasting shows with girls prancing around in bikinis? Go and complain on the website about how the content is too salacious. Insulted that a teenage couple has the audacity to make out at your void deck? Just snap secret photos of them to post on Stomp and complain about their shameless debauchery (clearly, an invasion of privacy isn’t immoral at all when you’re doing it it for the greater good of exposing these teenagers with raging hormones).

Complaining is an art that Singaporeans have managed to master and excel in. So stop complaining that we’re laopok in any field related to the Arts.

#3 Free stuff

Singaporeans love free stuff. In fact, they love collecting free paraphernalia so much that they’ll even stand in line for hours, as long as there’s a sign that says “FREE GIFT. ‘Q’ HERE –>”.

Take my Singaporean Dad, for example. He has such an extensive collection of hotel/Singapore Airlines toothbrushes, lotions, emery boards, loofahs and sewing kits stashed away in his room that it would make a hoarder blush. No, actually, it would make aforementioned hoarder look almost zen-like. My Singaporean Dad also likes collecting free moist towelettes that you get at some restaurants, and he gets especially pleased if it’s the kind that is wrapped in plastic and causes a gratifying pop when you burst it. In fact, he’s been collecting them for so long that some of the moist towelettes aren’t even moist anymore (I swear he once gave me a Lee Tong Kee Ipoh Hor Fun wet wipe, he we haven’t been there to eat since I was in primary school.) One time I asked him for a wet wipe after eating chilli crab and he gave me a yellowed-out towelette that looked almost as ancient and dried out as Confucius. Not that I’ve ever met the guy, but you get my drift.

Anyway.

As I was saying, Singaporeans (myself included) love free stuff, even if they have no use for it. I love free stuff so much that I shamelessly empty out the toiletries whenever I stay at a hotel, including the rock hard loofah that I will probably never use in this lifetime. Don’t lie, you know you do that to.

What’s that? You mean you don’t pocket the free notepads and envelopes that you get in hotels? Oh. Awkward.

#2 Saving a seat with a packet of tissue paper

Ahh, the Packet Tissue. So tiny, so handy and so impossibly useful. The Packet Tissue commands a great deal of respect among Singaporeans, especially when used to save (or “chope”) a seat in a crowded hawker centre or food court. It is an unspoken rule that any seat with a Packet Tissue parked on it is taken, and it is almost taboo to ignore this venerable code that dates way back in Singapore’s history.

One time, I was at a hawker centre during lunchtime and needless to say, the place was packed. I wandered around, with my bowl of bak chor mee perched precariously on my tray, and finally found a single seat next to a couple of Office Ladies (will elaborate on them later). Being a speedy eater, I was almost done with my meal in under 10 minutes or so, and just as I was about to eat the two remaining meatballs floating around in my soup (I don’t know about you, but I like saving the best part – the meatballs – for last.) when a middle-aged lady with a bad haircut (her hair looked like that metal sponge thing that your maid scours pots and pans with) approached me, looking highly affronted. Apparently, she had saved the seat I was shamelessly sitting on with a pack of tissue paper, but the midday breeze had blown it onto the ground under the table, where it sat forlornly next to an errant fishball and some litter. But obviously this didn’t matter to her, because I had broken the sacred code of the Packet Tissue.

So foreigners, beware of the power of the seemingly innocuous Packet Tissue. It’s not just something that might have fallen out of someone’s bag, it is something mighty, something to behold and something to honour.

#1 Losing weight without exercising

If there’s one thing that Singaporeans – especially women – are keen about, it’s being skinny. Forget all that crap about being a realistic size, because in Singapore, a UK size 12 is equivalent to being morbidly obese. You see the thing is, Singaporeans tend to equate being skinny (and by skinny I mean reed-thin… brownie points if there’s a gap between your thighs) with being attractive. Therefore, Singaporean women will go out of their way to stay skinny or lose weight, but with minimal physical exertion. Run on the treadmill? Preposterous. Work those glutes on the Stairmaster? You’ve got to be kidding. No, Singaporeans do not like to exercise (I suspect the nation-wide ACES Day Workout that everyone had to do in Primary School left a less than favourable impression of exercise on us). Instead, Singaporeans turn to slimming pills, Jean Yip Slimming and other random potions and pills that promise to banish your thunder thighs or batwing-like arms. In extreme cases, some Singaporeans will turn to dieting (aka eating a slice of bread for lunch and dinner) in a desperate attempt to shave off a few pounds.

Despite the (ethically questionable) fact that most of the Before and After photos for these slimming treatments are heavily Photoshopped, many Singaporeans still believe in the power of the Slim Wrap.