Monthly Archives: April 2010

#16 Boasting

Singaporeans have mastered the art of boasting without looking like they’re blatantly showing off. Whether it’s your neighbour’s new car or your freakishly smart cousin who scored 10 As for O Levels, you can bet that you’ll know more about it than you actually want to know. Often times, Singaporeans will try to make it seem like they are complaining about something, when in actual fact, they just want to gloat. This is called ninja boasting.

(Credit: Fundraw)

Typically, when Singaporeans engage in ninja boasting, they will first attempt to get your attention and evoke sympathy from you by complaining about something (i.e. “I’m so fat!”). Do not be fooled by their ruse. They will then expect you to reply with a feel good comment like, “Aiyah, at least you’re very smart lah.” or “No lah, the Fann Wong diet pill worked! You’re not pui anymore.”

One time my Singaporean Mom had her friends over for shabu shabu, and one of the aunties started talking about her high-flying banker daughter. “Aiyoooooh, I don’t know why she wants to leave her job and retire you know,” aforementioned auntie said, as she picked at her udon with a great show of despair. “Her bosses all like her so much. Haiyoh, what am I to do har? But of course, she’s earned enough to retire in a few years lah. She’s so young too you know! Only in her late 20s. Can you imagine?”

Ninja boasting is a very complex and tricky skill that only the most seasoned pros are able to execute effectively. In fact, if not done properly, it can make you look very tacky or haolian (colloquial term for arrogant or proud).

The easiest way to ninja boast is to disguise your bragging as complaining, as they are at opposite ends of the spectrum and will therefore make it seem less like you’re trying to rub it in your listeners’ faces, and more like you’re trying to share your plight with them. This is highly effective, as it gets the news across without making you seem like an arrogant prick. A note of caution, however – if overdone, this tactic may backfire and instead cause your listeners to roll their eyes at you. In a nutshell, skip the theatrics and save the drama for your mama.

Observe:

Correct Way of Ninja Boasting

I’ve been spending so much money! I just bought a new bag and last week I spent a bomb on Net-a-Porter.com. I need to stop shopping but I can’t stop!

Ninja Boasting Fail

Ohhhhh my god guess what? I just bought ANOTHER Prada bag for $2400! So cheap right? Plus I bought those Louboutins last week, and they were only $1000! They’re limited edition so I guess that’s why it was more expensive. Only 2 pairs in Singapore you know! I think I might buy another Miu Miu bag, just so I have a bag that I can throw around. You know, for days when I can’t be bothered to dress up. Miu Miu is quite affordable and cheap right?

Another tactic of ninja boasting involves somehow relating the conversation at hand to yourself. While this may seem narcissistic, it is a good way to blow your trumpet without looking like you’re trying too hard (nevermind if you are…nobody has to know). Of course, if you keep doing this, people might get fed up with you and tell you to shut it. Also note that when executing this tactic, you must make a somewhat relevant connection between the conversation and your personal brag-a-thon.

Hence,

Incorrect

Friend: I’m so full! I think we bought one too many sotong balls at Old Chang Kee.

You: Aiyohhhh, I can’t help buying so much food you know. I’m like the queen of all hawker centres you know! When I go there, I’m forced to buy from everyone because they all know me and beg me to buy from them you know!

Correct

Friend: I think we bought too many curry puffs.

You: Yeah, but I love Old Chang Kee! I go there all the time because I love curry puffs. In fact, all the curry puff uncles and aunties everywhere know me and love me!

When you encounter someone who habitually steals the conversation spotlight to yak away about themselves, it is best to ignore them or interrupt them with something random, and then change the subject while they are momentarily taken aback.

Example 1

Narcissistic friend: You know right, my Dad bought an Aston Martin. I don’t know why he bought another one when he already has a Ferarri and a Bentley. But he said that the Aston Martin was quite cheap so –

You: ADURRR!

Narcissistic friend: Eh?

You: Have you ever noticed that one of your chicken McNuggets is always in the shape of a boot?

Win!

Example 2

Narcissistic friend: I travelled all over Europe and bought three new Chanel bags and some shoes and –

You: BAHHHRIN!

Narcissistic friend: Eh?

You: You think I’ll get bloated if I eat another bag of Shilin Fried Chicken?

Win again!

Aside from ninja boasting, there is also outright boasting, which is just straight up in-your-face boasting (as it is so aptly titled). This is often used when you have scored a really good deal, such as when you manage to get that last 10-pack of panties from Giant for only $4.99, or a free blackhead remover sample kit from Watsons (which happens to be one of the best places on earth, but that is another story for another day).

#15 Fighting over the bill

When I moved back to Singapore from California, one of the things that I noticed about being back was that Singaporeans like to buy each other meals. Now, this doesn’t mean that we pay for each other’s food all the time, but in general, it really doesn’t have to be your birthday for someone to buy you lunch/dinner.

When someone offers to pay for lunch, the standard protocol is to say, “Noooo lah!” and then attempt to chuck your credit card/cash into the waiter’s hand before your lunch companion does so. This usually results in both parties spending a good five minutes arguing over the bill and a confused waiter who doesn’t know whose money to take (and is probably thinking “wtfbbq can these people shut up and pay already?”). Sometimes, Singaporeans who are more advanced in the art of Paying for the Bill resort to Sneaky Paying, a common tactic used by tai tais and Singaporean Moms.

One time, we were having dinner and my Singaporean Mom bumped into an old friend a couple of tables away (My Singaporean Mom bumps into people all the time. She’s popular like that.) As we moved on to dessert, my Singaporean Mom motioned for the waiter to come over, and then pressed her credit card into his palm, telling him (rather forcefully, if I do say so myself) to charge her friend’s bill to her card. The waiter looked at her blankly and then shuffled away slowly. My Singaporean Mom, upon seeing that her friend was about to leave, started to get edgy and marched up to the counter pay before her friend found out about her attempt to pay for dinner. The number one rule of Sneaky Paying is to never let the person whom you are paying for know that you are about to pay for him/her. It’s like saying, “Hey look! You got a surprise mystery present! Maybe it’s a cookie! Oh wait… actually, I got it for you. And it’s not a cookie.”

You see, arguing over the bill really isn’t only about being generous…it’s about having face. The thing with Singaporeans (and Asian people in general), is that they’re all about saving face. They are also really competitive, so they probably won’t back down when you say, “No no, I pay! I pay!” and will instead, push, shove and claw until they get ahold of the bill in their deathlike grip. My Singaporean Mom likes to stick her card into the bill holder and snap it shut, before pressing it into some unsuspecting waiter’s hands and telling him to go quickly, very much in a manner resembling how Gandalf told Frodo to make haste on his journey to Mordor. Except instead of entrusting a cursed ring into the waiter’s hands, it’s a credit card and the bill. Anyway, my point is – Singaporean Moms are hardcore about paying the bill, and you will never win in the battle of Who Pays the Bill.

Be warned, however, that you should never immediately say, “Okay, cool!” when someone offers to pay for the bill. You must always put up a fight, or at least attempt to shove some money into his/her palm. Otherwise, you will lose face and be labelled as being kiam (Hokkien term for cheapskate/stingy/salty, depending on the context).

#14 Kitten heels

(Source: Fashion Industry Network)

For reasons beyond me, a great number of Singaporean women love kitten heels. Yes, I’m talking about those ridiculous 1 cm heels that seem to be a staple in virtually every Singaporean Office Lady’s closet.

I’m not going to lie – I hate kitten heels with fiery passion. The worst kind are the ones with 1 cm nodule-like stumps that have no business being stuck to the heel of a perfectly good pair of flats. You know, I tried to give them a chance. I really did. On the first day of work, I decided that it was time to grow up and therefore I should no longer parade around in flats, so I went out and got a pair of, yes, kitten heels. They were a somewhat innocuous pair – black, basic and had a 1 inch heel that looked like an upturned triangle. I mean, I figured that with my complete lack of grace, kitten heels might even be a good thing for me. I wouldn’t have to totter around Raffles Place looking like Hagrid in peep toe pumps (obviously I have far less facial hair than him, but you get my drift), and risk accidentally tripping and causing a domino effect in the MRT station (I guess all those ballet classes my Singaporean Mom made me take when I was younger didn’t help much).

Anyway, back to my experience with kitten heels. I wore them on the second day of work, and as I walked through the train station, I started to notice the annoying click-clack sound that they made. The sound grew more and more apparent, and then I looked around and realized there were kitten heels all around me. There they were, in black patent, on the Singaporean Office Lady walking in front of me. And there they were on the heels of the grossly overweight Singaporean Office Lady who had accidentally stepped on my own kitten heel-clad feet in her haste to go to Mr. Bean (the soya bean store that sells awesome peanut pancakes). And what was that sound I heard? More kitten heels(!!!)… on the feet of the rest of the Singaporean Office Ladies walking around me. Kitten heels… they were taking over the world! You know that scene in Sex and the City where Carrie tries on a wedding dress and she’s all fine and dandy one moment and then suddenly, she’s having a major meltdown and screaming for someone to get the dress off because she feels like she’s suffocating? It was totally like that, except I felt like my feet were screaming out at me to get them out of my offending kitten heels (Why yes, I do know I’m weird, thank you very much. I don’t like painting my fingernails because I feel like they’re being suffocated. How’s that for weird eh?) The moment I got home, I kicked the offending kitten heels off and plunked down onto my couch, silently contemplating the traitorous deed I had just committed. As they sat there on my bedroom floor, silently judging me for buying them in the first place,  I hung my head in shame and vowed never to wear them again. They now sit at the back of my closet, a silent reminder of a moment that marked an aberration of my character.

I cannot fully describe why I hate kitten heels, but they are stupid for the following reasons:

1. They fail to lengthen your legs and make cankles look less obvious. Unlike taller heels, kitten heels don’t give your feet a nice, graceful arch, and therefore do nothing for thunder thighs and calves. If anything, they will probably draw attention to cankles because everyone who walks by is going to take a look at those kitten heels and think, “Oh god, what a nasty pair of… wait wtf those cankles are way nastier!”.

2. Kitten heels don’t make you significantly taller, nor are they particularly comfortable. They’re like a crude mixture between a perfectly good pair of ballet flats and a pair of stiletto pumps. It’s like they couldn’t decide if they wanted to be sensible or hot, so they just slapped on a pitiful little stump of a heel and thought they were being very clever.

3. Kitten heels are like the wannabe groupies who try to copy the cool kids in school. Oh god, even the term kitten heels makes me cringe. It’s like kitten heels are trying to act cute, so they throw in the ‘kitten’ word to make themselves seem all cutesy and sweet.

In short, kitten heels are stupid shoes and no one should wear them. Ever. Okay I’m done ranting about my irrational hate for kitten heels. Sorry… had too much Haterade (like Gatorade, get it get it get it? Okay, maybe I’m the only one who finds this amusing. Sad face.) today.

Obviously my views do not speak for the majority of Singaporean women. As I mentioned before, the typical Singaporean woman (especially the Singaporean Office Lady) can’t get enough of kitten heels. This love for kitten heels has been perpetuated further by local shoe brand Charles and Keith, which has somehow managed to churn out every type of kitten heel imaginable, all for under $50 . Charles and Keith are like the bees knees around here. Singaporean Women flock to them regularly to get their dose of kitten heels, completely unaware that they are being blasphemous in the eyes of the mighty Shoe Gods.

P.S If you’re a hater like me, join the I Hate Kitten Heels Facebook group.