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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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 –
Narcissistic friend: Eh?
You: Have you ever noticed that one of your chicken McNuggets is always in the shape of a boot?
Narcissistic friend: I travelled all over Europe and bought three new Chanel bags and some shoes and –
Narcissistic friend: Eh?
You: You think I’ll get bloated if I eat another bag of Shilin Fried Chicken?
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).