Maybe it’s due to an innate need to always have an answer to everything, but Singaporeans like to speculate about things – anything from COE prices to when the next Reebonz mega sale will be.
My Singaporean Mom speculates a lot. Whenever we’re in a foreign country and we see other Asian people, she’ll look at them furtively, turn to us and say in an all-knowing fashion, “Must be (insert Asian ethnicity here). I know, I can hear one.”
In a bid to avoid being overheard, my Singaporean Mom devises code names to refer to the different types of Asians.
One time a Korean couple sat next to us while we were at a restaurant in Paris. As we heard them converse with each other, my Singaporean Mom’s ears pricked up as she furrowed her eyebrows and tried to deduce the ethnicity of aforementioned unsuspecting couple.
“Must be your TV show people,” she said with conviction, as she buttered a dinner roll. “I know one, I can tell immediately.”
“What? What TV show?” I asked, genuinely perplexed. Grey’s Anatomy? The Mindy Project? Glee?
“Aiyah, lu jin te!” (This basically means “You’re so thick.” in Hokkien. My Singaporean Mom doesn’t mince her words.) “Your drama shows lah! The one you watch every night. With the princess and chaebol.”
“What? My Korean dramas? What has that got to do with – ohhh…OK.”
“Yah, they are definitely your TV show people,” she said again, emphasizing the last part. “I can tell by the bi (nose).”
Speculating is not just limited to guessing the ethnicities of other Asian people. It can also include things like guessing why someone has put on so much weight (“Must be because her new job is so stressful. Or maybe she’s pregnant?”) or why so and so’s son married the girl his parents disapproved of (“She must know some of his secrets. Or maybe she put a spell on him! Wah, zha bor jin gao.”)