Asia And The West – The Image We Leave Behind

Having great local friends, open minded and as interested in my culture as I am in theirs, gives me the opportunity to discuss topics far more sensitive then just the usual and stereotypical “Why Do You Queue 1 hour for a free pack of tissues”. Its the real cultural differences that are worth talking about.
Today my dear friend from meicheelicious.blogspot.com sent me a comment on “Asia And The West”, talking about her bad experience with Caucasians. It’s worth reading and I hope on many comments. I myself will answer in another post later.

This is “Asia And The West” From A Local Singaporean Perspective, thanks to meicheelicious.blogspot.com for the post.

The Oxymorons In Our Cultures

As a true blue Singaporean who demonstrates most aspects of an average income earning individual, I’ve noticed a few traits or rather, oxymorons in cultures.

Just about a month ago, I went to Sentosa for KM8’s closing party. For those unfamiliar with Singapore, KM8 is a tranquil beach bar, where my boyfriend and I choose to hang out because it’s cleaner and more ideal for a chillax time than the other bars in Sentosa. (The 5 Most Unique Beach Bars In Singapore)

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‘)); ?>I had a horrid experience. While waiting for a cab amongst the mob at the car park, my boyfriend and I were bullied by some Westerners who were desperate for taxis. While we waited patiently for a group of passengers to pay their cab fare, a drunk Westerner blatantly entered from the other door and demanded that the cab driver drive off. We were baffled! After that, this Western girl came up to our spot declaring that she won’t let go of the next cab although we were the rightful next-in-line.

An Impatient Lot

I remember reading articles of how Westerners ridicule the Singaporeans whose national pastime is queueing. In situations like this, I’m glad we have such a culture. I know for sure, I would be dignified in a foreign country in a situation like this.

My observation is that they seem to be an impatient lot. Filled with alcohol, they become very loud and they hit on the Asian girls in a none too respectful ways.
Pardon me but is it true that Westerners, men, women alike, all seem to feel more superior than Asians and hence become unbecoming and aggressive?

The Asian Culture Is More Reserved

In addition, a few expat friends I knew were caught in a fight, complete with weapons and stitches after. I found out that one of them possibly hit on a gangster’s girl. The Asian culture is more reserved and we tend not be too loud. At times, we’re criticized for suppressing ourselves.(Singaporeans, Live Life Pay And Shut Up)

Would a Westerner behave differently back in his home?
Does he feel superior in an Asian country?

I hope that angryangmoh’s blog could put my observation in a different light.

What Is Your Opinion?

Please write down your constructive and respectful criticism or opinion on the all time arousing topic of Asia and the West. What are your experiences, how do you feel and why do you maybe feel that we (Westerners) are getting stereotyped just as much as the local culture.

comments

12 Comments

Mark

good that she brought this up but her sample size is not really large enough (sweeping generalizations) … so just to give a few counter arguments:

people do the queue jumping like god knows what in malaysia. malaysian chinese are also asian right?

asian men can also be obnoxious when filled with alcohol. that’s what alcohol does to men. (and women).

how many gangsters does she know? i’ve never met a gangster who would get into unnecessary fights (for fear of giving the police an excuse to lock them away). sounds like they got into a fight with a bunch on wannabes.

here we go again with the western/asian superiority thing again. can we just conclude that human beings in general all have some sort of inferiority complex?

final ones:

“Would a Westerner behave differently back in his home?”
yes. same for asians though. singaporean asians have the potential be worse when out of their environment since they have come from an oppressive society and might not know how to handle themselves when their family/parents/government are not available to judge them on their behaviour.

“Does he feel superior in an Asian country?”
Only if he’s an asshole.

Reply
louie

Yo AAM,

At the end of the day it is all relative.. we all have our personal encounters that went awry, be it with crazy angmos/lame ah bengs/ loud mats/ insane ah nehs.. and its too bad that we decided to slap ourselves with a self fulfilling stereotype called “Kiasu-ism”, perpetuated by our own comic characters Mr Kiasu and chewonit (featured on sunday times) which accurately points out the shortcomings of some individuals and perpetuate itself to become a national problem through the media..

Now we are easily called “typical singaporeans” for the following(as magic babe ning so casually commented that ppl would only turn up if her insanely lame magic show was for free -for those who attended the vjc alumni concert last weekend-):

1. free gifts/ shows etc. I mean if u are personally interested in it, whats wrong with wanting free things? are you stupid or what?

2. queuing.. c’mon, this is a global phenomenon.. there are crazy queues all over the world lasting for days for PSPs, Harry Potter books, iphones, cheap electronic sales, etc..

3. crazy shoppers: ok, so things can get a bit messy.. so what? it happens everywhere else, read: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/retailandconsumer/3209641/Violence-breaks-out-at-Currys-as-shoppers-fight-over-bargains.html. took only 5 seconds for me to google this article.. imagine if i put in more effort if someone wants to comment about sample size..

4. Being “complain kings”. when things don’t go according to plan, we complain. u mean this doesn’t apply to angmos meh? siao ah?!

So, we have a unique localized word for this type of behaviour called “kiasu=ism”, “ugly Singaporean” or “ungracious society”.. thanks to the minority who actually behave like that, perpetuated by the media through cartoons, and legitimized by the gahment by coming up with all these courtesy campaigns, we basically shot ourselves in the foot..

So can we really blame the angmos for snatching the taxi? were they are just trying to survive in a country they think are dominated by stereotypical behaviours.. BULLSHIT! as I recall there were many angmos queuing for taxi that night and they were all pissing each other off… These are probably the angmos who can afford to come here for vacation, or are expats working in MNCs/ banks, or students on exchange… I thought they have some standard in terms of manners but unfortunately, their behaviour towards fellow angmos showed otherwise..

Given this, i won’t take this incident and judge the whole angmo population in SG cos i’ve made some fantastic friends with some of them and we usually laugh at each other’s cultural shortcomings.. its just that we have a recognized term to describe ours i.e. “Kiasu-ism”, and they don’t.

Reply
Claudia

This is a very interesting topic. I have a Singaporean friend who has a company that offers expat etiquette courses. She is organizing a workshop about Cultural Conflicts at the Peranakan museum in September. I will send the information by email, and if you find it interesting it would be great if you could share it on your blog!

Reply
Elson Khoo

Being stereotyped is a way of seeing differences and a way of how we deal with it. While humans are not cookies coming from a cookie cutter – it is true that certain people from a certain group (be it race, country whatever) ‘typically’ act in a certain way. Knowing that helps us deal with different people, because then we kind of know what to expect, though at the back of our mind, there should always still be this little reminder to ourselves that not everyone will be the same.

Why are we so afraid of being called a ‘typical Singaporean’? It is true that many of our locals exhibit these traits (and so do many other people as well; but these are the specific ones that have been picked up on) – if you do not, then fine, clarify yourself as atypical. People do understand stereotypes do not apply to everyone.

There is nothing wrong with being interested in free gifts and anything free. (Magic Babe Ning was probably doing a tongue in cheek quip, and personally i enjoyed the little segment at very much, though that’s got nothing to do with the comment here) There’s also nothing wrong with queuing (thank god for queues actually – imagine the mayhem without them), nothing wrong with the pointers that louie has pointed out as ‘typical stereotypes’.

I personally feel that only insecure people are uncomfortable with that. Why not acknowledge the stereotyping and if it is negative, work towards changing that?

Stereotypes are based in our own minds upon interaction with these certain group of people over time. In this case, there’s no mention of prior interactions that the author has had. It is constantly shifting based on the interactions as they come along.

If the author has set the stereotype as such because of a first time interaction, i would say that it is too much of a stretch.

We must, at the end of it all, simply understand that humans are complex machines. Be it that they are from the same group – each and everyone is unique as an individual, so one should always keep an open mind. The stereotype may not be the right or best gauge of how to interact with a person base on whichever group he comes from, but presuming nothing is known of the person, gives us a basis to start our interaction upon.

Reply
jiakliaobee

“Pardon me but is it true that Westerners, men, women alike, all seem to feel more superior than Asians and hence become unbecoming and aggressive?”

Meicheelicious, you are spot on. You see, back home they belong to the lower social class – for instance from the council estate. And when they come to Asia, they just feel that they must act *superior* to Asians. Who are considered lower class back home in the West. To them, every Asian is the same, because we all *look* the same, mah. You’d be amazed that many of these ang mohs can’t tell the different between Chinese, Malay and Indian amongst us.

But I digress. Many more expect us to possess the same behaviours and mindsets of THEIR Asians back home. And they don’t expect us to speak and write fluent English. Because THEIR Asians don’t. So when we so much as to able to ARGUE and put up a good VERBAL fight, that’s when they go below the belt.

Oh and they hate it when they found out that we appear more successful and wealthier. I wish I am making this up, but my experience with them at work and on certain networking platforms seem to repeat ad nauseum.

They would only treat us nicely if we play up the stereotype. And not to upset the status quo. Being a woman, I was expected to behave and talk like those chow ah lian who cannot get their English correctly. OR get visibly excited at the mere sight of an ang moh.

I cannot deny there are those genuinely nice ones. But it is those inferior types that spoil the good name of the rest. Sure, the rest of you would argue till the cows come home that there are ugly Singaporeans. BUT the topic is about these ang moh GUESTS in our home turf.

Reply
Bahrain Taxi

Well I’m a Ang Moh in Bahrain except we’re not called Ang Mohs but Ajnarbis or Karfirs if we’re really unlucky. Arab culture is chaotic, standing in line is unheard of here, its only us foreigners that do it. It’s each man for himself on the road! If you want something done it’s “Inshallah” and you go away hoping that Allah will ‘will’ it for you. In Singapore everything was as good as done before I had a chance to say thankyou. If I did live move over to Singapore, I think my 7 years in the Gulf would make me come across as extremely undisciplined, laid back to the point of lazy and disorganised. However, Bahrain is a controlled society in a Islamic way and I think I waved bye bye to my western liberal attitude long ago.

Reply
donna lipowitz

I am an Australian who is living here with my boyfriend who has a job making computer games. We are here because of 2 reasons.. the recession in Australia and this great career opportunity.
I am here to support him and am unable to work myself due to an illness.
We live modestly in a HDB flat in Ang Mo Kio ; and ironically; I have red hair… : )
..in fact possibly the only Ang Mo in Ang Mo Kio : )
You are all so angry; not all us Ang Mos are the same you know; be careful of hypocrisy.
there are so many different nationalities of”Westerners” here. Americans (in general sorry to offend) are considered quite arrogant ; compared to us layed back Australians. the English “poms” are stereotypically “whingers”.. then there are Germans, French.. the list goes on… we’re all different, goes without saying…
Where I lived in Australia my favourite neighbours were Indian and Indonesian. Australia had so many races; and we are all immigrants; a mix of every kind. Asian, Western, African… I myself have a German born father, an English born mother..
It takes an open minded person to accept a new culture; and we can only learn by spending time with each other….angry Ang Mo’s or ‘Singaporeans’ alike.
to refer to the phrase”Home Turf” to quote “jiakliaobee”BUT the topic is about these ang moh GUESTS in our home turf.
.. you want to keep people off “Your ” turf?
Ang Mos are not the only “Foreigners here”, and you cant say all Asian cultures are the same, since being here I have now friends from Korea Indonesia, The Philippines, China, ..
Should we all go home? What about your economy? Does it not thrive on tourism? International trade? Who designs much of your fabulous architecture?
We’re not all from wealthy backgrounds who live in Orchard in Condos you know. We are just regular people on another adventure in our lives.
Xmiss d aka only ang mo in ang mo kio

Reply
lin

what was described can also happen between two white people or two singaporeans. As human beings we see differences more thans similarities..if the person is my race I would be “oh it’s his/her character” but if it’s a different race I would be “dumb white person must be a white trait!”. It is sad but it happens.. people of any race can get drunk and obnoxious. Maybe try to avoid places where there are lots of drunk obnoxious people? lol.

Reply
A.I

of course. just invite any singaporeans to malaysia and see how they act. throwing rambutan skins out of their car windows. or rubbish next to the rubbish bin. flicking their cigarettes across the street and having a good laugh while doing it. never respect the local road and traffic regulations. since they are so oppressed in singapore, i think that’s how they blow off steam knowing that msian cops are easily bought. singaporeans are not more civilised than their asean neighbours, it’s jst that they are scared stiff of their law. just like some westerners.

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admin

“msian cops are easily bought” , thats an actual quite bad thing, is malaysia really that corrupt?

Reply
rachel

whoa, whoa. malaysian cops stop singaporean cars whenever they spot us and ask for “coffee money”. you -need- to know this.

Reply
KL

Hmm….I noticed a lot of these people here tend to generalised the people. There rumours that Chinese are a cunning sorts, Malays are lazy, Indians are untrustworthy, Americans are obnoxious, English are imperialistic, Aussies are too lay back, Africans are violent…..these are just a generalisation!! Stop doing this…..this world is SHRINKING for goodness sake!

I cannot believe people complains queing!! What’s there to complain? Have not you heard online purchasing? Certain things do require you to queue. ‘Queue then….stop complain’ But there are minority love to ignore seeing a queue and cut in it. What pisses me off that some don’t even bothered about that!! But complain for having a queue oh pleaseeee…….

During my stay in the UK, I have met many poeple from all over the world and we become close friends, not those go out clubbing and get pissed in a club but decent ones. We hang out a lot, they invite me to their Thanksgiving dinner, picnics at the park in the summers and of course few pints at the bars or pubs. But I do occasionally come across with discrimination ( Hey?! where in this world we do not have this issue, be it minor or major!!) But having discriminated by my own race, Chinks, I myself find it at times unbearable. I feel disgusted and sometimes embarassed. Sad to say that this happens to me in Singapore.

To say that most Brits love to booze yes this I must admit. Just like the locals they love their food. Back in the UK, we tend to have some exciting things to watch at the end of the night, women slapped the men for molestation and other funny things. If things get worst police officers will be there to stop the whole ‘riot’. So let me ask you this, don’t you think a similar scene will ever happen in Singapore after a heavy drinking session?! Besides, what makes you think the locals can behave well when they are pissed?! Alcohols is alchols, mate. It works the same to everyone regardless of colour, gender and age!!!!

As for the Ang Mos….( why locals name such names. Why don we call ourselves chinks?!Bet they won’t like it) Anyway, for the non-locals we have to understand why they bahave as such. Example, the English used to expand their colonial power by ruling other countries including S’pore. Locals including Singapore and Malaya those days were not as advanced as the British (FACTS 1) therefore we were under their ruling. I have never heard any negative comments form my grandparents during the British Empire (I am neither falsify the facts nor phraising them. Brutally honest they were ‘robbing’ us those day) Bear in mind, they have done well to educate us to improve us (FACTS 2). Unfortunately, youngster these days still thinks that “well my great great great granddad was ‘ere ruled your country so listen to me” kind of mentality. Well, you think it only happen here in Singapore? No, it happens everywhere.

I am an Oriental and raised in Malaysia but I have, and still adapted best of both what the Wetsern and Eastern cultures can offer me. You can call me a BANANA and that’s fine as I am used to it nowadays. What I can tell you is that people who envy people like myself or even the Eurasians having such ‘Ang Mo’ interior / thinking in a Chinky’s exterior / skin or the other way round should be known The OXYMORONS!! They cannot learn to accept the goods of the west and not admitting their eastern flaws. Why do they resort to that?! You have already got the answer yourself…keeping face, KIASU. But what is there to keep face if you want to embrace the goods and becoming a better person.

Undoubtedly Malaysia is a corrupted country. The cops do ask for ‘coffee money’ because their pay is shite. Several times I managed to get away from nasi-lemak gobbling, huge belly cops by telling them I have just returned from UK and on my way to visit few friends. Maybe they could not talk to me like how I was trained to speak so they just let me go. Driving a Singapore plate car would not help you at all cuz they know you are OBVIOUSLY loaded S’poreans who don mind paying these fat basterds.

Donna is right. What is Singapore without the foreigners?! We are just like the British Empire back in the mid 20th century we provide you our expertise and help you to grow. Is this what we get in return?? Singapore is a growing nation so I have no doubts that the locals somehow despise us.

So, stop making irrelevant, judgemental, ludicrous racial biased generalisations on everyone. And stop pointing fingers and making you-are-an-idiot-and-I-am-not statement. That makes everyone looks like idiots / c**ts. We should treat everyone as an individual and just deal on a particular subject. Not mixing everything up. We don’t do rojak here…..

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