The Most Annoying Sound Of Singapore, Tsk!!

In fact its not really “tsk” but more of a ‘nts’ I get to hear a million times a day. An I’m sure you do as well. It’s origin is unknown but just when I finished writing about the wrong use of the word “excuse-me” in Singapore… The “tsk” expression actually starts to wreck my nerves on a whole new level.

The Daily Overdose of “Tsk”

• So I get into the lift this morning with another person from my HDB block, I press the 3rd floor accidentally instead of the first.. “TSK”

• When leaving the lift 3 people try to squeeze in before letting both of us get out first, I stand tall and the auntie bumps into my flexed ellbow … “TSK”

• On my way to the MRT i try to walk past some extremely slow (as usual) walking lady on her way to the office. Suddenly she takes two steps to the left without any reason, me in my process of overtaking almost bump into her … “TSK”

Now all that happened within 5 minutes… and until now I have “collected” at least 50 more “TSKS”.

Just Speak Up Already!

You may have noticed that “Tsk” in Singapore gets used by the more or less whole population to express any kind of “Annoyance or Disturbance” into their private space… from the slightest form (dropping a coin at the Supermarket cashier) to the highest (like… getting run over by a car … “Tsk”!!!!).

The use of “Tsk” is a global one but has found its ultimate form of usage in Singapore.

Sometimes I have the feeling that people actually want to speak up (“Hey, why do you run over me lah?”) but through years of “Tsk” usage, have forgotten how to express themselves properly in sudden occurring situations that require any form of reaction. Tsk!

The Reverse Use Of “Tsk”

So here is the situation:

  • • Me, 7pm, extremely stressed, standing in the smelly MRT waiting to ride my one stop from Raffles Place to City Hall.
  • • As usual, at City Hall, a bunch (everybody) of Kiasu People totally ignores those arrows on the floor, waiting in their starting position to storm in before letting me out.
  • • The door opens and at least 3 people run into my solid and not-giving-an-inch-way body marching outside the MRT. Surprised faces turn up. How can that Ang Moh wanting to get out first???
  • • Kindly but directly I address the three people and ask them “Why the hell they don’t let me come out first?”
  • • Silence (important, this is a situation that requires a sudden reaction by those three people), more silence… then.. “TSK” – “TSK” – “TSK”.


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‘)); ?> You tell me, was I the person who did something wrong? Hell no! So where do these three people take the justification from to use “TSK” against me, when they should step back 50cms, maybe mumble a quick “Sorry” and let me get out of the train.

This is what I call the “Reverse Use” of Tsk”. It makes no sense, yet, people instead of appologizing, Re-Attack you in their helpless state of mind of searching for that long-lost “properly reaction to use in sudden occurring situations”.

May I scream out… AAARG!!!!

Ignore Or Talk But Never “Tsk” Back!

Please, don’t fall for the devilish “Tsk” use and become a new member of that “I use sounds to express myself” – Group.

My personal tactic until this day, has been to simply ignore the “Tsk” sound. In fact this is not even difficult because you get to hear it so often that it’s sometimes hard to distinguish from all the other sounds around you.

On the other hand you may speak up. Yes, show the “Tsk” users how complaining is done properly and hold a nice “What The Hell” speech. You may achieve the impossible and actually “open” some of the mouthes around you. Consider these people (if they talk back)… healed.




As usual, i enjoyed reading ur daily rantings. I actually find the staring more ridiculous. I mean, how can they b so thick skin to look ppl in the eye when they r clearly in the wrong! More lol as they look like they r seriously conveying “Why u so no manners!?” w their staring. & There is another thing those ppl do in place of ‘tsk’. They shake their heads in disapproval!


I dont usually comment on blogs but..
Omg i LOVE this post, my sentiments exactly!


Pretty nice post. I just came across your site and wanted to say
that I’ve really liked browsing your posts. Any way
I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you post again soon!


To those people who keep expressing themselves with “Tsk”, speak up people. TSK! TSK! TSK!


I have master how to control my temper at such situation. Take a deep breath, close my eyes and slowly release out my anger.

ORRRRRR…. I just give them the evil glance. Doesn’t work most of the time but i still can’t help but doing it. =)


Never noticed that sound myself.

I’m more a (non) fan of the “old guy coughing his lungs up” sound.

Every morning, even when I move houses. I think it’s a conspiracy



Yeah I so totally agree the TSK is one annoying piece of shit.
Totally feel like slapping those people who use it..

Very entertaining post lmao


What I do when my younger sister annoys me is just make the exact same sound back everytime they open their mouth.

It really gets to them and eventually they will stop.

eg. *walks down stairs, is bumped by someone, TSK!!!


TSK!!!! since I wrote this article, I even hear it more often, guess its psychological…


hi, you are only 26 years old but you have so much anger in you !

the older traditional chinese are taciturn people, chinese is after all a monosyllabic, terse language. Which is why chinese expressions with just 4 chinese characters, are sufficient to describe a whole lot of things. The more terse & succinct, the better.

i notice that westerners who are eloquent are often annoyed by the chinese unwillingness to speak with strangers.

A lot of what you are going through is culture shock, so take it easy, relax. I doubt those HDB aunties are being malevolent, just ignore them if you can’t stand them.

and in case you’re interested – ”Hey, why do you run over me lah?” … it should be ‘hey, why do you run over me arrh ? because you’re asking a question… use ‘arrh’, not ‘lah’ … ‘lah’ is used in statements ‘don’t run over me lah !’ expats always make this mistake in their attempt to use singlish.


Ahh…i think i left the culture shock behind already lor, but thanks for the singlish lesson lah!was that correct arrh?


I am TOTALLY agree with you. Singapore today is really a home to mentally and morally sick people. Everything is about winning and money.

Recently, there is an article in one of local newspaper titles “Singaporeans are well-armed for success”. I find that article deserved to be loathed of. Focusing on financial kiasuism yet totally forget on improving their graciousness, social respect, and building the proper moral and religious society.


I agree TOTALLY. I love to screw around with those people who don’t let others come out from the train cabin first. They truly have NO manners whatsoever, and are bloody unrepentant as well.


7 years later I still find this post entertaining and it is awesome. Culture is permeable, it never dies. Far away in the west as I am writing this comment, my japanese colleague is tsk-ing away in the cubicle next to me. I have to say it annoys the hell out of me every day and bringing the morale way low.
* I am searching the japanese expression for ‘tsk’ to figure out how to ask him to cut it out but accidentally bump into your excellent post. I wish I can slap him in the face.

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