Two Worlds Apart
The auntie who shares the small elevator with me turns around and starts to stare at me. She’s not glimpsing, not “simply” taking a look, no she’s staring at me. All the way until we reach the ground floor. Just before the doors open I look her deep in the eyes, ask her “If I had a Hamster dancing on my forehead or why she looked at me as if I was an Alien” and then I leave without waiting for an answer. Now that was a great start into my day.
I remember being taught “Not to stare at people” when I was 3 years old. And it’s considered one of the most rude things to do to strangers … in “the West”.
Very obvious there are differences in both cultures that seem to be, and in fact are sometimes, irreconcilable. If two so unique cultures like the Western and the Asian collide with each other, and if as another factor more then one generation is involved, then I would not speak of a culture shock (for both sides) anymore, the result is more of a cultural trauma.
In this case the Auntie who saw the Hamsters dancing on my forehead was probably more shocked about my outburst then I was about her starring. Well auntie, don’t mess with the AngryAngMo.
Asia’s Most European City? Makes No Sense To Me
Singapore claims the “title” for being the most European country of Asia. Why would you do that? Besides giving up your origins every European visiting Singapore would probably testify right on the spot that the two countries are as similar as Durian fruit and Strawberry.(Is Singapore Dangerous?)
They are both places filled with people, you can buy things there and sometimes someone burps out loud in the office.
In one case that person would get asked for a private meeting with his manager in the other case he would get congratulated and 5 seconds later you hear the next one. Louder.
Yes, having visited Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong, Singapore is in fact the closest you can get to Europe, but still far from it. And so are the cultures, the habits and the people.
Why comparing at all is my question?
We Tend To Stereotype Each Other
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‘)); ?> Like I just did in the paragraph above. The general problem that occurs in the “clash of cultures” lies in (wrong) pictures build up through years of stereotyping and the general laws of mass psychology. While we always see that the queue other then ours moves faster, we do not realize and remember all the other cases in which it didn’t. Same goes for the people we see around us.(The Singapore Subway – A Jungle In The City)
While I get annoyed about the three Asian guys standing on the right side of the escalator, blocking everyones way, I wont suddenly feel joy about the 10 that don’t.
Now, before I want to get into detail of how far Westerners actually face racism in Singapore and if the behavior described in earlier blog post might simply be the according reaction, I would like to bring this “Asia vs West” topic to an end. We Westerners have the privilege to experience and live in Asia. We should treasure it and try to scope with what ever cultural difference we might get faced as good as possible.
Both sides need to get rid of the stereotype thinking and the impressions build up by bad examples like drunken “Westerners” or so called “ugly Singaporeans”.(Singapore Is Really Strange, Can You Explain Please?)
These exceptions exist on both sides and after 5 whiskey coke there is not much difference between the English hooligan or the Malay “gangster” anymore. Single examples are not enough to justify a over all generalization of the groups. Be they Asian or Western.
Clearly, there will still be issues that remain and that we Westerners will complain about. But dear Singaporean, it’s in the human beings nature to criticize, compare and suggest. And sometimes its even more productive to do so then being reserved and just saying nothing.
The Racism We Face
I was literally shocked about the open and widely existing racism in Singapore. I’m not only talking about racism towards Westerners. But I could start with it. All the starring, the question if we all wear “Lederhosen” and “Dirndl” at home and if we eat anything besides sausages and Sauerkraut, the starring again, the “go Home if you don’t like it” and many many other things.
Having grown up in the probably most sensitive country towards racism at all, Germany, I couldn’t believe my eyes when I had to tick of if I was “Caucasian” or “Asian” or whatever in my travel documents, when I saw room offers clearly stating they don’t want people of certain nationalities, and so on.
It seems to me that Singapore is stuck in the first half the century in regards to these topics, and the most European city? Far from it, you could get fined and jailed there for any of the above mentioned things.
The Wrong Impression Singaporeans Get .. And Why
So, when Singaporeans experience seemingly “superior feeling Ang Mohs” it is not necessarily that they actually do feel superior (which would be stupid), but the impression given is probably build up through more or less “protective” behavior and a certain amount of skepticism against the local customs and doings, originated in the typical Singaporean behavior they face everyday and much more.. mankind’s general fear of “unknown things” itself.
Best example, myself.
Every morning and evening on my way to work, I really try to stay calm when a wave of (kiasu) people wont let me out of the MRT first. And yes, every now and then I have enough and the first person that plainly shoves me back inside, I shout at “If he is blind or why he ignores the lines on the ground”…Now, if that random person sees me, the Ang Moh, frustrated shouting at him to let him out first, yes, I can imagine that very quickly a (wrong) image of “superior feeling Ang Mohs” gets created.
Let’s Have A Beer Together
In the end it’s taking and giving, learning and also sometimes ignoring. There are certain things I will not stop getting annoyed about, but given the fact that I am guest in another country, makes it at least easier to silently ignore .. and blog about them instead :)
Singaporeans shouldn’t judge so quickly based on the few encounters with “rude Ang Mohs” which I believe are most probably tourists or short term visitors anyway, who, well, behave like tourists behave.
Westerners do in fact think the same about Asian people and their behavior in “their” country as well. Because It’s normal to compare and inspect foreigners behavior much more detailed then our owns, and as long as it doesn’t end in racism, so what.
To end this topic I decided to wear Lederhosen to the office tomorrow and give out free Sauerkraut to my burping colleagues, then we have a beer together and everything is “wunderbar” :)
What Is Your Impression?
How Do you feel about the two posts, first from a Singaporean Point Of View, and now here from the Westerners point of view?
What are your experiences with racism in Singapore and how do you feel, being able to integrate in the local culture, and important, being accepted as well?
Please write down your thoughts in the comments below!