Island Mentality

17Jul06

Through coffee talks with friends, I discovered this term. Island Mentality. It’s used to describe the emotional behaviour of people who grow up on (not necessarily) an island that claims to have its own unique identity due to its culture, diversity, “hip-factor”, et cetera. They are usually fiercely protective and proud of who they are and where they’re from, and they’ll go through great lengths to convince a foreigner that their home is, unequivocally, the best place to live on planet Earth.

You know where this is going don’t you. I’m talking about Singaporeans. Who are time and again compared to people from Taiwan and Japan. Let’s do a little list.

The Taiwanese people pride themselves on the facts that:
> They produce highly-rated & well-loved variety shows broadcast over many regions including North America;
> They are a cheaper holiday destination than Japan but offer more than Hong Kong because of their great scenery;
> They are capable of the proliferation of Mando-pop celebrities that kick ass;
> They are striving for Independence! To quote a Taiwanese Yahoo Group that names itself as TAIWAN PRIDE International, their winning profile reads: “Taiwan is a miracle of Asia, and a miracle of the world. Don’t let the people’s liberty and freedom be at risk! This club is dedicated to people who love their homeland, Taiwan. JOIN TAIWAN, IN HER FIGHT FOR INDEPENDENCE!”

The Japanese people are proud of a lot more things, and to be fair, they should be given credit for whatever caused them to know speak mainly Japanese langauge, like the French speaking their own language regardless of who they’re talking to when they’re in their homeland. Let’s see.
They have:

> Jap-rock/ Pop/ Cos-play/ the whole “The Ring” range of horror flicks;
> Toyota, Sony, Fujitsu, Sanyo, Nissan, Suzuki, Yamada, Honda, Mitsubishi, Ajinomoto, et cetera
> Nakata (the soccer dude), Junichiro Koizumi, Ichiro Suzuki, and other people who made it to TIME magazine.
> Robotics Experts & Engineers
> Fully self-automated convenience stores
> Vending machines that sell all sorts of crazy stuff from condoms to flowers to insurance (????)
> Hot springs and scenic holiday destinations
> Geishas, Samurais, Ninjas, Tae kwon do, Kendo, Aikido, Origami, & everything else the westerners became fascinated with
> The Universal Japanese Greeting “Konichiwa!!”
> The fact that Japanese cuisine is available worldwide and held in high regard as a fine cuisine
> GoGo in Kill Bill. (And other school-girl inspired stuff)
> Mad rushes for branded bags, shoes, makeup, clothes…

etc. The list goes on and on.

NOW let’s come to Singapore. They are proud of:

> Changi Airport
> The Esplanade
> The efficiency of transport systems
> Social Security that invites lots of expats and holiday makers
> Singapore Airline
> Singlish?
> Fact that “the goverment will take care of them no matter what happens”
> Lee Kuan Yew & his family of investors
> PAP
> Whatever else that they write in propaganda publications The Straits Times
> The extermination of Bubble Gum.
> Clean & well-maintained roads
> The finding that one in a hundred Singaporeans is a millionaire.
> The satisfaction of living their entire lives in Singapore
> The comfort in knowing for everything there is to know in the world, you can find them in Singapore. (That’s why the men piss me off. Narrow-mindedness from blind arrogance in ‘knowing’ things ain’t charming.)
> They follow up with the fashion trends that come from HongKong, Taiwan, Japan, Hollywood. Hmm. I wonder where is the originality in Singaporean dressing. Ooh. Of course. The tee-shirt and shorts attire which is accepted in every venue from the neighbourhood hawker centre to Orchard Road. Priceless. Island behaviour i see.
> The Hello Kitty rush
> Singapore Idol, Project Superstar, Superband, Superhost, Singapore’s Brainiest Kid and other star-churning shows
> The Air Force, Navy, Army that never actually got to engaged in a real war…NS-men complaints, anyone?
> ERP, CPF, blah. I don’t even want to know.

Well, the list for Singapore is obviously longer since i know more about it, being a student here for the past 14 years (and counting). However, I have never found delight in being mistaken for a Singaporean. Let’s take an example.
Like what The Capitalist Infidel pointed out in his thoughts on the Service Industry, “If you wish to recieve decent service, do not speak in Singlish.” Singlish! The very local slang that Singaporeans fiercely defend!

See, Singaporeans to me are a very confused bunch. They want to be local but they discriminate against local customers. They are proud of being Singaporean (or so they claim) but they assume automatically that you are not worthy of great service if you can’t speak like an “ang moh”. You must be different to gain respect right? Wrong again.

Outside the service industry in everyday conversations, they want to speak like news anchors from Channel News Asia, BBC or MSNBC but frown upon locals who speak with grammatically correct English, especially if they are found among their local peers. I have been accused of “compromising” my local accent in my attempt to “fake an accent” while speaking with my boyfriend who is not from Singapore, or my very good friend who is from New Zealand. To them, that is Sarong Party, white ass-kissing behaviour.

With all due respect, Singlish does has its way of allowing me to bond with local friends. But why the outrage when i choose to be adaptable & understood by my foreign friends? Aren’t Singaporeans proud to be a globalised city-state? So why the stubborn emphasis on the importance of Singlish, or more correctly, Singaporean-accented Einglish when more tourists and expats are touching down at Changi Airport? Isn’t providing a wider smile for Caucasian customers & turning a blind eye on a fellow local a more blatant “white ass-kissing” behaviour?

Ladies & Gentlemen, the answer lies in the title, and that Singaporeans are just confused.

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3 Responses to “Island Mentality”

  1. You forgot the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. They have the long range Taepodong Missles that blow up 40 seconds after lift off. And do NOT call them North Korea or they’ll blow you do bits.

  2. 2 szez

    LOL. I was comparing SG to the places that it’s usually compared to. But yea. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea are NOT to be trifled with. :S

  3. Well SG is pretty close to DPRK in the Reporters Without Borders rankings…


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