Home > It's not just about Curry, Singapore Scene > It’s not just about Curry

It’s not just about Curry

A young friend of mine was in my house on the day we bought durians. He has a great appetite so I was surprised he declined the offer to have some. He laughed and explained that once, his father brought home a whole basket of durians. He ate and ate so much that he got quite sick the next day. While he does not hate durians, he does not eat them any more.

I am no Tan Ah Teck, but there is a moral to this story. Most Singaporeans do not dislike foreigners. But to have so many in our highly populated city state, and in our faces, just like my young friend in the story above, we are suffering indigestion. While we do not hate them, we prefer not to have more of them.

With the ever increasing no. of foreigners, those in authority must understand the ever increasing tension that follows. Perhaps they are more sheltered than others – their work environment is different from most others. They need to be more aware of the real situation on the ground. I have been told by friends that entire departments are staffed by “foreigners”. I use inverted commas because if these “foreigners” gain PR status, they will be listed in official data as residents and by implication, be regarded as “locals”. On the flip side, we hear stories of how, these very same departments, retrenched true-blue locals – ie Singaporeans and/or long term PRs with firm roots here.

We keep hearing from official sources how much we need them, and not to turn negative towards them. We hear how we need foreign talents, or how or our talent pool is not good enough. Talk like this does not just deflate our morale. It gives foreigners fodder to lash out at us. Just yesterday, a foreign worker – a clerk, said that if foreigners can ‘snatch’ our jobs, it shows how incompetent we are. Maybe she is right after all. Imagine even for clerical work we depend on foreign talents. She works in a government owned hospital. Double confirm leow – talent not enough.

Then there are the issues of social etiquette and behaviour patterns that took us years to learn. Take for instance littering. It took years of fining recalcitrant litter bugs to get that habit out of us. Spitting in public places is something the younger Singaporeans have never even seen. The once ubiquitous spittoons are now a thing of the past.  We have been so trained and law abiding that I remember times when I forgot my wallet, and was still able to retrieve it half a day later, either still at the same table or it might be with the hawker nearest to the table where I had left it..

Currently we have hordes of newcomers who have not been so indoctrinated. I am not trying to insult anyone. It took us years of disciplined training. So who are we to judge them? But we have come to expect a certain standard of living. Are we expected to bend over backwards, to go backward in time for their sakes?

We can accept that they are new to our lifestyle and protocol. We can give them time. But we must also see that they are trying to assimilate. There must be some place where they are taught the way of life here and to abide by it. They need to understand our brand of civic consciousness and yes – bring on the four letter word – accept a FINE for not complying – if that is what it takes.

Now back to this curry incident. I have no idea how a “newly arrived” PRC family is so effective in getting their case heard. They are certainly more “talented” than many locals in getting their grievances heard and addressed!

I checked the website. Types of disputes CMC handles. The concluding sentence is ….  can approach the Community Mediation Centres. Staff will evaluate the suitability of each case for mediation.

An alert staff should be able to see this is a case of non-integration. After all this talk about spending a small fortune to help foreigners to assimilate, this frontline staff must be taught to see this as an opportunity to counsel integration, and is not the normal neighbour to neighbour dispute.

With all due respect to Madam Giam for her years of service as a mediator out of her good intention, this case should never have been cited to the press. To cite this case in an interview just shows one thing – a lack of understanding of the potentially explosive nature of such a report. In reporting this, Today has also failed to realize the impact of such news.

This incident is symptomatic of what is wrong with various people in authority. They have heard but not listened. They have looked and not seen. Their various attempts sound patronizing. If the intention here is to show how good Singaporeans should behave as hosts, they cannot be further wrong. What it has shown is that the milder, more accommodating party is the one who can be bullied. The aggressor wins. Take it a step further, given the anti foreigner sentiment on the ground, it shows that locals lose, foreigner wins.

I am very concerned at the increasingly explosive anti foreigner comments. I am also concerned at the responses of the foreigners. If authorities brush these issues aside, trouble will not be far from our door.

This was MinLaw reply re curry incident.

This is the sort of reply I have come to expect. A defensive one, which does not address the bigger question.

Is anyone listening out there?

Coincidentally, my friend Andrew Loh posted this morning that it goes deeper than just aroma. His concluding statements sum up how I feel

The government, and its officers, need to not only be sensitive to the needs of foreigners, but especially more so towards the needs and feelings of Singaporeans.

It is my sincere hope that the government will take these minor incidences seriously and address them – before they accumulate into something more serious.

Anyone who has his ears to the ground will know that this “curry cooking” incident is more than just about the aroma of a dish.


PS – I do screen comments. Please understand that I am conservative and old school in many ways

  1. jax
    August 12, 2011 at 5:50 pm

    i differ with you on singaporeans having been trained not to litter.
    my experience has been that sporeans — i have determined
    nationality in the littering cases i’v seen — litter like mad. we r pigs.

    we have stopped spitting though.

  1. August 13, 2011 at 5:05 am

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