An American in Singapore

Au and I have been living in Singapore and studying Singaporean culture for some time now.

And lots of things now make sense, even if I don’t personally appreciate them. The first time I watched the video below, my jaw fell opened and I stared.

Isn’t this that same dude who promotes all those special sales at Lazada on the ads at the bus stop? Like really? And I’m supposed to be open-minded and be willing to dig a little deeper to see what Singaporeans find captivating in his demeanor?

Oh, wait! He really isn’t some strange guy who is just plain weird? He’s actually a local celebrity, Gurmit Singh,  most well-known for his role of Phua Chu Kang in a Singaporean sitcom. And this vaccination promotion video is not just being watched here in Singapore? It has also made headlines worldwide?  I have suddenly gained a whole lot more respect for him as a well-known and appreciated persona who embodies,  “Best in Singapore” and “Use your brain!” So if it is Phua Chu Kang telling me it is time to get my jab, I really ought to do it!

We’ve been told that culture lies deep under the surface of why people do what. It represents deep-set values that become expressed in the things people do and say in their everyday lives. And most of the time, we don’t question it. It just is.

Here are some more examples of exploring culture:

  1. Nearly two years ago, we’ve shared with you our favorite series of ads – a TV series made by a bank here in Singapore. Since then, DBS has released Season 2 and we still delight in watching the series. It shows us how social enterprises can be both profitable and compassionate with the caring people working at DBS.
  2. Kim Huat has been informally teaching us how some Singaporeans think and speak and because we have him to follow, we actually better communicate with other Singaporeans. We know what they are talking about and can stay engaged in the conversation.
  3. The Singaporean fascination with runny eggs. I know in my head that culture is not wrong, just different. And I’m sure that I have plenty of inconsistencies in my own life. But I just can’t wrap my mind around the idea that people would actually choose to eat runny eggs! With or without soya sauce. With or without kopi siew dai. With or without delightful kaya toast. And having a salt and pepper shaker nearby doesn’t help either.

Being able to see the reasons for the behaviors, like the values expressed in the DBS video dramas, or being able to discover (with some effort) the reasons why a certain celebrity can help to compel a generation to get vaccinated, will never compensate for the reality, that sometimes, I may never fully understand and appreciate certain aspects of other cultures (like runny eggs).

It makes me ponder the deeper meanings of an ancient proverb:

There are three mysteries I find absolutely amazing,
no, make it four I cannot comprehend:
The way an eagle flies through the sky,
the way a snake moves over a rock,
The way a boat glides through the middle of the sea,
and the way a man becomes one with his virgin wife – Proverbs 30: 18, 19

Today I add my own item to the list of mysteries I find amazing and cannot comprehend:

The way of soft-boiled eggs, kaya toast, and local kopi to a Singaporean.


3 thoughts on “An American in Singapore”

  1. Deborah Mackall

    So very Interesting! Sometimes it takes awhile to get another culture’s humor. I’m with Singapore; I absolutely LOVE runny eggs.

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