This is our culture.
According to this video, this is what makes up the Singaporean culture; Singlish(the incorporation of dialects in Engish), our ‘kiasu(fear of losing) and kiasi(fear of dying)’ mentality, our complaining nature, our nonverbal cues in reserving seats, our need to conform, and our exceptionally excellent talent at cross-referencing when it comes to buying things.
Quoting Geert Hofstede, culture is the “collective programming of the mind which distinguishes one group of people from the other.” Based on this, Singaporeans are categorised by the above mentioned traits. Whether you like it or not, this is the culture of Singaporeans. Hofstede mentioned the collective programming of the mind, this can be translated to mean: a group of people with the same mentality. In this case, Singaporeans are guarded by the need to win, and the need to survive. When we act upon this mentality, it results in the kind of behaviour(Edward T. Hall’s definition of culture) you see in the video clip above, or if you take a look around you, the behaviour you see is the culture of Singaporeans.
Other than what is mentioned, there are a few other things that makes our culture as well. For example, in most countries, chewing gum is a norm, but in Singapore, government policies such as the outlawing of gums has made it such that Singapore is the only country known for banning gum chewing.
Having said that, culture is something that is unique to a group of people. It is also the basis that we employ when we judge others. The video below is an excerpt from a Taiwanese variety show, with the Taiwanese celebrities criticizing Singapore’s pronunciation of English.
For those who do not understand Chinese, you should be able to roughly make out what are the words that are specifically pointed out and critiqued upon. It is funny how we are allowed to criticize our fellow Singaporeans’ bad command of English(i.e Ris Low), but when outsiders actually critique Singapore’s English on the whole, we stand together and defend our country’s culture and pride. Below are merely some of the comments I have extracted from the video’s page:
It is because culture is unique to a particular group of people, it is almost a personal attack when the Taiwanese celebrities judged Singapore’s English. As you can see, these comments are very defensive maybe because we, as Singaporeans, know that this is not true for everybody here.
One probable reason why we tend to judge other cultures is because our own culture is so ingrained in ourselves that it takes great effort to even begin understanding other cultures. Judging comes in when we do not understand fully how a culture operates in a whole new place. To illustrate, compare the modern culture of tattooing to a tribal culture of scarification.
Both picture depicts body art. Why is it that we accept tattooing our bodies, but we look at scarification with a judgmental mindset?
Once a certain pattern of thinking, feeling and acting have been established within a person’s mind, he or she must unlearn these before being able to learn something different altogether. Of course, to just understand another culture, we do not have to forget about our own culture. But it will be difficult because we have the tendency to compare other cultures to our own and then make a judgement.
Are you ashamed of our culture, as described in the first video? Or do you think that there is another set of culture that define Singaporeans better? Did you feel the angst when you watched the second video? I know I sure did.