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Forget Hawker Culture. Nominate These 5 Uniquely Singaporean Things For UNESCO Instead

Forget Hawker Culture. Nominate These 5 Uniquely Singaporean Things For UNESCO Instead

  • Culture
  • Life
Is hawker culture even a thing? I eat economical rice everyday, and that provides me with all the variety I’d ever need in my dietary intake. When I’m not having my daily staple of Har Cheong Gai, egg tofu and curry with my rice, I have a piece of braised pork.

Food, for me, is merely sustenance. Which is why I’ve made a list of things that arguably scream “I EMBODY SINGAPOREAN CULTURE!” more than our much heralded hawker culture.

This article is not a joke.

1. Babe, Want To BTO?
The Germans are industrious and efficient. The French are arrogant and passionate. Singaporeans are pragmatic and broke.

Which is why we cannot be surprised that proposals have descended into half-hearted murmurs of the words: “Babe, want to BTO?”.

Financial literacy has been pounded into our brains from a young age. From the POSB Kids accounts we open in primary school to getting your first debit card after landing your first job, we have been primed to make every last cent we earn count (including the ones stuck in our CPF accounts).

So, you cannot blame Singaporean men for being overly pragmatic by not dishing out 3 months’ salary on a shiny rock. Just think of all the furniture you could buy in your new BTO!

Also, you finally get to move out.

2. Jack Neo’s Movies

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It’s so easy to make fun of Jack Neo’s movies.

There’s the excessive use of green screen, the low-brow humour, and the overemphasised family values that are used to lure parents who want to be reminded what great mentors they are to their ungrateful children.

At the same time, we’ve all been guilty of walking into the cinema during CNY to watch one of his movies ironically, only to emerge teary-eyed from the theatre when a parent-figure dies in the movie, reminding you how ungrateful you are to your parents.

Simply put, Jack Neo knows how Singapore ticks, and by god has he milked that cow well.

From the “I Not Stupid” movies to the “Ah Boys To Men” franchise, we’ve grown up alongside the characters in his movies, and his movies have undoubtedly shaped local culture.

3. Stomp

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Nothing makes Singaporeans feel better than bringing the shortcomings of others to light. Which is why all of us rejoiced with our battered Sony Ericsson camera phones in hand when STOMP launched in 2006.

In the name of citizen journalism, Singaporeans young and old channelled their inner voyeurs as they prowled the streets of our Garden City looking to catch someone mid faux pas, all for a $50 dollar reward.

The truth is, the STOMP team at SPH are fools. Singaporeans would’ve done that shit for free. We have to face it, we are a nation of snooty people, and nothing makes us feel better than taking the moral high ground.

If STOMP had a spirit animal, It would be that auntie whose volume always seems to increase at family gatherings when she discusses how different her son’s erudite JC education is to your polytechnic education, and attempts to make you feel better by saying, “At least you are learning useful hands-on skills that you can use when you go out to work next year!”

4. Public Transport Chess

StandUpStacey, BagDownBenny, HushHushHannah, MoveInMartin, and GiveWayGlenda.

These are the names of the lamest attempt by LTA to get us to improve on our civic-mindedness when we’re on public transport. Why they thought that having cute-cartoonish figures would convince a nation of grown-ass people to be more courteous on their commute simply baffles me.

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How many of us think about maximising the passenger capacity when we board the bus? Whether it is the middle-aged woman with the cheap perfume or the secondary school boy reeking of stale sweat, we like to stand our ground and hold the fort, as if there were buried treasure under our feet.

As much as we complain about public transport being cramped, it is clear that we enjoy putting up a passive-aggressive fight with fellow passengers.

You might have suffered a long, soul-sucking day at work, being the ‘yes man’ that Singaporean culture has groomed you to become. All you’re crying for after an entire day of taking orders is the cathartic release from the 3-second tussle with a fellow commuter, before ranting about it on social media.

In fact, there isn’t anything that is a better representation of the competitive nature of our society.

 

5. Complaining

They say that our national pastime is eating. We go to the hawker centre for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and supper. But who do we go with and what do we do?

At breakfast, you complain to your mother about your father. At lunch, you complain to your colleague about your boss. At dinner, you complain about that incoherent article you read online to your sibling. And at supper, you complain to your spouse about your friends not asking you out for supper.

If already you’re swearing at this repetitive hodge podge of a paragraph, then congratulations, you already know that the national pastime is not eating, but complaining.

Served lukewarm food at a restaurant?

“IF I WANTED A BAD MEAL I WOULD’VE STAYED AT HOME AND LET MY WIFE COOK!”

Neighbour playing loud music at night?

“HELLO GRC? MY DOWNSTAIRS NEIGHBOUR DAMN CB.”

Bus drove away before you could board?

“NOWADAYS ALL THE FOREIGN BUS DRIVER LIKE THAT ONE!”

Perhaps it is because we work so hard, for so many hours each week, that we demand nothing but the best from ourselves and the people around us. So what do you do?

COMPLAIN.

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You cannot deny that these things have become quintessentially Singaporean. And while these intangible bits of our culture might seem like a joke, they have, at the very least, remained pure in the collective Singaporean imagination.

They have all been embraced as a very real and human part of being “Singaporean”.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about the hawker industry, and how its demise is slowly unfolding in front of our eyes, orchestrated by the very same people who champion the cause of hawker culture but insert clause upon clause of additional fees in lease agreements.

We may be unromantic and kiasu, but by recognising what makes us Singaporean, we are making sure that our national identity is water-tight. That way, we don’t have to rely on any lists to tell us that what we have is worth protecting.

Can you think of anything else to add to the list? Tell us at community@ricemedia.co

Author

Shaun Tan Staff writer