Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Not a typical Singaporean

After meeting with the team for our GNIE school project today, AP, PY and I adjourned for a gossip break before continuing with our part of the project work.

PY is a PRC who was recruited from China by the Singapore government to study nursing in a Singapore polytechnic and had worked in Singapore for some years to fulfil her bond obligations. She has a negative impression of Singaporeans. E.g. not smart* (see below), kiasu (competitive), selfish, and so on.

I realized on our first day at school that PY did not liked being associated with anyone/anything Singaporean. I introduced myself as a Singaporean in class. When PY later introduced that she graduated from XYZ Polytechnic in Singapore, I remarked enthusiastically, "Hey, we were from the same school!" but PY's response was muted. So I asked her which hospital she was from, and when she replied, I mentioned that I had a friend was working there and asked her which department she was from. She snubbed me. Since she did not seem friendly at all, I hung out with the relatively easy-going young Filipinos (like AP) instead.

Towards the end of the 1st semester, after about 4 months of school together, one day during lab, PY suddenly remarked to me, "You seem smart, not like my schoolmates in Singapore. Why?" I just smiled. IMHO, PY, like many of the PRC students recruited/sponsored by the Singapore government, forgot to take into account that she has gone through a selection process, a filtration which (hopefully) ensures that she has some "quality" that would put her head-and-shoulders above the average Singaporean student. [Otherwise, how can the Singapore government justify spending money on foreigners instead of its own citizens?] However, she was comparing herself against the average Singaporean polytechnic student -- no, make that the "bottom of the barrel" of Singaporean polytechnic students because nursing was (still is?) one of the easiest faculty to qualify for in the Singapore polytechnics. [Note: Nursing, despite its "noble" job nature, does not generally attract the crème de la crème students because of its pathetic pay and work conditions in Singapore.] Thus, I was not surprised that PY had assumed that I was like her typical Singaporean peers back in her polytechnic days and snubbed me initially. [Not that it was fair/right for her to snub her peers, but it is understandable given the superiority complex common amongst PRC "scholars" on Singapore government sponsorships and the typical Singaporean's prejudice against PRCs. Click here and here for examples.]

In addition, PY did not think highly of her Singapore nursing education. E.g. Whenever I remarked that we are both "well-trained by the Singapore system", PY would reject my suggestion and countered that it boils down to the individual. Admittedly, she was under the 3-year diploma in nursing programme with mostly teenage-students, so her teachers were stricter (i.e. more disciplinary/punitive) in their approach. I was from the 2-year accelerated programme with fabulous teachers who treated us as motivated matured learners. In fact, PY looked surprised today when I told her that my (main) nursing lecturers were UK-trained and trained us based on UK standards. That is, they trained us to function as critical-thinking RNs who assess patients independently and advocate for our patients, much like RNs in Canada.

Anyway, time flies and we have been in school for almost 9 months. During this time, although we have had some classroom interactions, PY and I generally moved amongst different circles. After all, we were not in the same clinical groups. Over the months, PY heard feedback from the other classmates about me -- "WD did this...", "WD did that..." (generally positive feedback). In fact, one Korean classmate SS even went so far as to say, "I want to migrate to Singapore. Singapore is such a good country! Clean, strong economy, good education, good government. Even the people are nice, look at WD..." At which point, PY told SS, "You cannot judge like that, WD is not a typical Singaporean." [I learned about all these today straight from the horse's mouth.]

So over gossip break today, PY told me candidly that she did not like me initially because of her negative experiences in Singapore, both in nursing school and at the hospitals. How bad is nursing in Singapore? Well, both of us agreed that we never want to return to nursing in Singapore, ever again. In fact, she has forgotten much about her "Singapore experience" as she let the bad stuff slide off from her memory. She also told me how she came to change her mind about me, a Singaporean (see the preceding paragraph).

AP, PY and I went on to share and discuss our generalizations of the "typical" Filipino, India Indian, Iranian, South Korean, PRC and Singaporean. We recognize that generalizations are just that -- it is not wise to let our initial prejudices get in the way of getting to know an individual. E.g. IMHO, PY and I have more similarities than differences in our approach to work and our attitude towards academic performance.


  1. Yes, people like us are not typical Singaporeans. Like PY, I've shunned Singaporeans since I left the country.

    In 3.5 years I've only recently met a couple of them by choice, only because I perceived them to have balls and are unlike typical Singaporeans.

    As humans, we are guided by stereotypes/prejudices, because they are there for a reason.

    1. Hi CK,

      Thanks for visiting and your comment. Yeah, I guess we are not typical Singaporeans, after all how many would quit a well-paid job/career to be a "lowly" nurse in Singapore? Haha!

      While I do not shun Singaporeans in particular, I realize that "birds of a feather flock together". I find that I am not keen to befriend someone on the basis of shared nationality or ethnicity alone.

      Cheers, WD.

  2. Thanks, this had me laughing out loud.

    "You cannot judge like that, WD is not a typical Singaporean." Highlighted and bold!

    1. Hi theblankbox,

      Thanks for visiting and glad that you had a good laugh.

      I highlighted and bold it because as PY recalled her conversation with SS, she raised her voice (almost in exasperation) and spoke those words with strong emphasis, including gesticulating with arms/hands. As you can imagine, it was really funny.

      Thanks again for visiting and your comment.

      Cheers, WD.