Friday, 2 January 2009

Are ‘Ang Mohs’ Welcome To Live In Singapore?

After living in Singapore for some years now and integrating fairly solidly into the local community, I find most local Singaporeans to be accepting and very tolerant and friendly toward my family and me. In fact, we have developed friendships that will last a lifetime. In 2008, we received our PR (permanent resident) status.

However, prior to living here, I have never had the experience of being a part of a ‘minority’. I cannot help at times feeling somewhat paranoid as a result (of what I would consider a small percentage) of people who openly jeer, shake their heads, stare or give me dirty looks. When I first arrived in Singapore, this did make me feel quite angry and offended, but over time I have come to realize that this certainly is not the norm. As I already stated, I have found most Singaporeans are open, friendly and willing to accept my family and me into their community.

So I began to ask myself why a few people seem so angry toward me in public (most notably in the heartlands where we live). For this reason, I began participating in a few local online ‘forums’, openly letting people know where I come from and why I am here, to try and get at the real reasons.

Interestingly enough, I have made more local friends as a result of my participation, but also at times I have found myself to be extremely shocked at some of the responses and hatred that I have received in these forums (one in particular) for being an ‘ang moh’ – it has certainly opened my eyes as to the deep-seeded issues at play.

It is not the intent of this article to publicly list out the variety of reasons that some people feel are legitimate reasons for not wanting westerners in Singapore – one only needs to search a couple of forums to understand the thought processes - nor is it to try and justify my existence here. Rather, it is to try and understand the depth of the issue by asking a simple question (in the poll to the right).

The poll will be open for one month so I can elicit as many responses as possible. The question is purposely quite specific, and does not take into account ‘what ifs’ – that is, maybe the answer is ‘yes’ or ‘no’ but only under specific circumstances. Should a respondent wish to further clarify their response, please do so by adding a comment to this thread (please try and keep racial prejudices out of any clarifications – in the essence of ‘free speech’, I do not want to have to delete comments).

Furthermore, please note that the poll is not asking whether or not all ‘foreigners’ (in general) are welcome in Singapore – as locals know, this would probably bring in a huge number of other variables and concerns, and therefore add too much noise to the data that I collect. NB: This poll is anonymous.

The responses to choose from, are – ‘Yes’, ‘No’ and ‘Don’t Care’.

The question being asked, is:

Are ‘Ang Mohs’ Welcome To Live In Singapore?

Please respond using the poll on the top right of this page, and qualify any responses where necessary by adding a comment to this article.

Thanks kindly to all my regular readers, and I appreciate your candid responses. Once the month of the poll being opened has expired, I will publish another article summarizing the data and responses collected.

Read here for the meaning of ‘Ang Moh’ if you are unsure.

DISCLAIMER: We love Singapore for a variety of reasons, and open our arms in friendship to anyone who is prepared to offer the same.

55 comments:

Debo Hobo said...

um...pardon my ignorance but what is are Ang Mohs?

AussiePete said...

Hi there Debo Hebo - I pasted a link in the article to another article I wrote on the background and meaning (and significance) of the term 'ang moh'... here's a quote from that article:

Some background facts on the usage of the term 'Ang Mo' in Singapore

Ang mo (simplified Chinese: 红毛; pinyin: hóng máo; POJ: âng-mo•) or sometimes Ang mo kow (red-haired monkeys), also spelled ang moh, is a racial epithet that originates from Hokkien (Min Nan) that is used to refer to white people in Malaysia and Singapore. Literally meaning 'red-haired', the term carries a strong stigma at present amongst a large proportion of the Caucasian minority. The term implies that the person referred to is a devil, a concept explicitly used in the Cantonese term gweilo ('foreign devil').

The term is widely regarded as a racist and derogatory by many Caucasians living in Singapore, but is widely used. It appears, for instance, in various Singaporean television programmes and films. The term was used in the film I Not Stupid, in which when several employees in the marketing department of their company resented a particular Caucasian individual because they perceived that preference had been shown to him because of his race.

Ang mo is believed to be the term originally used in the Singapore place-name Ang Mo Kio (now usually rendered thus: simplified Chinese: 宏茂桥; pinyin: hóng mào qiáo). The term may either refer to the rambutan, a fruit with a red skin covered with hairs; or to a bridge built by the British after which the nearby town was named.

Fort Santo Domingo in Tamshuei, Taiwan is known as the 'City of the Red-Haired' (Traditional Chinese: 紅毛城; pinyin: hóng máo chéng; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Âng-mn̂g-siâ; ) in Chinese. It was built by the Spanish in the 17th century.

Anonymous said...

do your research probably. the term was never meant to be derogatory or racist, but if you feel it to be so it is your own poor self esteem.

CHOW ANG MO. Now that's more like it

AussiePete said...

The research is valid (and adopted under GNU license) - please read the linked article as suggested, and you will see my 'opinion' and feelings on the term - it doesn't offend me if used appropriately. Also, please note that 'offensive' is clearly in the eyes of the recipient, not the person using the term... this is the entire intent of the linked article - please read the full story before judging.

http://www.aussiepete.com/2008/05/ang-mo-in-singapore-and-lao-wai-or.html

Brown Sugar said...

Dear Pete, there will always be a small minority (both in minds and "stature") who will never be accepting of any foreigner. Having been in Melbourne for 4 years and Kuala Lumpur for 2, I have discovered that for in the most part, many of the people I meet are most welcoming. However, as I have mentioned, there will be those who are not as accepting regardless of whether you are an "Áng Mo" or not. I suppose that being someone of a different colour (i.e. Caucasian), the objections are more pronounced. One of the paths of reconciliation would be to educate and slowly (some slower than others) introduce tolerance and understanding to these people. Hating them will only aggravate the situation.

Anyway, I for one welcome you to our humble country with open arms and hope you enjoy much of our myriad and positive aspects of our culture. Also, I would like to extend my humble assistance if you so need it.

Cheers

Brown Sugar said...

To Ms. Anonymous,

Maybe like Pete said, you should do your research first. However, your attitude is the very thing that makes me ashamed to call myself a Singaporean. Also, your grasp of the English language is atrocious and I would suggest you take English classes before debating someone in their native tongue.

Slamming someone you do not know without stating your name must make you feel like a big man. Or maybe I am right and you DO lack the kahunas to come right out and say it to his face. Either way, I applaud your "courage" or lack thereof.

Cheers, happy new year and have a nice life.

AussiePete said...

Hi Brown Sugar. Wow, thanks for the kind and very meaningful comment. I agree 100% that this non-acceptance in most part (thankfully) really is not the norm, and also concur that the key to change is through education. You are a perfect example of the feeling I have for Singapore - most people are extremely warm and caring. I appreciate your welcome and also the offer of assistance (you never know, I might just take you up on it :D ). Cheers and thanks again!!

utopia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
utopia said...

u ang mohs are well-cultured and friendly, dont fret too much. those who gave u weird stares are probably foreigners themselves.

and since when the term "ang moh" is racist. its just funny and crude.

the China-born Chinese and India-born Indians have more to worry about.

Anonymous said...

Hi there!

Enjoy the attention =)
If people stare at you, it just means that you are special or they don't usually see westerners very much here, that's all.
Nothing really bad about this.

China-borns have a little more to worry about with fitting in. I don't hate them or dislike them but sometimes, some of their attitude puts me off (e.g. spitting or being rude). Otherwise they are fine.

Singaporean here by birth.

Tracy said...

When we use the word "Ang Mor", it is not racist at all, it's the same calling others "Chinese, Malay or Indian and I got alittle offended by what your post.

Solo Bear said...

IMO, the term angmoh has a racist connotation. Literally, as what the poster of the first comment wrote, it means “red hair”. One of the variations of the term angmoh is “angmohkui” – literally meaning “red haired devil”.

For those who think “angmoh” is not racist, how about those “angmohs” calling us “Slant Eyes”?

Just some food for thought.

===

Wang said...

Gidday Pete

Will just say that you would be welcome. Would opine that the "issue" which you describe arises implicitly from the bumiputra attitude exemplified across the border "people of the soil" which implicitly implies states that all jobs which are either management or supervisory or professional in nature should be reserved irrespective if the person concerned is qualified to lead as long as they are "people of the soil". Very attractive as practiced across the border as long as people so called enjoy for the moment.

Solo Bear said...

Wang,

You shouldn’t be putting blame on others for the sins we commit. I believe the Chinese in Singapore are generally racists without knowing it. Here are some more racist terms we Chinese have for other races:-

Sikhs – “Bayee”, or worse, “bayee toncheck” (said with the hand with fingers and thumb extended placed above the head, mimicking the Sikhs’ way of tying their hair under the turban.)

Bangladeshis – “Banglar, banglar”, said with the head rolling in a manner the way Southern Indians speak. Not that the Bangladeshis speak that way.

Southern Indians – “Keleng”. A highly derogatory term to Tamil speaking Indians. (Think “n*gg*r” for Blacks and you will know what that term is)


===

Aussie Pete,

Racism occurs EVERYWHERE. It is jus that the majority does not realise it. In Singapore, the majority is Chinese. Hence, the Chinese will object when you claim they have racist polices or behaviour. Likewise, in Oz, Europe or America, the majority is Caucasian, and these people too will somehow play down the racial game.

Here are some examples of Western racism:- If you are an Arab, you are assumed to be a terrorist, especially if you are on a plane. How many times have Arabs been booted out of planes just because some “white people” feel “unsafe”?

If Muslims try to build a mosque (especially in Europe), it is assumed that they are trying to “eradicate White Western Culture” and groups will lobby the government against allowing them to build those structures.

In summary, all countries have their own racist skeleton in their cupboards. In the West, the Arabs and most vilified. In Singapore, Indians and Bangladeshis are the most vilified.

Just be thankful that you being white, are quite high up the race hierarchy of the second class, in Singaporean Chinese eyes. You would whine more if you had been an Indian or Bangladeshi foreign worker.

Likewise, Wang can be thankful that in Western eyes, Chinese are quite high up in the race hierarchy of second class in western eyes. He/she would have a lot to groan about, if he/she had been an Arab.

===

Here is something I wrote about racism and discrimination. The first article is about Singapore, while the second is about the West.

http://wherebearsroamfree.blogspot.com/2007/07/if-i-told-you-singapore-has-racist.html

http://wherebearsroamfree.blogspot.com/2007/07/institutionalised-discrimination-part-2.html

Solo Bear said...

Oops, somehow, the 2 links above don't work. You have to copy and paste them. Sorry about it.

AussiePete said...

Firstly, thankyou everybody for the meaningful and well thought-out comments so far.

To Tracy - if I offended you with the article, please accept my sincere apologies, that was certainly in no way my intent - in fact, it was just the opposite.

To everyone - in regards to the term 'ang moh', I reiterate, I do not feel offended in anyway (unless someone were to use it in a derogatory manner - this goes for any name or nickname... if it's used affectionately, no problems - many of my friends refer to me as the ang moh, and I know they have absolutely no bad blood or bad intentions). From most of the comments, I feel that most posters here would use the term appropriately.

Having said that, I do also understand Solo Bear's first post in regards to the connotations (especially for those 'newcomers' to SG who are not used to being called anything based upon appearance). I wrote once before in another article, that I believe it's all about respect for the individual - if I call someone any name and it offends them, I would apologies and not use it to them again... it's not really relevant if I did not mean to offend, if someone is offended, then I need to respect their feelings and wishes.

Finally, specifically to Solo Bear, thankyou so very much for your quite insightful and well very wise comments. Very well written, and quite logical). I agree completely - racism exists in various forms and to varying degrees in every country... no one location is immune (and not just racism, also discrimination against all sorts of minority groups). I will certainly take the time out (later tonight) to read the articles that you wrote from the links you posted, I'm sure I will find them very relevant indeed. Thankyou again!!

So far, I'm very impressed also by the poll results - in just over 24-hours there have been 30 votes, with 18 'yes', 6 'no' and 6 'don't care'...

Tracker said...

Hi

Just to point out an error.....
Ang Mo Kio isn't Rambutan, it is Tomatoes.

Rambutan is Ang Moh Tan....

AussiePete said...

Hi Tracker - thanks for the clarification... interestingly enough I had a discussion on this on another article some time ago about Ang Mo Kio:

Who Put The "Ang Mo" In "Ang Mo Kio"

Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

Yeah, we're racist all thanks to you white losers and how you abuse the welcome we accord to you.

Look through the Internet for the racist crap from your fellow bunch of white losers then reflect on your own behaviour before thinking a simple term like 'red-haired' is considered racist.

In Singapore, your bunch are rude and arrogant, you call eating noodles as eating worms and other racist comments.

I sure most Singaporeans accord you more courtesy rather than you towards us, but our patience are running out real fast.

AussiePete said...

Dear anonymous - firstly, thankyou for being candid and honest in your opinion.

Please be assured that I would offer you every courtesy in the world, and completely respect this wonderful country and it's people who have welcomed me (and my 'mixed' family) into society.

Racist elements can be found in every country and every society, and I always feel bad when anyone has to be confronted with discrimination of any kind.

I could probably find your comment inflammatory (as it feels like a bit of attack on me personally, rather than the people who have truly discriminated against you), but it would be much more prudent and wise for me to extend my friendship and courtesy widely, as opposed to taking offence by your words... I know that these type of feelings can run very deeply indeed.

In short, I hope that you have the opportunity to meet other more sensitive 'ang mohs' and be able to talk about positive experiences you may have with them.

Take care, mate. :)

Finally (I feel like this is the millionth time I've said it) - I personally do not feel offended by the term "ang moh" if used appropriately... if I were, I would certianly not be writing the term in my blog header.

Anonymous said...

How does "ang moh" compare with "orang puteh"? I have heard this used for caucasians as well.

Anonymous said...

ang mo lau kau! balik kampong!

Anonymous said...

Hi Pete,
Please ignore the racist crap that pops up every now and then. Just know that most Singaporeans don't feel the same way.
Certainly there are some "angmohs" here that gives the angmohs a bad name just as there are some chinese that gives chinese a bad name in your country. But based on your blog here and your dealings so far, you are a good person and you will always be welcomed here.

Anonymous said...

hello

i think most people are sensible but there are many white men who think too highly of themselves despite being guests in the country

look at the filth spouted in the singapore expat forum and you do get a sense of what i am referring to

look at the freqenecy with which white people jump queues at the taxi stand, taking advantage of the non-confrontational nature of the locals, but the queue jumpers only dare to do it in the CBD, not in Geylang or Balestier

the pinkerton syndrome of some of our officers reinforce the white man's hubris

for example the Holland Road indecent exposure case. if the perp was a local, he would be sent to imh (institute of mental health) immediately but because the offender is a white guy, investigations are ongoing after one month for a simple indecent exposure case

if he did that in Geylang, he would have been beaten up but in Holland Road, he gets applauded

i trust you are a decent man but many of your fellow white men are not and they are the soruice of a lot of trouble and resentment

i hope that puts things in some perspective

Natalie said...

angmohs are SO NOT well cultured and whatever. most of them go around behaving like they own the world and that they are the superior race maybe thats why people have been giving you dirty looks. i live in melbourne and these angmohs are so racist honestly. its okay i understand, melbourne is their country. but i go home to singapore and there agian they behave like its their country. not trying to be offensive but.. my impression of angmohs is not a very good one.

Steve from Florida said...

Married to a Singaporean, I am a caucasian (Ang Moh) from Florida, USA. Every couple years we make our pilgrimage back on vacation to my wife's beloved Singpore.

Firstly, I really love coming to Singapore. To my humble eyes, it seems Singaporeans to live quite harmoniously together. An 'us' versus a 'me' mentality.

I have head the term of 'Ang Moh' by nearly everybody in Sing. It was not said with hatred or malice, or just a way to 'give title' to another race/culture in Sing.

I DO NOT take offense to the term. Although, I do understand how it can be taken out of context.

My wife defines it as "Red Hair Devil", but not disrespectful. I truely believe that.

But I very much understand Solo Bear's statement:

<<< For those who think “angmoh” is not racist, how about those “angmohs” calling us “Slant Eyes”? >>>

Anonymous said...

Well if you've lived in Singapore for long enough you'll know that it's acceptable within the culture to describe someone based on their ethnic origin. Sure there are many derogatory terms for Singaporeans of Chinese, Indian or Malay descent but it is never used in day-to-day speech unless the user is being purposefully offensive.

Contrast that with the term "ang-moh" which historically within Singaporean-Chinese context has no neutral equivalent. When referring to the nationality of peoples originating from white-majority countries the Singaporean Chinese have established neutral terms but when it comes to describing white people in general the term "ang-moh" is used whether the intent is benign or malicious.

Historically there has not been a more polite term that Hokkien-Chinese Singaporeans used to describe white people. Perhaps there was no impetus to come up with one as there was little chance during the colonial era for a white man to interact with Hokkien-Chinese and hence for him to be potentially offended. More likely the term came into such common use that it lost its distinction as being derogatory (within the Hokkien-Chinese context), at least until this issue was raised by the white community in Singapore!

In Mandarin a polite term would be "bai-ren". "Wai-bin" is sometimes used in mainland China. I am not aware of an equivalent term in Hokkien, perhaps someone who has lived in Taiwan could enlighten us?

Guus said...

Doesn't the fact that ang moh is seen as offensive also say something about the Western politically correct movement?

It's obvious that there is a difference in skin color but there is hardly a way to mention this that wouldn't be considered offensive by some Westerners.

Just calling people by how they look may be offensive to Westerners but I really don't think it's intended that way in 99% of the cases. It may be a name in absence of them knowing your real name.

Guus said...

for clarity sake - i'm a SG based Ang Moh myself :)

wouch said...

Late to the game but currently grappling with this.

So, are Caucasians treated differently in Singapore? Better or worse?

I am an Asian American living in Singapore and my husband is Caucasian (who has BTW fully embraced the Ang Moh title). I can see two main differences on how I am treated walking alone (i.e. blending in) and walking with him:
1. The "stare". People's gaze usually lasts a few seconds too long for our comfort when he is present. This is especially true where we live (Toa Payoh). I think this is a mix of curiosity and some veiled stigmatization.
2. Drivers ALWAYS stop for him at the crosswalk. I'm not talking jaywalking here, but at driveways and corner crossings. Postcolonial dynamics? Being courteous to tourists? My own invisibility?

kwok said...

Aiyah, it's okay one lah.

It's not like you hobo, always ask for spare change ya know.

You don't anyhow drink a lot then grab fruits can already loh.

Here not so many Wayne Carey okay? If we have, we all go geylang already.

And er... Don't worry, Aussie accent people tell me, very sexy.

You think SGreans very warm and caring but I go Aussie then I think they more warm and caring to me.

cheerios
Your friendly acculturated Tassie who tried very hard to become Aussie

AussiePete said...

Wouch - thanks for the great insights!

Hey kwok - anyone who 'bags' Wayne Carey can be an honorary Aussie any day in my books!! :p

I'm really glad to see this thread staying alive after so long.

kwok said...

Hey Pete, I don't have full understanding of Aussie culture. Only those I came across and queried about. Very complex country. But awesome outdoors and generally pretty cute people.

Anonymous said...

I'm a white foreigner, and I've lived in Singapore for several years. I'm a public servant here, employed by a government ministry, and I believe I know Singapore reasonably well.

Yes, inevitably, some locals don't appreciate the presence of Caucasians. On a more widespread basis, whites receive different treatment from time to time. The other day, a hardware store owner deeply apologized to me for the long wait at the register. No one else received the slightest apology. This kind of thing happens, subtly, quite a bit. On the other hand, I've also heard everything from offensive comments to strange misunderstandings and ignorance. Many surprised colleagues have asked me, "you take [eat] rice?!" I'm serious.

Obviously, though, the overwhelming answer to this question is "yes." 'Ang mohs' are welcome. Singaporeans are a friendly bunch!

Here's a better question: is the term ang moh offensive to you? And another question: the Straits Times has been known to use the phrase 'ang moh.' Do you think this is appropriate? I'm not particularly offended, depending on the context, and even find it slightly humourous. But I'm still amazed that a "professional" publication like the Straits Times would dare to use it. The derogatory connotation has surely lessened over the years, but for the newspaper? RazorTV? Really? Imagine if they used equivalent terms as a substitute for "Chinese"! What are your thoughts?

AussiePete said...

Hello Anonymous. Thanks very much for the comment. Very accurate also in many ways... I have also witnessed the preferential treatment from time to time.

As for your thoughts on the use of the term 'ang moh' in professional publications and media - I do tend to agree with your thoughts (as you'll see from this and a couple of other articles here, there's been much discussion on the term) - I fully concur that the 'derogatory connotation has lessened over the years', and personally do not take offense when it's used appropriately. Having said that, I do think that the media should be very mindful when using any type of race labelling. There will definitely be people that will take offense (and I know of some - especially 'new' migrants who have - and I'm not just talking about the term 'ang moh' here).

As I'm sure you know, using a 'local' or 'slang' term to describe a person's race is a big no-no in many other countries, and media houses in those countries could be liable to legal action for the same.

Thanks again for your comments - and great to hear from another localized 'ang moh' :D

Take care!!

Anonymous said...

As a Singaporean, I'd just like to offer some input from a native perspective. Although the use of the term angmoh was once restricted to the Chinese, of late, it seems be in vogue among Malay and Indian Singaporeans as well. And yes, it has taken on a rather negative connotation. But that is inevitable, considering that the recent influx of whites into Singapore has caused great hardship for many Singaporeans. Jobs that should have been the sole preserve of Singaporeans are now going to the new migrant white workers who are blatantly favoured over Singaporeans. Moreover, many Singaporeans feel that with ever increasing numbers of whites in Singapore, our way of life and society is increasingly under threat. No society enjoys the massive invasion of peoples who bring alien values with them which are simply inimical to the welfare of the host culture. Many of your own countrymen in Australia have come to resent the growing presence of non-whites and have begun to demand their expulsion. Should it then stun you if we Singaporeans have similar sentiments about the whites who are slowly changing the racial demographics of our country? I don't mean to offend anyone but Singapore is a country where Asians form the majority of the populace and truth be told, I'd like it to stay that way.

AussiePete said...

Hello anonymous. Thanks for your input. All logical points of view are always welcome. I do have one point if contention in your statements... To say that 'many australians' gave grown to resent non white people is clearly inaccurate. Just as in most countries around the world, these sentiments will exist to some degree. However, in the case of Aussies (and in my experience, singaporeans) we are talking about a very small minority. Yes, sensationalist global media has been playing recent events up- but nothing new here - the same thing happened in the days of Pauline hanson... Most (and seriously the majority) of the population have no issues living side by side with different cultures and diverse races and colours, with absolutely no animosity. To be honest, we generally feel sorry for people who show such intolerance. Cheers!!

Ridhwan said...

Hey hi!

-About the 'Ang moh' thing, i didnt know the actual meaning behind it (as I am no chinese), but yes, the majority of the chinese refer to caucasians as such. To think about it now, that's kinda racist.

-I live near Singapore American School and i am often puzzled as to why the Americans/caucasians do not 'mix/mingle' around with us. Especially when they are monthly community events such as the ' CDC Brisk walking'. I think more should be done to integrate them into our society.

Personally i do find Americans/caucasians more open than my fellow local counterparts. they would sometimes greet me when they bump into me outside.

Anonymous said...

What you descibe is perfectly normal. I'm an Indian Singaporean living in Australia and I don't really hang out with the locals. Why should I when I have almost nothing in common with them? Contrary to what the media tell us, it's not racist to prefer the company of our own.

Anonymous said...

A bit late this, but to Brown Sugar, what is so atrocious about that Anonymous' English? So you do believe that yours is par excellence? Coming from a typically miang [itchy] 20-something, that certainly is a tad arrogant.

I mean, with an innuendo-loaded name like Brown Sugar.. what are you trying to tell us apart from your being of *BROWN* skinned presumedly ;)

Anyways, Aussie Pete and those ultra-sensitive types: if "Ang Moh" is deemed racist, then it is. So please spare me all the superficial Politically-Correct talk. But I would like to ask these same experts what do they exactly know about Hokkien?

I have this impression that some of you were NOT even born in the 1970s when "Ang Mo Kau" was rife and deemed offensive and racist. It means Red Haired Monkey. Similarly offensive as Gwei Lo - foreign devil.

I am Hokkien and speak Hokkien too, so don't come and dispute with me k? Self-proclaimed half-baked experts?

Thenceforth Ang Moh is a diluted almost-polite version. Similarly, I could have hit the roof if someone were to yell in my direction: "Chinky, go home".

But I would certainly hit back if the tw@t in question attack me *physically*. Or spit in my direction.

Sticks and stones.

-- so what if I'm Anonymous? Got a problem?

AussiePete said...

Hello Anonymous... I did think a little before deciding to allow your comment to be published, because although I believe completely in free speech, I don't necessarily think there's a need for personal attacks in an otherwise relatively mature discussion.

Having said that, everyone to their own.

I would like to clarify a couple of points however - I doubt that I am 'ultra sensitive'... I don't think I would've survived for so many years living and working in so many different countries for so many years. As the saying goes, I've 'been there, done that' and seen and heard many things and experienced more cultures than you could probably imagine. As I've mentioned (on more than one occassion - just look at a couple of the other related articles here), I personally don't find the term offensive or racist if used appropriately. Having said that, if someone spoke to my wife in the manner that you describe about yourself, I can guarantee you that I wouldn't have to wait for someone to get physical or spit in my direction for me to retaliate strongly - 'superficially politically correct' or not - if this is what you mean by 'ultra-sensitive' then so be it.

Also, good for you on your mastery of Hokkien - however, let me point out that although I speak fluent Shanghai dialect (and I was well and truly around in the 70s), I would in no way claim to be an 'expert' on the historical use of any specific term - self-proclaimed or otherwise.

In short, although I appreciate your invaluable contribution to the topic, I think we've digressed from the article somewhat. As I've also written before, certain terms may well be 'almost polite' in yours (and my) eyes... but when it comes to offensiveness, it is not for you or I to determine what is or what isn't - it's the person on the receiving end. It's all about respect for our fellow man, and this is a lesson that we need to be teaching our youths from the outset.

Cheers!!

Simply SGP said...

1. u may speak shanghai dialect, but there is no chance in your life that you will be able to match up to our capability to speak Dialect as we are born to the language, e.g. I would not point at a deer and say it should be known as a horse since it is your language, you would know it better then me.

2. reason why so many of us dislike the Pinkerton Syndrome is partially because of how the ang mohs behave in Singapore, stop acting big and talking big, stop trying to tell us what we can and cannot do, stop playing the I am an rich expat so I can do what I want attitude.

3. Last but not least, this is our country, not yours. We do not care if the government views you are a foreign talent but the fact that you are working and staying here, do note that you are a foreigner, PR at best, but still foreigner. Do not profess to be one class above the rest of us.

AussiePete said...

Hello Simply SGP!! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Of course as usual, I've been around too long to 'bite' or feel offended by your attempted inflammatory comments such as "there is no chance in your life that you will be able to match up to our capability" or "Pinkerton Syndrome" or by generalizing and suggesting that one particular race acts in a certain way"... :) everyone is different and has their own points of view and behavioural characteristics, regardless of race - just like I know for certain that not all Singaporeans share your viewpoints (in fact the minority, in my experience). Nor is any country immune to people with your ideas - for example, I can draw some direct comparions between your statements and a well-known (unfortunately) in Asia embarrassment to Australia named Pauline Hanson.

To respond diplomatically to your points:

1. I never once suggested that I could speak any language better than you or any other individual - it's just not in my nature to draw such comparions or talk myself up like that... I was merely making a point in response and in context to the previous commenter.

2. Although you generalize greatly, I respect every person in this world regardless of nationality, race, heritage or any other reason - all I expect back is reciprocation of my attitude and actions.. nothing more (or less). I do feel sorry for those who lack self-respect and respect for others, however.

I believe with all my heart that I am better than no man or woman, including you... nor do I believe that either you or I are better than any other race or nationality... whether a person is Indian, Chinese, African, Malay, Caucasian, Aboriginal, or any other race, religion or ethnicity, you and I are no better - at the end of the day we all eat, breathe, sh*t and die. Until then, we should embrace the world and it's diversity for what it has to offer - life is too short to have anomosity or hatred or to feel superior to any other person - I'd rather live my life feeling morally and psychologically content and happy :)

3. Last but not least, I have repeatedly (in numerous articles and statements that I've made) made the point that it is of critical importance for any person living in a foreign country to accept local cultures and respect the current inhabitants of that country with the respect they deserve - if not, you may as well not even travel - life will become very uncomfortable and unhappy for you.

I have my open viewpoints on what signifies 'ownership' of any land or country to any person, but that's a whole other topic (is it, for example birth-right or is it a specific number of generations away from immigrant status? I know there are many varying schools of thought on this).

At the very least, Singapore is definitely my new home, regardless of your attitude or opinion - I'm actually not sure what you're driving at here, but I'm not trying to take "your country" away from you.

In summary, and back to your final sentence in your third point (which I think is similar to your second point anyway) - I am no better than you, nor you than me... regardless of "big talk" or any other factors.

I would like to point out however, that by generalizing against all caucasians as you have and stating things like "there is no chance in your life that you will be able to match up to our capability", I think it's bordering a little on hypocracy, given the points you're trying to make about one race feeling (or purporting to be) superior to another.

Good luck to you, my friend. I hope all works well for you in the future and that your life experiences offer you some more positive interactions with ang mohs as well as all other manner of races or nationailities. :)

Cheers!!

Anonymous said...

I m white n lived in Singapore for almost 10 years, I will always love n miss it. It became my home.
I have a ton of local friends there and they will always stay my friends.i have deeply learned to love and appreciate singapore for all its variety and the special feel that only singapore can ever have.

My experience was that, yea, some people are cautious or have stereotypes of whites, give u stares of roll their eyes or whatever, coz there are some whites that really disrespect n what not, but even these singaporeans can become ur friends if ur real to them and treat them with respect n friendliness. I guess showing respect for the culture and person is what matters. Showing true interest in people. And its okay that some don't like us. it can happen to anyone, anywhere in the world.

still, Its always terrible when anyone thinks him/herself to be superior to anyone else. whatever country you may be from or what u look like.

I hated seeing white people behaving like thinking they were better than locals. Hated that! But maybe i became biased. I dont know, it happens easily, you make a few bad experiences, and there goes the stereotype.

I reckon the whole world should just love.
Love love love :) Love n forgive bad stuff.

I love Singapore.
And almost all Singaporeans are awesome. Of course there are always some stubborn people who look for trouble. in singapore, just like anywhere else in the world.

There ll never b another place like Singapore! :)
Love the place. Sweet home Singapore.

Cheers. The Local Ang Moh ;)

LX said...

Hi, very much like you, I never experienced being part of the minority till i moved to Brisbane almost 3 months ago. In that short span of time, I've had (asian) classmates getting pelted with eggs in the city. They'd drive up slow, throw an egg to ruin an asian's day, and then flee. In a more serious case, my singaporean classmate got punched in the face on the bus by an angry, racist ang moh. In school, we learn about the white australia policy, and i can understand why racism towards asians is so deeply rooted in australian culture.

On the other hand, everytime i'm on the brink of condemning all Australians as racist, insular bastards, I'll meet some reaaaaalllly nice people (whom you'd probably never find in singapore) and they'd negate those thoughts.

Its been over a year since you posted this, but I can see similarities in our respective experiences in each other's countries and hence decided to comment. All the best!

Anonymous said...

Wow. 'Til this date and age, it seems this stigmatism will never ceased.

I guess this topic has evolved into locals thrashing on white folks and white folks trying to defend their existence in Singapore.

Since we are reading and posting our thoughts in this column behind our computer screen, I would like to know what can be done to strike a balance.

To all white folks haters, since there are a minority of white trash causing such distress in your lives, what are you going to do about it? I think ranting would not do enough to push them away unless the authority set a policy to stop all white folks from coming to Singapore or forcing the existing white folks community to take up citizenship.

To white folks readers, since you've claimed made a lot of local friends, those haters would like to know how you did it and how deep your friendships with the locals. I read somewhere some white folks took up grass-root jobs to know the local community better. Did you do so? How successful with this move?

Cheers

Lin Zexu said...

You know, before living in a Western country, I used to be ok with caucasians in Singapore. But now, after having lived abroad for a substantial period of time, my pet peeve is that while white people in Western countries don't get special treatment from their local Asians, it seems that once they step into Singapore, they feel that they are entitled to be treated like a king by Singaporeans. This double standard in expectations really pisses me off. For example, while in line to get cheese, the cheesemonger turned to me and asked me what I wanted. I blurted it out, thinking that perhaps the other customer, a Caucasian man, was still shopping around. He then snapped his fingers at me. Look, I knew he was there first and would have let him gone ahead but really, snapping your fingers at me like I was a dog? Did he think that I was going to turn over and beg for him to rub my tummy? The deluded idiot obviously has another think coming. And do you think he would have acted this way in his home country?

And the incident that really triggered me to look online for local sentiments on this caucasian invasion that is currently occurring happened yesterday. I was driving and the street that I was on required me to check traffic coming from both my right and in front of me before I could exit. So, I already was preoccupied. Just as I was swinging my car out, this f-ing white dickhead walks out from the left, makes eye contact with me so I know that he's seen me and then proceeds to walk in front of my car so I had to brake suddenly. I also wasn't able to completely finish the manoevre I was in the middle of. Now, I don't know about pedestrian right of way in whichever country that idiot was from but IN SINGAPORE, there is no pedestrian right of way and there was NO pedestrian crossing either. The reason for this is detailed above: there are so many checks for the driver to carry out without having to worry about checking for pedestrians as well.

But he crosses the road nonchalantly while smirking at me. So I got really angry and honked at him. He then proceeded to slam his palm against my car's bonnet and then against my window. Maybe it wasn't nice of me to honk at him, you might say, but I would reply that it wasn't his right of way. In any case, what right did he have to hit my car? Do you think that he would have gotten away with this behaviour in his country?

I let this b*stard go because it was a busy street and I didn't want to hold up traffic but the next time you ang mos blame Singaporeans for discrimination and blah blah blah, do bear in mind that a significant proportion of white people believe that their sh*t does not stink while in Singapore and that behaviour that would normally be condemned in their home countries will fly here.

You know, when Singapore separated from England, the Singapore dollar was 9 to the British pound. Fast forward 45 year and the Singapore dollar is now 2 to the British pound. You can apply the same argument to any western currency. But even with solid evidence of white power and ability diminishing in contrast to that of Asians', it still feels like the British never left Singapore and every white male is a "Sir" and you have to bow to them, wish them good morning, good day, good evening and shine their shoes and every white person expects to be kowtowed to.

If you are not one of these people, then please, ignore this post. But in response to your question "Are 'ang mohs' welcome to live in Singapore", please note that my response to these ang mohs is to stuff this attitude where the sun don't shine. And I don't think that other young, educated Singaporeans differ much in their opinion either.

Anonymous said...

@Lin Zexu,
Well I find you quite bias and borderline racist in your remarks. What you stated about the Caucasian fellow, I experience almost every day done by Singaporeans. But should they be allowed to get away with being rude and uncivilized just because they are Chinese Singaporeans? absolutely not.

Yes I know that alot of Singapore chinese have an issue with the white skin color, mainly because it stand out. But honestly Caucasians take out less than 1% of people in Singapore and is still made the bad guy??

Okay I am caucasian(ish), my family came to Singapore at the same time as the founder of Singapore did, but I am constantly asked by other Singaporeans, who don't know me, how long I have been in Singapore and if I am a PR. but in fact my family have been in Singapore longer than any Chinese Singaporean can look back and I feel that racism is getting worse and worse in this country - and that is generally because of people like you.

I honestly don't care about if you are Chinese, Malay, Indian, Caucasian. Singapore is my country as well and don't tell me otherwise. Singapore was not initially Chinese, it was Malay and have you asked them how they feel about you invading their country??

I see Singaporeans treat their fellow man, with less and less respect these days. They mistreat domestic workers, they mistreat workers in general and they are rude to everyone who don't have the same skin color as themselves.

But you know what? my family still love our country, even that we are not that welcome there any more.

Thanks for all the fish.

Anonymous said...

Whites are filthy monkeys. I spit on them because they deserve it.

Anonymous said...

Well, I have just finished reading this post and all the comments below. Though this post is a couple of years old, this is still a very relevant issue in Singapore and hence I am going to say my piece.

First off, to Pete, the other Australians either in Singapore or with an active interest in Singapore surfing this blog, and to anyone with European ancestry in general, I would like to apologize on behalf of some of my countrymen, who have taken advantage of anonymity on the internet to spit out some real racist bullshit. They do not, and I repeat, do not speak for the majority of us Singaporeans. We have come a long way in nation building, and we certainly do not harbor ill-feelings to newcomers as long as they integrate well into our society and get along well with us. I do have to admit, there are racist Caucasians, not denying that at all. Just as we are gonna have the racist Chinese, Malay, Indian, African, Aboriginal whatever. Racism is a disease among mankind as a whole, not just 'white' people.

Bad apples exist in every society and I'm appalled that some of my Singaporean brothers and sisters keep dishing out hate and over-generalize things due to a couple of negative experiences with the 'ang moh', not realizing that they are just doing the same and hurting someone else. 2 wrongs don't make a right my dear Sinkies!

I've had my own fair share of racist experiences in Australia too. Big burly bearded, tattooed biker dudes with more metal on the face than flesh. Well, those did look like a bunch of retards to begin with anyway, so a few racist taunts from those chaps didn't affect me much at all. But the rest of the people I met, regular Australians, were simply amazing hosts. I don't get what your beef with Australians is guys. That's one country where u can just walk up to anyone pretty much and start a conversation as if u'd known him for years. The level of friendliness they exhibit is something we are not even close to. Before dishing out hate against the Aussies, look at the way we treat our Banglas and 'Pinoys'. We have no moral ground to judge them.

There have been a few negative episodes in Singapore with Caucasians. I'm not saying a no, but that doesn't make our locals saints either. Are your guys trying to tell me that a Chinese or Indian has NEVER committed a crime before over here? Or has never been a public nuisance in any way?

cont...

Anonymous said...

cont....

I guess part of the hate also stems from the fact that Singapore despite being a relatively young country, has seen tremendous success within a short span of time, way faster than other developed nations like Australia. This has given rise to an increasingly nationalist young population, that has the mindset 'We are better than the west'. Throw in our history and social studies syllabus into the mix and that's where u start getting a crowd that's increasingly racist. You see Pete, back in those days, the Brits weren't exactly nice folks. Asians were pretty much second class citizens and coolie workers, exploitation was common and many were subjected to physical abuse and numerous indignities at the hands of the Caucasian. These things are taught in our history. We are taught episodes in history like how three clerks who came over from Australia and were working for the governor here back in 1901, used to head down to the docks after work and pelt the Chinese coolies there with mangosteens as a past time. We are made to read all those stories, we are told the British colonials (and the Australians who were with them) were incredibly racist. But while we are taught all that, no emphasis is made on telling the kids how things are today, how we all have evolved over the years to become equals and friends. That seems a 'forgotten chapter'. The result, u end up turning out school leavers who have a negative perception of Caucasians to begin with. The "us" vs "them" mentality kicks in early.

Believe me, I was one of those kids back in high school. I used to hate the Caucasian with a passion having read all those. My first trip to Australia with family when I was 17 fixed all that. That was the first time I got to realize that the 'white person' today is a regular person like everyone else.

Instead of letting those history lessons remain as 'history', some of those in our midst who just need to find an excuse to hate something, jump at this opportunity to start dishing out hate. "They did this to us before what!? Now is over turn. Their countries are falling behind us anyway. This is the Asian's turn to bully them". That sort of creeps into the mentality. Adding to that is the occasional racist attack against some Asian which gets blown up in the local media here. Stuff like that add up and eventually u get what u r seeing on this board here. Unjustified and irrational anger against Caucasians. Some idiots refuse to learn that its been 6 decades since that period when we were a colony and the attitude of the Caucasian today is way different from his ancestor's.

Just a minority though. Most Singaporeans are well traveled, are cosmopolitan and know better.

I gotta hand it to you though mate. U are actually reading all those posts and answering to everyone of them politely. If I was in Australia and some Aussie guy told me stuff like that to my face I'd probably tell him to STFU and grow up.

Regardless of what some others might think, for your genuine efforts to integrate within our community and the fact that u love and appreciate our way of life, I'd consider u as Singaporean as the rest of us. I respect your decision not to give up your Aussie citizenship as at the same time, your children are Singaporean and u encourage their eventual contribution to the country's defence. Ignore the haters and blind trolls mate. Have fun and remember that u r now a part of this society just like the rest of us. Don't let anyone tell u any different.

Cheers :)

Jai

Anonymous said...

" Anonymous said...
Whites are filthy monkeys. I spit on them because they deserve it.

9 November, 2011 2:45 PM"

And u still wonder why some of us get subjected to racist slurs from a few pricks in Australia? That kind of attitude will only get u so far. Racism is a two way process. It takes two hands to clap.

Anonymous said...

Hello,

You must understand where some of these extreme views and hatred are coming from.

In Singapore, men are made to serve National Service which is seen by many as more of a burden than a necessity. NS, which it is also called has a duration of 2 years, and during that 2 years, many ordinary citizens are made to serve in hard environments and made to make the painful adjustment to military life.

That being said, when a foreigner enters Singapore (especially Caucasians) he is usually given a good position in a company, enrolls his children in a private school (such as Stanford-American) and becomes a country club member (go to a country club or yacht club and you will see 60% of them Caucasians).

This thus gives the locals (especially the men) the impression that they are not treated very fairly. After having to go through the pain and sweat in NS, most of them could only afford a government public housing and taking the public transport. Even though they may have a university degree. On the other hand, however, these foreigners get to live the good life.

Another reason could simply be that since Singapore was once a colony of Britain, the presence of Westerners are seen as imperialists.

Having mentioned all these, Australia isn't that too welcoming to Asians as well. Eggs were thrown and racist remarks were said to a friend of mine when he simply studied there. Another friend of mine in New Zealand had been verbally abused in school for simply being Asian. While not in Australia, a survey in Canada reviled that those job applicants with Chinese names stand a far lower chance than those with English names.

As a Singaporean, I did live in the US for a number of years, and yes I do agree that as a minority, you tend to feel very self conscious. You also tend to feel that every small mistake you made will be stereotyped against your race. For example if you get honked at while driving, you know at the back of your mind that the other driver is saying 'Asian drivers...".

So that being said, I think that as a Caucasian, you are being treated far far better in Singapore as compared to an Asian living in YOUR own country, Australia. Just for your record, Australia is well known to have a lot of racist people.

Felix said...

"Ang Mo" is not meant to be an offensive term at all, it simply means "Red Hair" because the unusual hair colors.

Of course, to the racists they can add in a word after that. "Ang Mo Guai" to mean "Red Hair Devil", but that doesn't mean "Ang Mo" has any derogatory meaning. "Ang Mo Lang" is a more common term, which simply means red hair people, pretty much how caucasians call themselves white people


Source: I'm a chinese singaporean

Anonymous said...

Racism is not necessarily as a result of a self esteem problem, it can be very real And hurtful to people who only wish to better their own lives by searching for work in a place other than where they were born and who are already going through sometimes difficult transitions. To brush off this person's experience as such is ignorant and apathetic. Rather focus your energy on proper word use instead of such unfeeling responses