Being Singaporean and Persistence

讲华语运动. Singa the Lion. 雾锁南洋.

Whether or not the terms above look strange and foreign to you, is a clear giveway as to the decade you’re from. That’s the thing about being Singaporean. Tourism Board slogans aside, it’s just something so uniquely us.

We could travel halfway round the globe, and the accent remains unmistakable and detectable as long as it’s within earshot. Aside from those who practice what my more learned friends describe as diglossia, most of us just speak Singlish.

A couple of decades back – don’t judge me for my (old) age please, I spent a few weeks in Cuba, partly out of curiosity, but mostly because London weather was just plain depressing and I badly needed to do some diving.

Havana was like a city stuck in time – it wasn’t as raunchy then like in Fast & Furious – but what struck me most, was actually seeing a Chinese population there. I’ll spare you the history lesson, but suffice to say, I got detained at Cuban immigration based on my ethnic origin while trying to make my way back to London.

It didn’t help of course, that I had a really dark tan by then and that I spoke a strange sounding English (Singlish). In defence, I did try my best version of the Queen’s English then, but I doubt it helped much, because no one in Cuban immigration had even heard of Singapore. And while there was an amicable ending to my short-lived Cuban adventure, there was a less than romantic ending for one of our dates recently.

The combination (as usual) was great on most aspects – Tom was a tall, good looking guy who studied overseas, articulate but down to earth and struggling to get his career of the ground while Tricia was a petite pretty girl who studied here and was a new citizen with a good job in finance. Both young, restless and looking for romance!

The date crashed and burned and my staff got roasted in the aftermath. 

What went wrong? Assumptions. My assumptions evidently.

(Photo Credits: Lianhe Zaobao)

Putting aside any notion of ethnic pride, most people beyond our shores truly believe that you should be able to speak your mother tongue. So if you’re Chinese in ethnic origin, one would expect that you’d be able to speak some semblance of Mandarin or even a dialect (Hokkien expletives don’t count). Tricia believed this. And who could blame her? After all, where else in the world will you find a government driven 讲华语运动?

On the other hand, given that English is the official language used on our tiny island in almost everything from school textbooks to documents and even road signs, most locals believe that any citizen, should be able to speak English or at least Singlish. Unless of course, you’re really from the 雾锁南洋 generation – not the people who watched it, but our forefathers in the cargo hold down below. Tom, who was born and bred here, falls into this category of believers.

So whose fault was it when a date between two citizens of the same ethnic origin crashed and burned due to nothing other than a language issue? Mine of course. And I really should have known, given my extensive knowledge of local history (一种米养百种人) and deep seated angst from my Cuban detention. One of the little details we took for granted sadly, really sorry about that. We will strive to do better!

Persistence. One of our other dates recently went okay – there were no sparks, but the conversation between the two continued for a few days. A few days.

We’ve been through this topic a few times in our previous sharings – Traffic Lights and Letting Go. It’s a good thing if there were no red lights during the date. In which case, sometimes if you’re not sure about the next date, it’s good to just ask.

In this case, Tom and Tricia’s (to avoid Facebook trawling and social media investigation we’re using the same names as above) date went smoothly. There were no obvious sparks during the date on the surface, but Tom was deeply attracted to her.

The texting conversation went on for a few days after the date, but eventually trailed off into silence. Turns out, Tom felt he was too old to be chasing girls and things should flow naturally. I respect that, not happily given the implications of my own age, but because we too believe that you can’t really force romance.

But in this case, asking a girl whom you are attracted to out for a second date is not “chasing”. Her rejecting you 10 times and you asking for the 11th time would be.

We don’t advocate stalking or grand gestures unless the timing and atmosphere calls for it. But to leave a second date to chance on the pretext of “not chasing” or because you’re not sure if the light is turning amber within a week is a bit premature maybe?

Our Advice?

Just ask, warmly, and be specific on date and time. If a mutually convenient time cannot be found after a few iterations and you’re the only one suggesting timings, then the light really looks like it’s turning amber. To ask just once or not ask at all, is like a car stuck at a green light, waiting to be horned at!