Uniquely Singaporean – Kiasuism

I have been looking for an interesting subject to dwell on and thought, this might be an interesting subject for discussion. Since I was born and raised here, I think I have a fairly good idea on this topic and in all fairness, I must admit I’m also quiet a “kiasu” guy myself in some ways.

In plain dialect conversion, “kiasu” literally means “afraid to lose”. I’m not sure if the word is listed in the dictionary but it sure is one of the words most commonly used in associating with the typical Singaporean attitude. It’s kind of a derogatory term to use but I suppose if we look at things from both sides, there are positives to being “kiasu”. The term is so often used that most if not all Singaporeans are used to it and we generally take it within our stride if such terms are used on us sometimes.

So, lets start with the negatives on being label as “kiasu”. We all read and hear complaints about how expensive things are nowadays for just about anything. While it may be true in some instances, I noticed that in some instances, the “kiasu” mentality is at its best to wreck havoc here.

Take for example housing. Singapore is a small island, so no matter which “ulu” corner you’re staying now, eventually the amenities would be fully develop. By that time the value would have shot up and selling it would reap in a tidy profit because back then the area was still relatively under-developed so the price of the house would be relatively low as compared to mature estates. But….the “kiasu” mentality would say why can’t I stay in a more developed area and yet still enjoy the lower prices of under-developed areas? He/she wants instant accessibility but is not willing or unable to afford it.

The situation is even worse when it comes to education. In order not to be left behind, the typical parent would put his/her child in some form of learning school as young as 3 or maybe 4 years old. I don’t have a kid so I don’t know the exact age when a child gets exposed to his/her first taste of group learning. While this may be for the good of the child, did anyone consider some children may actually feel stressed under such conditions and yet not able to convey the message across to his/her parents clearly? A young mind absorbs things pretty quickly, so it’s a matter of exposing the child to the correct environment, not necessarily a school environment. It’s not very common here but there many kids overseas who are home schooled and yet makes wonderful contributions to the society at large.

Many years ago, during the Hello Kitty mania sweeping across Singapore at McDonald’s, people queue up hours before the outlet opens just to get that doll. So much so that there were arguments and even a glass door was smashed. All for a doll that does nothing but occupy space in the house. But the kiasu mentality in us somehow convinced us that if so many people want it, then it must be good. Such actions are typical here but unfortunately nothing to be proud of.

Now for something positive about being “kiasu”. One of the most obvious example is the various laws enacted when the casinos finally made its debut in Singapore. These laws are there to prevent gambling addiction among Singaporeans. Still, they won’t stop those determined to put their monies on the gambling tables but at least some would think twice when they want to wager their hard earned money on the table.

I also mentioned in my previous posting that kids are being pushed in to school at a very early age, to the extend that their childhood may have been lost. On a positive note though, being kiasu but not to the extend of overdoing it would reap very positive results for the child.

Singapore’s economy is developed to what it is today is by no means a co-incidence. We use the term”hardworking, pramagtic,smart'” etc to describe our progress but let’s face it, it’s our kiasu mentality that made us want to stay a few steps ahead of the competition all the time. It’s same for other countries but the small size of our country makes such attitude more pronounce.

Government policies are being enacted for a specific purpose but most of the time, it can’t, nor are they trying, to please everyone. A lot of people is screaming that why can’t they take out their CPF monies when they reached 55? I would like to see my money too when I turn 55 but upon closer scrutiny, I realised that if I’m still fit at 55, why don’t I just park it in the account and continue earning interest while I continue to work?

I certainly don’t want anyone who takes out their monies at 55 and by the time they turn 60 or maybe earlier, the funds are exhausted and they have to rely on government assistance or from friends and family. Or forced back in to the workforce, getting a lesser pay and start grumbling at the government for not taking care of them.

The kiasu stance that the government has taken is not popular by any yardstick but it does help to mitigate such unfortunate incidences. The interests earned is definitely not enough to adjust for inflation but at least it’s gauranteed money in your account.

Overall, our unique trait of being kiasu does go a long way, in both directions. It’s all up to us to adjust our egos and expectations. This little island is all we have so we need to ensure our next generation gets to see the fruits of their labour in the future by taking care of ourselves so as not to burden them too much. If this means being “kiasu”, by all means do it in a positive way.

One response to this post.

  1. Reblogged this on SG Hard Truth.


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