I just came back into the guardhouse from doing an exhausting guard duty, when my spec and fellow friend showed me this article in the Straits Times. This is the view of a foreign student on Singapore youth. And what he observed certainly rings true.
By Daniel Reimold
WORLDWIDE, randomness has reached a tipping point – and you can blame Facebook. The social networking site has got millions generating a list of their innermost quirks called, somewhat unimaginatively, ’25 Random Things About Me’.
In the past six months that I’ve lived here, I have worked with, observed and come to respect one native group more than any other.
So to my friends and family back in the United States, here in Facebook lingua franca, is a list of ’25 Random Things About Singapore Youth’:
- They speak to me softly in perfect English, then turn around and scream in Singlish to their friends.
- They SMS with a speed and frequency that makes my own thumbs sore from sympathy pains.
- They admit they are apathetic, and speak about it passionately.
- They complain about the lack of culture on their school campuses, then immediately go back to studying.
- They wear their emotions and intentions on their chests in the form of T-shirt sayings. A few of my favourites: ‘Little Miss Giggles’, ‘I SMS Your Mum’ and ‘Are We Having Any Fun?’
- They are extremely quiet in class, but downright chatty one-on-one.
- They love David Beckham. They lust after George Clooney.
- Apparently, procreation is not their forte. At this point in their lives, they could not care less.
- Marriage is not yet on most of their minds. Instead, they say they want to keep getting red packets of some kind.
- Romance is not an art many young males here have mastered. I recently overheard two young women complaining that their boyfriends had surprised them on Valentine’s Day with gifts – a schoolbag and an external hard drive.
- They are incredibly, falsely, modest. They know they rock. Just don’t tell them to their face. They’ll look at you like you insulted their mother.
- They are way too polite. I asked a young woman to take my picture in front of the Merlion. After she snapped the shot, she thanked me – apparently for the once-in-a-lifetime chance to capture me on film.
- Speaking of photos, they pose for them everywhere. I recently saw a group of students smile for multiple pictures with their taxi driver at Clarke Quay. He was smiling too. The meter was running.
- A few engage in ‘serious blogging’, but most just blog about their friends and pets and upload pictures of last night’s dinner.
- They are very productive during classes – at catching up with friends on MSN Messenger and updating their Facebook status.
- They remain sceptical of their country’s growing global status, often asking me ‘Why would you want to come here?’
- They already express nostalgia for days gone by, at the ripe old age of 17.
- The few young men who have long hair seem to be teased mercilessly by friends, and hit on frequently by strangers.
- They catch catnaps at the most unlikely locations – bus stops, campus canteens, even the school library.
- Their eyes have a tint of worldliness to them, especially the young men who have been through national service.
- They passionately watched something called ‘The Little Nyonya’ until recently, but not all will admit it publicly.
- They think it is funny that Singapore has a professional basketball team.
- They love their parents, but they definitely do not tell them everything.
- They love to dance …
- But it does not mean they have rhythm.
This list may be random, but they make modern Singaporean youth truly an enigma – a mystery I cannot help but gawk at and adore.
Dr Reimold, 28, is a Fulbright research fellow serving as a visiting scholar at Nanyang Technological University.
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