Call this foreign graciousness?

Believe it or not, shopping at Great World City’s Cold Storage does yield interesting adventures! And i mean besides finding that I’m charged wrongly again and again as detailed here and here.

What happened today when I nipped in for a quick grab of some supplementary groceries and meat was something quite extraordinary, given that Singaporeans are always made out by our media to be ungracious people.

Well, OK, the incident won’t have started if a Singaporean lady — she looks Chinese and speaks with a Singaporean accent, so I assumed she’s ka-kee-nang — hadn’t nipped in and dropped one item for the cashier to deal with.

Only trouble was there was a European lady with a pram in front of her and this customer was unloading her stuff for the cashier.

And the other trouble was that the cashier — the ever gracious Cindy — served the woman with the single item ahead of the woman with several items.

The European woman — with a thin small kana-like face and hair pulled back into a top knot — objected vehemently.

The Singaporean lady apologised saying “sorry, I’m really sorry etc”. But the European woman wasn’t mollified.

“U r not sori or else you would etc,” she retorted. She went on and on, glaring and glowering all the while, even as the cashier returned the change to the offending woman customer who I could see was turning puce, not sure from embarrassment or suppressed anger. And then, with her purchase and change, she made a double quit exit.

Kana face wasn’t done. Rolling her eyes and tossing her smallish head, she went on to berate the cashier who kept quiet, as she scanned, packed, charged and returned the change

I was in the next aisle, waiting for my turn to be served. I’d admit I was an unabashed voyeur and eavesdropper and yes, did try to put myself in the European lady’s shoes.

Sure, I don’t like queue jumpers no more than others and would have applauded angry protesting “kana face”, if the woman who came from behind had a trolley full of goods and tried to get served first!

But for heaven’s sake, the queue jumper had only one item. The affected customer had at least six or seven items and was still putting her things out for the cashier to scan when interrupted.

So why the short fuse? Just asserting her rights? O, come on. Over one item? Or did she show the sort of gracelessness which foreigners, especially ang mos, are always accusing Singaporeans of? Or did she imagine it continues to be Rule Britannica at Cold Storage?

If the last is the reason for her to get on her high horse, she should remember Singapore ceased to be a British colony 50 years ago!

Afterword: from my coz JC aka chilli padi when I asked her to give me her views on this encounter. Her uncensored eml is as follows:

Hmmmmmmm…… actually , I can empathise with  “kana-face”  on the incident only. You see, the “jumper” not only “jumped” queue  but did it without so much of a by-your -leave, and this I do not like at all. And yes- this has happened me too. Of course I did not make such a fuss
but quietly told  the cashier ,when my turn came ,that I was on the queue first.

The cashier is equally to be blamed of course. She should have asked “kana-face” first. Welllllll…… of them has an IQ of a worm…… there we are.
Whether it is one or 100 items, it is still queue jumping, in my books.
It will be different, however, if  she had asked if she could be served first. This would be more gracious. If “kana-face” had said no- then she is  no better and I would have gladly told her so to her face (if I were there of course)….

Yup, that’s the other perspective!


10 thoughts on “Call this foreign graciousness?

  1. Hi Auntie Lucia!

    Agree with you. If I may just generalise, I would say that the biggest difference between the ‘white’ western world and the darker ‘asian’ world is the latter’s respect for the ‘greater me’ (in Chinese ‘da wo’) – which is the overall harmony of the society at large.

    Graciousness is a difficult behaviour to find these days. Some will say the lack of it shows up as ‘kiasuism’ in Singapore but I would say that your little example here shows its not just limited to Singaporeans but to others who like to take a “I know better than you’ attitude towards their hosts and others.

    I guess if I were behind this lady in the pram – I’ll tell her to ‘Shut up and move on’ :)!

  2. Oh, that’s so ungracious! I always feel bad whenever I have a whole basket full of things and there’s a long line behind me. So, I usually check out the people behind me and offer to let them go first if they have 1 or 2 items. I know what it is like to have to wait forever just to pay for one thing. The worst that can happen is when the cashier couldn’t scan the item etc and you can suddenly see lots of sullen faces in the line. There are lots of impatient people around!

  3. Glad I’m not the only one who think this expat lady quite impossible. Like u, I always try to give way — in my case to one person with a single item; but not more than one person, because it’s been pointed out to me that it’s all very well for individuals to be gracious but think also of those in the queue because of the cascading effect! Still, in the incident I witnessed, there was no one behind the queue jumper!

  4. Hi G: so nice to have a real-life fren post in my blog… u r only of a handful who have done so, with most preferring to eml me to scold or agree! Hehe, if I had told kana face to “shut u + sit down”, I’m sure we wld have ended up in a fight a la Korean drama!
    Seriously tho, where gracelessness is concerned, I find it too often in our foreign frens in the PMET class who shld know better. My mother who always sings of her praise of the ang mos in the UK and US whom she met on her travels has one theory: they get infected by our bad haibts once they come to live here… I wonder true or not? 😉

  5. Gracious ang mohs, obnoxious asians.. Surely these are stereotypes not reflective of the true picture?

    I think people being people, with the common human nature at play, it is just as likely to meet ungracious ang mohs like kanna-face or your typical local ‘choping’ the table at the hawker centre with a packet of tissue paper 😉

    That being said, I believe that kindness is all around: some more obvious, like the ang moh gentleman who opened the door for me and commented that I should not look so surprised/embarassed (asian?!); others being the kind gentleman (looks local) who stopped his car in his lane to allow me to come into his lane after being trapped behind a road hazard for the longest time.

  6. Welcome Queenesther… u r right abt stereotypes but to each of us who encounters the so-called stereotype that stereotype becomes the real McCoy. If the person who encounters the stereotype has the mike, like the ang mos in the past, then that stereotype becomes reality for the wider public. Thank goodness for the Internet which allows those of us without access to space in newspaper or air time on radio n TV. Now stereotypes are seen as wot they are: one or two persons’ personal bad experience. Just like the Newton seafood seller who sold prawns at out of this world prices.

    I’m delighted to hear that u’ve good experiences with ang mos and non-ang mos. So have I. And ditto for bad experiences too. And the incident I recounted does have another perspective as provided by my coz in the afterword!

  7. That’s the trouble with some of the expats (and perhaps some of our locals too). Tries to exert their two penny piece of ‘ I am in the que first’ so the rest of you behind me can sod off type attitiue regardless. It has probably little to do with graciousness as such but more a case of plain selfishness. People of the elk can only best be described as ‘low class’. If it was me that was the offending party at the time, I will apologise unresevedly. Offer to help her unload her trolley of shopping. Usher her back to her rightful place and if she still insists on remaining on her high horse,then nothing like a good old fashion English expletive expressed loudly into her ear for all to hear may suffice. It’s probab;y the only language she understands whilst she languishes in our beautiful country,takes advantage of our hospitality and returns to her crummy ghetto when she or her husband’s tenure ends.

  8. Dear Coz, U r so haha funny! think I wld die laughing if I were in the next aisle — esp that bit where u offer to carry her stuff etc… I think that’s what I’ll do the next time I inadvertently (absent-mindedly?) jump queue with one item. Not only will I say sorry but also beat my breast, roll my eyes and perhaps wail to the heavens for forgiveness.. which reminds me of what yr sister told me her friend did when she scolded two teenagers squeezing the bread on display for fun one evening at a s’mart. Instead of being apologetic, the kids used 4-l words on yr sis’ fren. At which she loudly wailed that she was being abused. Security guards came running n shoo’ed away the terrible teens! U must come back more often n stay longer so we can swop more tales! 🙂

  9. setting race and stereotypes aside.. it would have made a world of difference if only the person had politely asked to jump the queue. i have to agree with the other perspective on this: jumping the queue is jumping the queue, and it’s rude. it doesn’t matter that the woman with more items was a foreigner or that the woman who jumped was a singaporean. so the foreigner definitely made too much of a fuss about it, but she had a right to be annoyed. to echo everyone else’s comments, if the woman had asked to jump and the foreigner still said no, then the foreigner would have been in the wrong. but by not asking and simply jumping, the singaporean woman acted very disrespectfully. again, race and stereotypes have nothing to do with this. i’m an american singaporean and i’ve spent half my life in the states and the other half in singapore, and if a white person were to jump the queue ahead of me in the states, i would probably be just as upset as the foreign woman in your story, although i certainly wouldn’t make a public scene about it.

  10. Hi Elizabeth: welcome! Are u one of our family frens? Excuse the presumption but yr name and self-description match one such person, tho not yr eml addie. Anyway tks fr adding to the discussion. Yr last few words captures my sentiment exactly. While everyone acknowledges that the “culprit” did jump queue, wot’s so remarkable abt the whole episode was the offended party’s reaction. Yes a crime is a crime; as is queue jumping with one item or 100 items. But surely the response shld have been proportionate to the offence? At worst, I would have given the “culprit” a dirty look…

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