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Junus Tan asks why do Singaporeans and foreigners have trouble getting along?

Dec 3rd 2019 at 2:33 AM

23rd October: It was 9.00 pm, on King Chulalongkorn ‘ the Memorial Day’, a Public Holiday in Thailand.

My Son and I were on a packed SkyTrain back home, suddenly my son said, "Paps, others than the chubby woman opposite me, we are the only Thai on the train — all are tourists, today is a public holiday, and most Thais will be home by now.”

Every Thai in Bangkok may think: we are mingling with foreigners, fighting for spaces on the trains and on the sidewalks or at the eating places.
Are we worst off as a nation in Southeast Asia? Are Thais the most tolerant species living with foreigners in this part of the world?

Not until you have been to Singapore, you may have a second thought about it

Junus Tan thinks he has been all over Singapore as much as what average Singaporeans do in their lifetime. Junus Tan is trying to figure out how to answer your question but still can’t find the right answer.

Last September Junus Tan was in Singapore, he went for a walking tour from Little India-Orchard Road-High Street, and ended my tour at National Gallery Singapore at Padang.

It was on Sunday in Little India: I braved through countless migrant workers from South India to a small restaurant on Dunlop street. Nobody spoke English as they communicated in Tamil, a Southern Indian language. A little while longer, a van with a Malaysian registration plate stopped by the side and dropped off 11-13 passengers from Malaysia, most of whom appeared to be young Malays and Chinese, and they were out for a photo-shoot session.

After that, Junus Tan went to Lucky Plaza to change the money to the Thai Baht. Junus Tan squeezed through a packed sidewalk filled with Filipino domestic workers and tourists from the Philippines. The money changer was a Malaysian Indian who I know very well.

All the shops' signage reflected Filipino names, like Mabuhay, Pinoy store. Junus Tan only heard Tagalog being spoken everywhere. It's better to learn some Tagalog to come to this place next time.

After all the hassle of walking through the large crowd, the mess reminded me of "Little Tondo " in Manila, so to speak. It's quite a relief to walk out of Lucky Plaza in one piece.

Junus Tan headed to High Street via Victoria Street and admired the beautifully refurbished Capital Piazza, which was designed by Richard Meier Architect, whose works I like the most.

Before going to National Gallery Singapore, Junus was in Little Myanmar at Peninsular Plaza for lunch in the basement. Junus Tan could blend in well with the Myanmar people, the only difference is that many of them wear a longi (sarong) I didn't spot any Singaporeans there as I could identify them by the looks and the way they dress when they visit Bangkok.

It was a memorable visit to National Gallery Singapore, a place where 9.7 million people have visited, a pride of Southeast Asia, so to speak. It was a breeze to roam, and I conversed with a Singaporean tour guide who was so knowledgeable. I also spotted the elderly Singaporeans who worked in the restrooms and the local curators on each floor.

Again, only few Singaporeans were there, and I noticed some among the crowd sitting at viewing steps listening to a band, others at the gallery cafe. I believe many may have already visited the place.

On the way back, I dropped by at Golden Mile Complex, Little Thailand, to visit a friend but he wasn't there. Nothing had changed from the old days as the same grocery store was still there. Almost a hundred of Thai workers I saw behaving like they were at homes sitting on the floor and drinking. I saw police in a group of eight, roaming as usual as they knew what my countrymen are capable of when they are drunk.

So, it’s about time, I rushed to a dinner appointment with my son and his girlfriend at Amara Hotel. There were three of us and this was the chance I had been hoping to meet and chat with local Singaporeans. My son, Vern, and Felicia were the only Singaporeans who I had good conversations with today as I only met Malaysians, Indians, Filipinos, Burmeses, and Thais.

In conclusion, there are over 1.3 million foreigners who work in Singapore plus another, at least half a million PRs in Singapore, a total of over 5.7 million population.
It’s challenging to live and mingle with one-third of the populations who are foreigners, fighting for spaces on the trains and on the sidewalks or at the eating places.

Singaporeans are the most tolerant to live with foreigners in their own country. You should have rephrased your question to,” Why do Singaporeans and foreigners get along so well?

Next time when you visit Singapore, be sure to learn some basic words, like Sawasdee, Kamusta ka, Mingalaba as you will rarely meet Singaporeans, unless you decide to work and live there.

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