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What do locals think is appalling behaviour from expats?

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earthfriendly
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Postby earthfriendly » Sun, 02 Nov 2008 9:04 am

EADG, I eat a lot of Japanese food especially raw fish. I would dine at Japanese restuarants 3 times a week when I was still working. Japanese and chinese cuisine share many similar ingredients e.g rice, soy sauce, rice wine, tofu. However they also have many fundamental differences. Food are usually served such that it is convenient to eat and hence no bones in the meat or fish (unless it is those tiny grilled fish where the bones can be consumed). Chinese like the flavor that the bone impart to the meat and hence many dishes are served bone-in.

For me it boils down to the choice between convenience or flavor. E.g. I have the choice to request no bone chicken rice and avoid ordering dishes with bones e.g. filet versus whole steam fish. If I think it is easier and less messy. And I prefer to eat crabs at home. I find eating chilli crab a messy biz with all the sauces and shell to content with. I don't eat as much chicken feet anymore. I find they are overly flavored. My taste in food has changed, or shall I say mature. Growing up I love my food heavily laced with sauces e.g. chilli, curry and chinese red sauced beehoon. Nowadays, I prefer to enjoy the natural goodness of fresh produce. Food that are lightly grilled, steam or sautee with very light touch of seasoning not only allows me to enjoy the natural flavor but is also healthy. Salt and sugar cause lots of health problems as our diets are overloaded with it.

I think it is hard to bridge the food culture. E.g if you grow up eating food bone-in and are used to seeing people spit out the bone, it won't be such a taboo. Though I personally am not a fan of it. If someone has never seen it his whole life and used to a more "civil" idea of dining, he'll be turned off. And I am not referring specifically to you but a general comment. I was reading the travel journal of my grandfather in law and he specifically mentioned about the unsavory-looking fish served to him while in China, head and tail on. Must had been a frightful sigh to him. I had never met the man as he passed away. And he had travelled to 62 countries across the major continents! That was decades ago. Human and food cultures do change. Life is not static. And I see many Asian eateries around me, chinese, indians, japanese, koreans, vietnamese and middle eastern. The restuarant scenes are no longer dominated by western dining.

I am only here to explain the differences between the cultures. As I have been very privileged to live in more than one culture. Maybe it is my way of giving back. It is not in my place to tell the westerners that they have to like the singporean ways. And also not in my place to tell the singaporeans that they must like the western ways. That would be bigotry.

I am abit tired of my nick and thought of changing it. I still love the earth and try to take good care of it. But I am much more than earthfriendly. Maybe I'll reincarnate myself as "The Bridge".

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Postby kaseyma » Sun, 02 Nov 2008 2:13 pm

earthfriendly wrote:QRM, I do not believe in eating with one's hands, instead of cutlery. It is inherently unhygenic and I have to constantly remind my kids not to do it when they think it is fun to finger with their food. I used to go eat out with a doctor I almost dated. He would always head towards the restroom to wash his hands before every meal. The germs and bacteria that is inherent in the bathroom is another story though.

Eating with one's hands is not unhygenic if you have washed them first.
That's what the washbasins at the side of the room in any banana leaf restaurant are for.

As what QRM hinted at, public cutlery may also be unhygenic.
By the way, one way to tell when someone is fresh from the PRC:
-- they wash their chopsticks & spoons in the hot water tap or with the first pot of tea before using them.
:P

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Postby k1w1 » Sun, 02 Nov 2008 2:33 pm

Wow, funny ol' path this thread has wound...

I have no idea what the fork/spoon eating combo is, and I really cannot picture it. As for eating with hands, the first time someone did this at my house, I was absolutely gob-smacked. Not disgusted, just surprised. But after seeing how it was done, I realised very little of the hand is actually used - and only one hand. It was not disgusting at all, once I removed my Western-norms from the situation.

And yes, far too many expats refer to "home" and the way things are done there. It is very easy to remember home as being a utopia when you're away from all the things that once irked you. That's just made worse by the fact that whenever anyone criticises our homelands, we immediately get our backs up - even if it's true. (I always liken this to our children. We might know that our kid looks a little funny, or has a very odd way of running/singing or whatever it is. We might even openly talk about this ourselves. However, woe betide the idiot who actually points this out to us, and how quickly we become super-sensitive to this "attack" - who the hell do they think they are anyway?!) We all need to remember this a little more, I think.

Also, Singapore being a new country is still finding her identity. This, I can totally appreciate, coming from a newborn nation myself. Therefore the small things that we do have, we tend to be extremely protective of. I also think that Singapore has so many expats, and so perhaps has to hear these criticisms a lot more than the average country. I can understand why it would get really, really tiring.

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Postby EADG » Sun, 02 Nov 2008 7:29 pm

hi EF, I do remember you having experience in things Japanese, and I agree with what you posted. Not sure that is correlates to what I posted though.

earthfriendly wrote:EADG, I eat a lot of Japanese food ....
I am only here to explain the differences between the cultures..
Ape Shall Not Kill Ape

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Postby QRM » Sun, 02 Nov 2008 8:43 pm

sundaymorningstaple wrote: I could never get used to the squat type of pan.


LOL I have lost count of how many toilet roll, towel holders and sinks I have ripped off the wall while attempting to assume the position. I am convinced Asians are built differently, they can have a fag, rest and fall asleep while squatting, (I need to hold my breath and knees while hunched up or I fall backwards:lol:)

I lost my squat pot virginity in a rickety and very wobbley train, mind you just as well it was a squat I would probably be still stuck to the seat today.

Took me ages to work out how to use it, if you pull your trogs down to your ankles, like in a western loo, and squat you kack in your kacks.

Anyway this is another appalling thing expats do, insist that "western" toilets be installed where ever they go, the whole of the Olympic village had to be change to accommodate this.

While we talk of unhygienic practices of gobbing bones on the table, this sitting on others peoples piss, vomit etc is even worse? squats are actually far more hygienic and anotamically correct way of going about your buisness.


KSL good to hear you are back and your story made me signed up for my full on medical check. ( basically pay a fortune for some guy in a white coat to stick a finger in my bum and tell me I am fat.) Two of my chums have gone to the otherside, and the big irony, they where both fitness fanatics in fact one died while jogging.
Last edited by QRM on Sun, 02 Nov 2008 9:02 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Postby Wind In My Hair » Sun, 02 Nov 2008 8:57 pm

I like QRM !!

(1) He is valiantly trying to keep this thread on topic, almost single-handedly at this point;
(2) His posts are funny, self-effacing and make really good food for thought.

Just wanted you to know your efforts are appreciated. :kiss:

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Postby earthfriendly » Sun, 02 Nov 2008 10:29 pm

EADG, just having a friendly conversation with you :) . I mentioned you since you probably know a lot more about the Japanese food culture than the average forummer here, as pointed out by your posts.

And nope, I am not here to tell you what to say or how to think. I am not the internet police, you know.

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Postby earthfriendly » Sun, 02 Nov 2008 11:29 pm

drusilla wrote:SMS is the mod, so when he says give it a break, we should!! :roll:



Why, because SMS stands for Senior Minister of Singapore :P ? I stopped because that's the decent thing to do :) .

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QRM
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Postby QRM » Mon, 03 Nov 2008 10:49 am

Wind In My Hair wrote:I like QRM !!

(1) He is valiantly trying to keep this thread on topic, almost single-handedly at this point;
(2) His posts are funny, self-effacing and make really good food for thought.

Just wanted you to know your efforts are appreciated. :kiss:


I am truly humbled by compliments from Yoda, if what I post just makes one person crack ( pun intended ) a smile, then its all been worthwhile. :D

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Postby earthfriendly » Mon, 03 Nov 2008 10:58 am

And to make your bliss complete, EF says thank you. On behalf of Singaporeans and all of humanity.

And for SMS who works so hard for the Resident Committee here's a big smiley O:).

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Postby kaseyma » Mon, 03 Nov 2008 9:47 pm

QRM wrote:
sundaymorningstaple wrote: I could never get used to the squat type of pan.


LOL I have lost count of how many toilet roll, towel holders and sinks I have ripped off the wall while attempting to assume the position. I am convinced Asians are built differently, they can have a fag, rest and fall asleep while squatting, (I need to hold my breath and knees while hunched up or I fall backwards:lol:)

I lost my squat pot virginity in a rickety and very wobbley train, mind you just as well it was a squat I would probably be still stuck to the seat today.

Took me ages to work out how to use it, if you pull your trogs down to your ankles, like in a western loo, and squat you kack in your kacks.

Think you're right that "Asians are built differently."
The western bum seems much wider than that for which the squatter foot pads were made. 8-)

You probably need to place your feet wider & point them outwards so you can get your heels down & lean forward enough to keep your balance.

Maybe you should practice when it doesn't matter (just like practicing for the first trip of ski season).
You'll know you've got the hang of it when you can actually relax "in the position." :wink:

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Postby Hactar » Mon, 03 Nov 2008 9:56 pm

Not complete on topic, but not entirely off it either.

I really pisses me off how my coleagues in my homecountry seem to think our colleagues in Singapore are dumb, naive and inferior; basically because they are a long way off and have a different set of values.

I've only been in Singapore for a few weeks, but I have lived in Thailand before, so I am a little bit accustomed to the 'western' attitude towards asians. There is this bizar mix of collonial feeling of superiority, mixed with a great sense of insecurity because people in the west can see themselves being overtaken on both sides. Kishore Mahbubani describes it very accurately in his latest book (The New Asian Hemisphere).

As an exchange student in Thailand I was constantly reminded to never call anything 'strange', but too call it 'different'. This does help a lot to cut the observation of facts loose from the natural urge to tag things 'good' or 'bad'.
"Kings and lords come and go and leave nothing but statues in a desert, while a couple of young men tinkering in a workshop change the way the world works." - The Patrician (in 'The Truth' by Terry Pratchett)

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Postby gif » Tue, 04 Nov 2008 11:57 am

AminoAcid wrote:[As for never seeing it anywhere else, the fact of the matter is it's also done in Malaysia and Thailand. :roll: I think it's a very practical method of eating when you're scooping up rice and bite size pieces of meat and vegetables into your mouth. Far more practical than a fork and knife when dining on Asian cuisine.


Not forgetting Indonesia, Brunei and India too. I agree it works a lot better when a lot of rice is involved.

Not that I find it appalling, but it's rather interesting to see expats refusing to conform to the fork and spoon combination when they're eating at, let's say, a food court or hawker centre from a plate. Instead they'll use the chopsticks and spoon when every other local chinese (or even PRCs) are using fork/spoon. It's almost like they're telling the rest of us they know Chinese eating etiquette better, though usually the way they use chopsticks produces equally interesting results (like pierced fishballs or clasping noodles with the middle of the chopsticks). But I guess it probably stems from the fact that they are taught forks should always go with a knife and not a spoon from young?


Isn't it because chopstick usually come in single-use packages, whereas the fork&spoon set is probably, as previously described by someone else, only dip in cold water and stored? Hygienis conditions, you must admit, in hawker centers and workers' canteens, are not exactly at their best...

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Postby Wind In My Hair » Tue, 04 Nov 2008 12:10 pm

Hactar wrote:As an exchange student in Thailand I was constantly reminded to never call anything 'strange', but too call it 'different'. This does help a lot to cut the observation of facts loose from the natural urge to tag things 'good' or 'bad'.

Good point Hactar. Too many supposedly intelligent people confuse fact and opinion.

Welcome to the forum, and welcome to Singapore!

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Postby gif » Tue, 04 Nov 2008 12:14 pm

I'm new to Singapore and still haven't catched all habits, and there are some I will never be able to catch, especially when it comes to table manners.
So far, I've been observing, and when in doubt, I've been asking, and the strategy proved to be winning all the times so far.

However, I wish to make use of your experiences to understand more about the "face" stuff: I mean, I think I understood that one should never embarass people by shouting, blaming in public, or simply being ironic sometimes, but how can this ever work, when so many times I have to deal with local suppliers who smile at my face, agree what I'm asking for, and finally do whatever they want to, completely disregarding previous agreements.

I guess this especially happens when it comes to money stuff and in the relationship buyer-supplier, but still I find that this is horrible, I'd rather like to be treated in some "energic way" but finally get an agreeement that can satisfy both parties, than being smiled at knowing that I'm being cheated.

Any hint on how to "digest" this? So far I've been swallowing my anger trying to fit in the local manners, but I bet there must be a more successful way of obtaining without appalling.

thanx


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