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5 China Nationals Dish Out Their Good and Bad Stories About Living in Singapore

From detesting how Singaporeans worship ang mohs, to happily chomping down on a bowl of local laksa, it’s a love-hate relationship, the feelings that China nationals appear to have for Singapore. And perhaps justifiably so, given the cultural differences between our two nations. Here’s 5 stories shared by workers and students, about their life in Singapore, their pet peeves, and of course, what makes our Lion City great.

“I was China born, migrated to the US at a young age, worked in Singapore for a few years in my 20s. Local Singaporeans general could tell that I was from China, apparently I look very China Chinese in local eyes. Although my views may not represent much, they still offer certain points. (Only apply to Singaporean Chinese)

1. Generally friendly, but the friendliness is often self serving, even patronizing occasionally. Example: I was almost always spoken to in Chinese at shops, obviously my look somehow indicated that I didn’t speak English. When English is the working language, why not assume customers prefer being served in English unless otherwise requested.

2. Inherent superiority even racism, few would admit so but often on display subconsciously. Example: local colleagues openly refer to a female Chinese colleague as “China Girl”, local managers seemed to have no qualm about such term being circulated in the office.

3. Worship of things are “White”, this is most noticeable amongst female and I’m not talking about the typical SPG type. Example: don’t need one, most of local guys will attest to my opinion.

These are the points I feel worth sharing, which are definitely NOT the only views I have. Overall my experience in Singapore is very positive, I admire what Singaporeans have achieved as a nation. I also admit some Chinese nationals’ behaviors aren’t exactly exemplary not only in Singapore but worldwide.”


“I am from the Teochew district of China (part of the Guangdong province) and have been staying in Singapore for almost half of my life (more than 10 years). I even have my Singaporean relatives here, who are the second/third generation Singaporeans. I think I have something to say about this.

My attitude towards Singapore changed over the years.
(First 2 years in Secondary School) Hate Singaporeans –>
(Next 2 years in Junior College) Start to Adapt to the society –>
(Next 4 years in University) Find that Singaporeans are actually quite nice –>
(Next 3 years in working place) Consider Singapore to be my home.

I arrived Singapore as a PRC scholar very long time ago. At first, I disliked Singapore. There are a few things I’ve experienced which made me hate the place and the people:

1) Some local workers, especially taxi drivers, really hate people from mainland China; and they verbally showed their hatred. I remember on one day, I took a taxi from Changi Airport upon arriving Singapore from my hometown. After knowing that I was from China, the taxi driver said a lot of insulting comments about people from China. And after I paid him money at the destination point, he went to the back of his car and threw out my luggage violently, and shouted at me some insulting words about China. Can you imagine a Singaporean taxi driver shouting insulting words to a 15-year-old girl from China for no reasons? That was exactly what I experienced on that night.

2) Singaporean Chinese speak very weird Mandarin. And they do not want to improve it. In fact, in my secondary school, all my schoolmates regard learning Chinese to be a chore. They hate the 华文 subject and hate learning Chinese language. When I talk to them using Mandarin, I need to slow down my speaking pace and use very very simple Chinese vocabulary so that they could understand.

3) I find that the society is kind of a bit superficial. This could be seen from the local television dramas and shows. It seemed to me that the locals are only concerned about food and some other really mundane things.

At the next stage of my life (junior college), I start to adapt to the society and find that Singapore is not as bad as what I thought.

1) As I am in one of the best junior colleges in Singapore, I start to change my opinion about Singaporeans. In fact, there are Singaporean Chinese who speak and write very good Chinese. And there are very smart Singaporean kids on different areas. And these smart kids do not look down on China people. On the other hand, they think that the presence of top scholars from China could motivate them to work harder.

2) I find that my Singaporean schoolmates are much less “complicated” than my schoolmates from China. I do not need to worry about any Singaporean girls gossiping my bad things behind me, because most of them simply would not do that.

During my university years, I travelled a lot and upon comparision, I find that Singapore is a nice place.

1) I start to speak like a Singaporean and dress like a Singaporean, unconsciously.

2) I no longer see “Singaporean” as one whole inseparable group of people. On the other hand, I recognize that there’s a heterogeneity among different Singaporeans, just as there’s a heterogeneity among different China mainlanders. I start to group people according to their personalities and make friends with those whose personalities I like, regardless of their nationalities. I have close Singaporean friends with whom I could exchange thoughts deeply.

3) I start to suffer from “reverse home sick” when I went back to China, i.e. I would miss Singapore when I went back home in China.

4) I find that I am so familiar with so many things about Singapore that I could actually be a local guide to those newcomers.

After graduation, I worked in Singapore for 3 years and I find that:

1) My colleagues from other countries consider me to be a “local”. They would seek opinions from me if they want to know something more about Singapore.

2) The food in Singapore is the best for me, even better than my hometown China. This is because there’s a mix of food from different cultures. I like to eat Thai food, Japanese food, Korean food, and even Indian food. There are also very good Chinese restaurants in Singapore. But in China, I could hardly find such kind of cultural diversity in restaurants.

3) I start to tell people “I am from Singapore” when I travelled overseas.

I am sure there are lots of people who are like me. Maybe my attitude at the beginning would reflect the thinkings of many Chinese mainlanders who newly arrive Singapore. But their attitude would gradually change. So while the Singaporeans are complaining about the loss of Singapore identity due to an influx of foreigners, perhaps people could take a look at my story and know how a girl from mainland China actually get “homogenized” by the Singapore society. After all, Singaporeans and mainland Chinese (especially people from southern China) share lots of cultural commonness.”


“It’s either you hate it or you love it. To me there is no feelings in between the two extremes. To be brutally honest, among my circle of friends who are studying right here in Singapore, I would say there is as high a chance for them to say I love SG as saying “no this place really sucks” . My stay in Singapore over the past four years have been a mix of these two extremes and I shall talk about it with about giving you any hint as to who this Anon really is. Some of you may know me though but yeah..

Why I like Singapore :

Gratitude. It is amazing how generously the Singapore ministry of education  treat us by giving us free education with rooms and board and the plethora of chances to experience something I have never experienced before back home. I think people do get grateful when there’s someone who provides nice things at no costs. And I still do even though I will be flying off somewhere else after this brief four-year sojourn in this lovely little sunny where every-old-lady-you-see-you-call-them-auntie place. It has been a fun experience though. If one wants nothing but economic wellbeing and stability in their lives, one should look no further than Singapore as their dream place. After all, it’s got sunshine and beaches and almost every possible modern world necessities if could ask for.  And maybe the food, even though I still can’t tell the difference between Kway teo and Meebaw.

What I dislike about Singapore

Its culture. Or the lack thereof. Singapore seems to be struggling to look Chinese enough to the westerners but in reality it is not what it boasts to be. As have been pointed out by the others, they speak terrible Chinese and being someone from the north part of china it’s REALLY awkward I try to speak to them with my fake Singaporised Chinese accent, with awkward usage of vocabulary like 做工(which has a implicit connotation to a chinese mainlanders that all Singaporeans are doing construction jobs and all that). It’s kinda fun to hear my local friends speak Chinese and I have to speak in a way that I hate in order to make them understand me better. But the mistakes overall are harmeless and I find them even  interesting at times

Painstaking attention to details and the particulars: this is really something that defines Singaporeans and we chinese mainlanders should feel ashamed about. In here, you are damned lucky if you can make anything work out the way they do back home through connections and all that. When a teacher or the hall manager says you are grounded for whatever funny reasons(having bounced the balls in the near vicinity of the residential building. Having left your stuff unattended) you have no choice but to stick to it even if you have good legitimate excuses to do something else. I still like things could be done with much freedom and no uncomfortable restrictions here and there and in a certain sense Singapore may be disliked by some in this respect. Other than that, it is a nice place. Those who can’t get over such minor idiosyncrasies of the Singaporean society either left begrudged( as I know some of them) or learn to adapt and eventually get used to it like I did.

Anyway to sum up I find it to be a lovely place if you adapt well and understand its culture better especially you can pick up their easy-to-grasp colloquial languages and develop a Singaporean accent. You feel at home from then and sometimes I proudly call it my second home and it makes me miss it all the more since I will be leaving next year. The good old days I have spent here for the past four years have transformed me so much and I feel indebted to this little red dot of a nation on the world map. And just to clarify for Gabriel SeahThe “坡县" usage is nothing more than a endearment to this lovely place among people like me, who are lucky enough to come here study at no costs.

Thank you Singapore!”



“I am a PRC scholar and I’ve been in Singapore for three years. These are just my opinion and I don’t speak for other PRC Chinese. I am from the northern parts so the cultures are quite different.

I have met a lot of very friendly Singaporeans and a lot of them are very smart and open minded people. The overall experience is good. I like the food, infrastructures and I hate the weather.

I view Singapore as a different country with its own cultural, political background and I view myself as a foreigner. I respect Singapore and Singaporeans and follow the behavioral norms here and be as polite as possible. I learn about Singapore culture and learn Singlish and Singaporean Mandarin. However I don’t see I should give up my own culture or morph myself into Singaporean to “blend in”.

A bad experience is stereotyping PRC Chinese and I feel an overall animosity against PRC Chinese. Sometimes I am very reluctant to say that I am from PRC or I am a PRC scholar because people will immediately judge you and look you differently. I met people talking about bad behaviors of PRC Chinese the moment I told them I was from China. Yes I am ashamed for those Chinese and I don’t blame Singaporeans for bringing up this topic. I just don’t think it’s the good way of interacting with another human being especially when you just meet them. I immediately feel unwelcome and feel guilty to be here. Maybe the fact that I think “Singaporeans tend to be hostile against mainland Chinese” is stereotyping and I need to get rid of that.

The cultural difference is a problem for us to blend in. The most obvious is that the jokes are different. Singaporeans and PRC Chinese just can’t get along as easy as two PRC Chinese, it’s not because PRC Chinese are not willing to blend in or make friends with Singaporeans but because the cultural difference is a real hindrance. I am the introverted type so that contributes. I have some friends but the friendships are mostly superficial.

A few of my friends discussed about “you can only be good buddies with Singaporeans if you throw away your PRC Chinese identity completely and embrace the Singaporean culture and only that means blending in”.I know friendship is based on mutual respect but I don’t know how much homogeneity is required.”


“A PRC Chinese who has never been to Singapore may think:

1. Singaporean Chinese are PRC Chinese, they even think Singapore should belong to China as they regard any Chinese who look the same as themselves as PRC Chinese.

2. Singaporean Chinese are betrayers because they are more western like, more from older generations who resist Capitalism strongly.

3. Singaporean Chinese are just foreigners because they do not know much about the history of Chines diaspora, or they simply do not know there are Chinese outside the greater China area.

I think:

1. Most Singaporeans I meet are well-educated and polite, a few are xenophobic.
2. Singaporeans are more adaptable, compared to PRC Chinese, because they are living under a multi-cultural environment.
3. Most Singaporeans love western pop culture, but the strange thing is, that so far all famous Singaporean artists I know are Chinese spoken.

I love Singapore.”

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