my country 'tis of thee

Last Updated 12 August 2002.

the lighter side of Singapore, from alamak to sarong kebaya

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

A is for ALAMAK.
An exclamation, Malay in origin. Exclaimed on its own, before and/or after phrase, sentence, depending on impression you want to create. A great anti-fleece word. You'll get by the toughest of salespeople when you include "Alamak!" in your exchange. Example on how to establish simpatico with the use of "Alamak!"
YOU: How much for this durian?
SELLER: Velly cheap, for you only $13.70.
YOU: Alamak!
SELLER: Allight, you take for $9.40.
YOU: Alamak!
SEELER: Okay, give you $6.30.
YOU: Alamak!
SELLER: Here, you give me $4.50 and you can take durian. Alamak!
Three "alamaks" for one luscious tropical fruit at $4.50 is a definite bargain.

B is for BUSES

as you try to sort out the latest revised timetable.

Don't bother to advertise for one unless you can afford an air-con room, a colour television and a chauffeur-driven car for the "Help."

E is for EATING.
National hobby of the Singaporean. You can't go wrong with one of the many good food guides available on this subject (from monkey's brain to ox organ — we'll eat anything not marked with a skull and crossbones). Caution: Avoid the Food Stalls. It is said that J. Paul Getty wept when he was driven away because he could not afford to dine at those prices.

One plus one should not be more than two and don't you ever forget it or they'll send the nurse over with them pills in full frontal sight of the sniggering neighbours.

G is for GIRLS.
Singapore Girl. Need we say more?

H is for HOUSING.
Good luck, you'll need it. With your $90,000 deposit you may be able to get a decent private detached roof over your head. Of course if you want the little extras like walls, rooms, windows, doors, ceilings, stairs, etcetera, it'll cost you.

We've got it too, though you wouldn't think so judging from the great supermarket shoppers' food race eight days a week.

J is for JADE.
This must surely be the only country where jade is hawked in the market place. And probably going for less than the fish too. We're not called the Green City for nothing.

K is for KUNG-FU.
Which is just so much Kung-Phooey. An ancient martial art unnecessarily glamourised. Like the antiseptic mouthwash and the right haircream, Kung-Fu supposedly helps you score with the girls.

L is for LALLANG [grass].
Not much left nowadays.

M his for MONEY.
Like rice, sugar, oil and flour, it's ecoming a rare commodity these days. Just ask any doorman, attendant, bellboy or your boss for a raise.

Eat now, fly now, shop now, buy now, live now, and pay later. And how! For the rest of your lives. In Singapore you can hire anything. From bedposts to bridesmaids. Even an Ikebana (a Japanese flower arrangement). For $150 a year you can have 52 flower arrangements to brighten your table. And that's a whole lot of chrysanthemums!

The main thoroughfare. You'd think Singapore was a one-road town the way Orchard Road is peopled all day and a good part of the night too. The average working girl's pay packet never leaves Orchard Road. There's an imitation Orchard Road in London, called Oxford Street, I'm told.

King of the roads - but times they are a-changin', because now the jaywalker is given as cool a reception as the streetwalker, in the shape of a $50 fine.

Q for TAXI.
Highly unrewarding and more violent than Hawaii Five-O. In a taxi queue, the women pull no punches. If you're lucky you'll get a cab after 40 minutes and abuse from fellow-Qers. Even then the cabbie may not be going your way.

Another national hobby as per

I note with regret
The lasses have yet
To wear it much higher

Not very good in
B situation — too tight. Same goes for E. Not particularly useful in F situation, either. Or K. Or Q. Certainly not X. But terrific for distracting your opponent in A situation!

Everything that happens is based on tradition. What Is Done and What Is Not Done. The former to impress the neighbours and the latter not in front of the neighbours, after all what will they say?

U is for UMBRELLA.
For leaving behind in a taxi, on the bus, at the supermarket courtesy counter so that you'll never have it with you when you most need it, which is pretty often what with our sun and rain all year round. Used heavily by vain girls protecting their porcelain skins from the sun on boating Sundays.

V is for VIEW.
You may have got one, but don't bank on it — a little land reclamation, a little pole-driving and bingo! You could be staring at another skyscraper instead of that picturesque bum-boat scene.

W is for WATER.
Don't waste it. Bathe with a friend.

X is for X-ERCISE.
What this country needs is more joggers because of E.

Y is for YOUTH.
Alas, it ain't the way it youth to be.

Z is for ZERO.
Our population growth target — and it takes a lot of hard work to achieve nothing! Over to you,

Courtesy of Times Periodicals Pte. Ltd., snipped c.1980 from an old Singapore Airlines in-flight magazine.
Used without permission - but to whom do I ask?

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