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SG Quirky: The A-Z of SG50
A for Amos Yee. Who says we lack writers? Anybody who has read Yee's Facebook updates from jail (how did he even do it?) will know we have an unpublished gonzo writer in our midst. Move over Hunter S Thompson; Fear and Loathing in Changi Prison, anyone?
B is for Babies (or lack of). Because we're afraid of giving birth to another Amos Yee.
C is for Chilli. "When I lived in Hong Kong for three years, all my colleagues and friends assumed Singaporeans put chilli in everything. One even asked me why I put chilli in my Milo – which I don't," muses Kenny Chan, store director and merchandising director of Books Kinokuniya, who adds that local travellers are known to carry their own sambal abroad.
D is for Demolition of old buildings. History? Never mind, we'll take shiny new skyscrapers, another suburban mall or two and a couple of shoe-box condominiums.
E is for Escape. Be it going away for the long weekend or just siam-ing (dodging) responsibilities on the job, Singaporeans know a thing or two about a quick escape. "We have acquired the urban skills to dodge arrows from our bosses and have the ability to go into stealth mode to avoid eye contact with the driver we don't want to give way to," notes Jeff Cheong, president of Tribal Worldwide Asia.
F is for Food. 24/7, we're indulging in our favourite national pastime at hawker centres, kopitiams, restaurants and cafes. Never mind the heat, just bring us our steamboat!
G is for Gentrification. From Tiong Bahru to Jalan Besar and Kampong Glam, death by cappuccino seems inevitable in our ever-changing landscape.
H is for Hipsters. Because you can charge more for everything when you halve the serving portion and re-plate it on a chopping board.
I is for Izwan Mahbud. The Singapore football team is sitting pretty on top of its group in the World Cup qualifiers, thanks to the heroics of goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud, who held Japan to a goal-less draw with his shot-stopping skills. Winning ugly has never been easier with our one-man Chelsea bus!
J is for Jurong. "So far", "Go JB better", "So boring the sperm whale killed itself there" might be some comments you'd hear about the west of Singapore. But the upcoming Jurong Lake District and the high-speed rail terminus could change all that as Jurong looks set to give its cousin in the east a run for the money as the place to be.
K is for Kopi, the nation's favourite beverage. Long before Starbucks and hipster cafes invaded our coffee scene, Singaporeans were sipping coffee at all times of the day and night (caffeine be damned!). Not only that, Edwin Loh, founder of Supermama, observes: "(We) are fierce and generous givers – always fighting to pay for the kopi!"
L is for Loud. Veteran singer-songwriter Dick Lee notes that Singaporeans tend to talk at the top of our voices. "We're not as bad as, say, the provincial Mainland Chinese who yell at each other in restaurants ... but for some reason, wherever I am in the world, and in the most unexpected places, I can hear Singaporean voices over whatever other accents there are," he says. "It sticks out – I'm on the street in Munich, there are hundreds of people walking, how come I can hear this one?"
M is for (Not) Minding Our Own Business. Being a busybody is almost second nature to us (thanks in part to citizen journalism) but that's not always a bad thing. As Cynthia Chua, CEO of Spa Esprit Group, explains: "As a Singaporean, I am very kaypoh; it is a reflection of my curious nature. I am always very curious and have an intense need to explore, understand and discover. I'm always looking at what the world is doing and trying to understand what goes on behind it, what spurs people to do it, and how they are doing it."
N is for National Anthem. Despite singing it for years in school, some of us still get the words wrong. D'oh!
O is for #OOTD (Outfit of the Day). Never mind the sweltering weather, getting "likes" on social media for dressing as if we live in Monaco while taking the MRT to work in Macpherson is worth the effort.
P is for Parking Pontianaks. Parking wardens are public enemies Number One; even to those who don't drive. "One of my fave quirks is stall holders looking out for their customers," says veteran indie singer-songwriter Patrick Chng. "When the parking warden comes around, they shout: "Saman! Saman!" and drivers rush to their cars."
Q is for Queues. When in doubt, join one and a surprise awaits!
R is for Rubber-necking. Traffic jam? That's because everybody loves to "slow down (when driving past) an accident to note down car plate numbers for 4D," observes Tan Ken Loon, owner of The Naked Finn Restaurant.
S is for Singlish. It's not just knowing how to use lah, lor, leh and nowadays, sia, correctly; Singaporeans also know how to mix and match. "In one sentence, we can speak four languages!" says filmmaker Royston Tan.
T is for Taxi Drivers. No ride is complete without them having a go at the "gahmen". It's enough for filmmaker Eric Khoo to observe a particular quirk – that we have "taxi drivers who can talk better than politicians"!
U is for Ugly Singaporeans. It's amazing how the priority seat on the train makes those sitting in it who are not old, pregnant or handicapped fall asleep instantly.
V is for Vehicle Quota System. The reason why the piece of paper you need before you can buy a car can sometimes cost more than the latter.
W is for (Keyboard) Warriors. We may not be very vocal and will mostly avoid a face-to-face confrontation but on social media and behind our computers, monsters are bred in full anonymity.
X is for Xenophobia. The amount of online foreigner-bashing is slightly ironic considering we are an island originally populated by migrants.
Y is for the Young Singaporean who fought back. When Muhammad Hanafie Ali Mahmood confronted a fellow train commuter last month for picking on someone who wasn't his own size but smaller, the nation lauded the 25-year-old for his act of bravery. It's enough for Jeff Cheong, president of Tribal Worldwide Asia, to exclaim:"Stand up for Singapore ... #SteadyBro!"
Z is for Zouk. Clubs come and go all the time but the iconic Zouk has been a mainstay in the nightlife scene. It could also be responsible for babies produced by couples who met while partying there!
Additional reporting by Tay Suan Chiang, Rachel Loi and Avanti Kumar Nim