Singaporeans love to complain. I don’t know if it’s something in our air, but we love griping about everything. Some of us even use it as an icebreaker with a stranger. If you don’t believe me, just start complaining the next time you get in a cab – about the weather, the rising costs of living, anything. By the end of the trip you’ll have made a new friend. I guarantee it. It’s funny, yet it’s also sad because it makes us look like a nation of entitled whiners.
Growing up, I never noticed how much we complained, until a Malaysian classmate pointed it out one day. A group of us were sitting at the cafeteria, having breakfast after a lab session when another classmate, a local kid, plopped himself into a chair with a sigh and lamented that he couldn’t understand a word the lecturer was saying earlier. “If next lesson also like that, I sure go and complain to the Dean,” he said.
I laughed but my Malaysian classmate was visibly perturbed by the statement. He then shook his head and said,
“You Singaporeans really need to relax a bit. Everything also want to complain. Cannot understand, just go read the PowerPoint slides lah!”
The complainer went on to rant about how his parents were paying good money for him to attend the polytechnic, so it has to do a good job to ensure he understands. The Malaysian merely smiled and shook his head.
Over the last decade, the rise of social media has revolutionised the way we complain. Instead of having to locate individuals to carp to, we can simply voice our grievances on various platforms, through multiple media outlets. We can even rally people to our cause, no matter how misguided it may be.
Recently, it was announced that the popular singing reality TV show The Voice is coming to Southeast Asia, particularly Singapore and Malaysia. Part of the eligibility criteria for The Voice SGMY requires participants to be “fluent in Mandarin and be able to perform songs in Mandarin”. This has raised furore among the online community. Now, don’t get me wrong. I was first upset that mm2 Entertainment decided to be exclusive too, but if you consider that the show is to be streamed on Starhub’s Hub E City, a predominantly Mandarin channel, it makes sense.
Many netizens were furious about the eligibility criteria because they assumed The Voice was to be streamed on Mediacorp’s Channel 5. You can’t demand singing shows on Mandarin channels to be in English any more than you can demand the same from channels like Suria or Vasantham. So, before you kick up a fuss, take a breath, do some research, and get your facts straight. Otherwise you’re just a fool banging on a drum, no matter how noble your cause.
Perhaps the most ridiculous thing I’ve seen our citizens complain about lately is the Ikea chicken wings. I had no idea people loved these deep-fried treats with such a fiery passion until I came across a Facebook post stating the Swedish company was halting chicken wings sales temporarily due to customer complaints. I was floored. It seemed absurd to me that people would complain about a chicken wing priced at slightly more than a dollar, in a home furnishing store, and then I remembered that this is Singapore, and we would lament even if it were free.
Sometimes it’s amusing, but most times it is downright embarrassing to be known for complaining so much. Being an entitled whiner is not a good look on anyone. While it makes sense to voice our opinions about matters that are close to our hearts, carping incessantly is not the way to go.
The next time I get the urge to complain about something, I’m going to remind myself to try and resolve the issue on my own. I hope you do too.
This article was first published in the June 2017 issue of AUGUSTMAN.