It is quite true that males are afraid to lose, afraid to die and afraid of their wives. It’s not the exception as well in Singapore. This observation has been well-documented even by former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong!
Of course, kiabor is not exclusively a Singapore thing. In some Chinese cities, people like to make fun of the fact they fear their wives, and are ‘controlled’ by their other half. It’s hardly any embarrassing in a vibrant city like Singapore. And that is because some women are earning more than men there, and are officially the head of the household. To the men, they might not accept this fact due to traditionalist values, and would often laugh these off, saying that they ‘respect not fear’ their wives! Of course, it is all done to maintain peace and harmony in the marriage. Ya ya ya.
What about Kiasi? Well, that’s human instinct. Who’s not afraid to die? Of course, this can be used to the max when a husband commits something wrong and mutters, ‘die liao, die liao, going to be whacked by my wife liao!’ Or how about a teacher telling his students, ‘you all better hand in this homework before next week – if not you all die ah!’ This is the best word to describe a desperate situation where you have no answer to. Singaporeans interpret kiasi as taking great care in dealing with things.
And lastly, the most famous of all, kisau! It tells on the desire not to be second best to your colleague, friend, schoolmate, neighbor, etc…! The fear of losing, that’s the meaning. It’s been acknowledged as a Singaporean trait, and even a website on parental guidance has been set up. Google kiasu parents for more info. In there, you will find out how to give your kids the best schooling education, tuition, and how to extract the best out of them. It is a lovely website with plenty of information, so do go there if you have the time!
A land-scarce Singapore with no natural resources, and only with human talent to bank on. Such is the competitiveness that people here might always be on the guard. And that is why it’s turned into a disease. One example of kiasu: Go to any table in Shenton Way during lunchtime, and you will see seats being reserved in the form of tissue packs placed there.
It has also formed the DNA of every Singaporean, although it’s not reason to celebrate, according to a lawmaker. It has basically morphed into a stumbling block – hindering Singaporeans’ way of doing things, the fear not to venture into something new. Some entrepreneurs, instead of concentrating on their business model, have been known to be over actively seeking the government’s help. The emphasis is to help push creativity, and not breed the kiasu mentality.
These words, of course, attracted the attention of the society, who debated on the pros and cons of being kiasu. It won’t fade away, and will always be here.
Footnote: Because Singapore is a safe country with no natural disasters and serious crime. So naturally, a little hiccup could unnerve the citizens. Take for example the bus riots in Little India a few years back…right?