From young, we were taught how to show respect to the older generation by addressing them in a proper manner. Even amongst siblings and cousins, we greet the older ones as elder brother (kor kor) or sister (jie jie). It can get quite complicated in our Chinese culture. Because of the different hierachies in an extended family, we use different terms for relatives in the paternal or maternal side.
This tradition is still prevalent amongst the people in Singapore though the kids these days generally address the elders as "Aunty" or "Uncle". In our family, my brothers' kids call me "koo koo" while my kids address my brothers as 'jiu jiu".
It's also widely practised in the public. Typically, when you order food at the food stalls, the stall holder would ask, "What's your order, Miss?"
There are some cheeky vendors would go way out to make your day, like this drink stall vendor who once asked me "What would you like, Mei Nu (pretty lady)?", while clutching his heart. Stiffling a smile, I tried to place my order while looking as dignified as I possibly can.
On some days, you meet the insensitive vendors.... like today... after ordering noodles from this middle-aged vendor, he told his assistant, "Go prepare noodles for the aunty wearing glasses." while pointing in my direction.
In Singapore, being called an "Aunty" by a grown man is bad news. It's an unspoken term for a middle-aged (frumpy) housewife.
Okay, so I am almost there but please cut me some slack! After lunch, I just had to head to the mall and buy myself a whole pile of nice clothes. Shopping is indeed the best therapy for a bruised ego.