Tuesday 11 December 2012

A smart nation?

When we were staying at Fairview Guesthouse in Kuching two months ago, I struck up a friendship with Annie who runs the guesthouse because she's so friendly and nice. She told me she'll look me up when she visits her daughter here in December, and hopes that I could bring her to my parent's orchid farm.

While I was looking forward to seeing her again, I wasn't quite sure if she meant what she said. To my surprise, she contacted me when she arrived and we had a great time yesterday. She brought along her husband, brother and sis-in-law.

I notice something about Malaysians that I find quite lacking in Singaporeans. It is something intangible yet quite visible when you're in their company. I've met many people in my life but when I'm with my Malaysian friends, I feel extremely comfortable and at ease. They exude warmth and sincerity and still have that Kampong spirit in them.

Spending an entire morning with them at the farm was so enjoyable. They weren't afraid of getting their shoes muddy nor were they bothered by mozzies and the heat. Our conversations revolved around plants, fruits and the good old kampong life instead of achievements, exam scores and possessions . Their knowledge and humility impressed me even more when I realised what high fliers they are when we've said our goodbyes.

In the course of our conversation, I lamented about the stressful environment the kids in Singapore grow up in and what they said was quite enlightening even though it shouldn't come as a surprise. "Singaporean kids are famous for scoring well in exams."

How true! It's front page news today:
Singapore students shine in international benchmarking tests - Singapore students remain world beaters in mathematics, science and reading, according to the results of two international benchmarking studies released on Tuesday with youngsters across the academic streams chalking up higher scores than their predecessors.

I don't know how to react to this. We are a nation of smart people but what about our EQ? Do we leave behind a favourable impression when we meet our foreign friends or are we smart but competitive and maybe even quite complacent?


Celine said...

Ting, I agree! The Husband is Malaysian, and he doesnt get why Singaporeans like to
1. compare. He think life is simpler without comparing with others. we only compare with ourselves in a prev time period to determine if we have grown.
2. talk about achievements. Achievements are like post-it pads, they are labels we stick on ourselves to make ourselves more impt than others.... that's what he concluded.

I noticed also something strange which has been bugging me. The
Company's more senior leaders in the SG office are mostly Malaysian Chinese. Tis the dose of EQ or humility that you talk abt in this post, this modesty leads people to trust them more.... and thus be more effective leaders.

Singapore and Singaporeans behave like teenagers, unsure of our place in the world, and thus relying on our money and our achievements. I need to learn to be more humble like the Malaysians :)

Blur Ting said...

Celine - You are so right about the senior leaders in Singapore being Malaysian Chinese. I know many such people! They remain so humble despite their achievements.

Open Kitchen Concept said...

Oh I agree with you both Celine and Ting about Malaysians, though I think those from KL are more similar to Singaporeans.. dunno.. maybe cos life in the capital is more stressful? But a lot of my good friends are actually Malaysians and yes, I do think they work hard and play hard and strike a good balance in life! Celine - I'd remember what your Husband said - don't compare and don't talk about achievements and you'd be much happier, methinks the same too!

Celine said...

Ah... before anyone else comments... My observation about senior managers being Malaysian Chinese applies only in my workplace :)

Celine said...

Heh OKC does your non SG husband think the same as my non SG husband too? Interesting observations abt SG from those who did not grow up here

Petunia Lee said...

Hey... I was mulling over exactly this idea Ting and was trying to give my idea some form so that I can blog about it. You've gone and put my thoughts into words so well!

fr said...

I wonder whether Singaporeans who make sterotype comments about their fellow citizens being uptight, unfriendly and success-minded consider themselves the exception – that they themselves are wiser, happier, friendly and do not bother much about whether their children do well or not.

I am sure you have also read of foreigners complimenting us for our honesty, warmth and being helpful.

What is wrong if our kids do well in tests in international surveys? What would you say if we were near the bottom? Would you be happier?

Loose and Proud of it. said...

Loosen up FR, you are exactly a specimen of what was describe in the article.

fr said...

Actually I good regards for this blog. It is a pity there are visitors who do not welcome comments contradicting theirs.

hoover said...

No one likes being near the bottom, of anything. Unless, it seems, if it is an Olympic compn and your representatives are not born or grew up here. So the question of would Sporeans be happier if we were at the bottom, doesn't make much sense to me.

Neither does the denial of criticism. You cant improve if you simply dismiss criticism. If you've been encountering a lot of helpful, caring people, then lucky you.

Having said that, more and more I'm finding pple in this country are rather uptight these days. And that includes myself. And it is over a very wide range of issues.

We've been guided for a long time to think that only academic smarts matter, when so many other things contribute to the make-up of a person. That's how I was brought up - to look beyond the A's. But these days, these other things don't seem to matter much. It's frustrating and it's very limiting.

Each person has his own strengths, and these may not be the ability to score in an exam. It makes no sense to dismiss them instead of using their strengths.

OpenToCriticism said...

I agree with Hoover & Loser (& Proud of It). We are very uptight and OVER proud of our narrow accomplishments. AND we too easily dismiss criticism. The question about BOTTOM is deliberately exaggerated.

NOT BEING AT THE TOP doesn't equate to being at the bottom. There is so much of IN-BETWEEN that would satisfice (suffice+satisfy). And yes, I do think that those of us who lighten up on our children (all whilst STILL caring that they do well middlingly enough academically, without being at the TOP) are friendlier and happier.

MOE has produced kids that take exams well. So what? That's nice and something to be pleased about but it doesn't give us bragging rights over the rest of the world. I don't think other countries care too much.

Pride comes before a fall. I rather think the Malaysians will have the next laugh over us in the next 3 decades, before they too become arrogant of their ***success***. So human to get proud and reject criticism.