The negativity of it all.

We Singaporeans are an unhappy lot.

No, it was not the Gallup survey that jolted me to write this post; I am not one to believe in labels. A partial yes to because I listen to my family’s, friends’ and fellow Singaporeans complaints on a daily basis.

I was inspired after seeing how a blog post complaining about Singaporeans complaining was the most shared-about link on Facebook during the recent haze situation (read: “Dumb and Dumber Singaporeans Reactions to the Haze“). I want to believe the author’s good intention was to hold a self-reflecting mirror against the ugly side of Singaporeans, but I fear he/she was just ranting against the ranters. Just look at his/her choice for a title.

Photo credit: 9GAG Singapore

Photo credit: 9GAG Singapore

Are we really unhappy? Sure, we complain a lot. But I think everyone needs a stress outlet. An emotional unload is much better than plotting someone’s death. But are we complaining too much?

I read an article in The Straits Times many years ago on the complain culture in Singapore. The author theorises that it is the deeply ingrained Asian teaching of humility that causes us to complain so much. Makes a bit of sense: You’re better off showing your shortcomings than flaunting your achievements… right?

If your company finally recognises the hard work you put in with a fat 10-month bonus, you’d hardly be taking a photo of your bank statement and sharing it on Facebook. What if the reverse were to happen? Coming in on hard times, your company decides to cut your salary by 10%. Your reaction? I’m sure the world will be the first to know, for at least a week.

But what does all of this unconsciously do to you? You guessed it: you’ll undoubtedly be miserable. All you’re exuding is unhappiness, I can’t see how you can be happy. You are what you speak. Somehow, humility can be a double edged sword.

Grumpy Cat.

Here’s my theory: A large number of Singaporeans react more strongly to bad news than to good news. Watch:

  • COE prices hit record highs: National uproar.
  • COE prices experience sharp declines across the board: *no reaction*
  • ERP raises by prices by $1: A death curse to the gahmen every time you hear the beep.
  • ERP slashes rates during school holidays: *no reaction*
  • Boss comments on your mistakes: Your boss doesn’t know anything and doesn’t deserve to be where he/she is.
  • Boss compliments your work: *no reaction*
  • Someone cuts you in traffic: Every fiber in your body wants to cut him back.
  • Someone gives way for you to cut him: *no reaction*

True story right?

So here’s my proposal: Reverse that. Over-react when something good happens; shouldn’t you be doing that? Good news doesn’t come by as often as anyone wants.

Bad news? Well, you could a) cast it aside and focus on the better things in your life, or b) try to make the best of a bad situation and learn from it. It’s a win-win situation, I’m telling you.

Examples you say?

The recent haze situation made me fall ill, but I didn’t go blaming neighbours and being miserable. Instead, I reveled in 9GAG Singapore‘s reliably good antics on the haze, proposed for friends to crash over at my place to watch Game 7 of the NBA Finals (every cloud has a silver lining) if gahmen were to issue a stop work order and warmed my heart when I saw this video.

COE prices went up? Good, take some of that saved up money to go to the Maldives. MRT delayed? Good, more time to complete level 4,830 on Candy Crush. Phone ran out of juice? Good, your boss can’t contact you for a valid reason.

Photo credit:

Photo credit:

Also, never forget the everyday, small things in life that make YOU happy. Your mom cooking your favourite dishes. Having a drink or two with your friends. Watching your favourite team win. Being able to listen to your favourite music. The trains arriving every 2 minutes. That cute guy/girl checking you out more than once. Being able to have all these at your doorstep: Ba Chor Mee/Ba Kut Teh/Chicken Rice/Char Kway Teow/Roti Prata/Nasi Lemak. A round of DoTA. A KTV session. Sunday brunch. An episode of The Noose. Saturday badminton sessions. A good glass of wine in good company. I could go on forever.

You will only have a bad day if you let it.

Happiness is a choice. Choose happy.

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