Chinese New Year Survival Guide for Singles

Hi guys, I’ve been invited as a weekly blogger/columnist for my friend’s dating app Love Out Loud Asia, check them out. This is my second post and you can read it here as well. 

Chinese New Year is in the air (literally, being played in supermarkets and shopping malls) and I can practically smell the bah kwa already. Before you start to dread the inevitable “when are you getting a boyfriend/girlfriend/getting married/having kids” questions, here’s a guide to question sidestepping and ban-luck huating during this festive period(results may vary):

Auntie Interrogation 101

I used to wonder if every year, just before Chinese New Year, aunties would hold secret gatherings around Sheng Siong supermarkets to exchange ideas on ways to grill the “youngsters” with awkward, unanswerable questions in exchange for an angbao. Then, I realised the questions are pretty much standard. In fact, so are the answers:

  • “Got boyfriend/girlfriend already?”
    • “Waiting for you to introduce to me.”
    • “I’m dating someone already, but don’t tell my mom!” Proceed to fantasize with the auntie.
    • “Actually, I’m gay/lesbian…….Just kidding!” (This one’s my favourite, simply because aunties are so homophobic.)
  • “When getting married?”
    • “When you sponsor my wedding lor”
    • “Waiting for baby first, nowadays fashion to shotgun wedding!”
  • “When is the baby coming?”
    • “When you volunteer to babysit. You know childcare costs nowadays…”
    • “I don’t know auntie, the sex is really too good to give up.”

Side note: It is strongly advisable to collect your red packet before using these responses.

Photo credit: The New Paper

Photo credit: The New Paper

You are now entering a Fat-for-Free zone

With once-in-a-year snacks lying around the house, it’s so difficult to resist munching on just one. It always starts with one. Before you let yourself go on those devilish little things, here’s a friendly calorie reminder:

Snack (Portion size) – Calories
Peanut Crackers (3 rolls) – 418
Bak Kwa pork (1 slice) – 370
Pineapple Tarts (3 pieces) – 246
Kueh Lapis (1 slice) – 240
Love Letters (3 rolls) – 168
Yusheng (1 serving) – 145
Roasted nuts salted (1 handful) – 123

Jogging, 2.2m/s, 30 minutes, 60kg person = 200 calories. FYI, jogging at 2.2m/s gets you 18minutes on a 2.4km run. Go figure. (As in, there goes your figure.)

D-Day (or Day 1-15)

To Wear

Being finally able to wear that shirt/dress you’ve been saving since Christmas is another Chinese New Year highlight. Pro-tip: save your better pieces when you’re meeting new people. Your cousins have probably already seen the most unglam side of you.

To Bring

Besides the pair of mandarin oranges and mahjong investment capital, some might forget to bring an ample supply of name cards. Here in Singapore, it’s pretty full-on if a guy asks a lady’s number  a few hours after meeting her, so name cards are a good grey area to play around in. And throw him a lifeline, ladies; give him your name card if you think you might be interested.

Credit: David Coppini

Credit: David Coppini

To Do/Talk

  • Always offer to help the host with serving or cleaning up. A little goes a long way in improving impressions.
  • Be up-to-date with the latest happenings (i.e. Bangkok protests, Li Na and Wawrinka, Woodlands Checkpoint fiasco, Stephanie Koh, Juan Mata)
  • Go easy on the alcohol. The last thing you want to do is get drunk at your friends’ place.
  • Leave your thoughts on Anton Casey at the door.

That’s it for me this Snake Year. <insert generic, boring and narcissistic post about how this year had a lot of ups and downs (no shit, really?!) and hope that the new year will treat you better>

Have a good one, boys and girls.

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Confessions of a Singaporean.

It’s National Day, the time of the year to be proudly Singaporean. But have you ever (or, do you) wanted to leave Singapore for good? Go to another country where there isn’t so much stress and lower cost of living etc.

Well, I have a confession to make on National Day: I wasn’t always so patriotic as I am now. Hell, I actually managed to get an Australian PR. So why I am still here in sunny Singapore? Here’s my story:

Like many of you, I grew up reciting the Pledge and National Anthem every morning in school. I took National Education and Social Studies subjects and began to appreciate Racial Harmony at a young age, seeing a melting pot of cultures converge every year on February 15th.

Photo credit: Marsiling Secondary School

Photo credit: Marsiling Secondary School

You could say I was a success of the government’s education policies (or brain-washing propaganda, as some of you narrow-minded folks may call it), swelling with pride every year on National Day or in the company of overseas visitors.

Up until I started having Physics Tuition at Sec 3.

Every week, aside from teaching Physics of course, my Physics tutor would complain about the government’s rulings and methods. Now, I’m not a very big fan of going to jail for blogging, so I’ll stop here. But suffice to say, my tutor showed me the other side of the coin.

Soon, I began to see his argument with high COEs, ERP, tight media policies etc. The anti-PAP sentiment was exacerbated by compulsory National Service, two years of my glorious youth, shoved into a obscure location in Singapore, learning skills of (hopefully) zero practicality.

So when I was given the choice to go to Australia for university after army, I left Singapore without a second thought. I fell in love of Melbourne within my first year. The weather, the friendly people, the brunches and cafes, the lifestyle. What’s not to love?

My absolute favourite brunch place in Melbourne, MART130.

My absolute favourite brunch place in Melbourne, MART130.

Given my accounting major at university, I applied for and was granted my Australia Permanent Residency after graduation. I found an admin job at Commonwealth Bank (one of the Big 4 banks in Australia), where I thought I could kickstart my career. Even bought myself a AUD20,000 Toyota Corolla. I was finally doing it, leaving Singapore for good.

But soon, cracks were appearing.

If I went back to Singapore, I could save money on the rent (but lose out on the freedom, hi Pa and Ma, I know you read my blog). I could be surrounded by  friends and family again, speak in my fluent Singlish, walk the streets at night not having to look over my shoulder, have an equal footing in the corporate world, my peak hour trains would arrive once every 3 minutes, pay 3.5% tax for $3k/mth, and the best of all, I could have my chicken rice. And ba chor mee. And nasi lemak. And char kway teow. And ba kut teh. And Teochew steamed fish. And roti prata. And laksa. And claypot rice.

Photo credit: hungrygowhere.com

Photo credit: hungrygowhere.com

What I’m trying to say is, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. It’s true: You don’t know what you’ve got, until it’s gone. I left Singapore, not knowing how much I took it for granted. Now that I’m back, there’re so many small things that I appreciate now. I’ve been on the other side, and not every country is a bed of roses, Singapore included.

The irony is that being away made me realise what home really means to me.

Happy Birthday, Singapore.

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An open letter to my fellow “80s kids”

To all my Power Ranger/Doraemon(links to the original theme songs!) friends,

It’s not very often I blog about a current affair (LOL it took me a year to post about the SMRT breakdowns), about as often as Arsenal wins a trophy. The reason being that I take numerous pains in my writing; a multitude of sweat, time, quality checks, blood, humour, spelling checks, tags, hairs, tears, expectations and links, all culminating into a single post for your enjoyment. (Speaking of which, please click on all my links, they’re funny/cute).

But, I digress.

Apparently, it was yesterday’s news (pun intended) that the government plans for our population to hit 6.9 million in 2030. This piece of news was unsurprisingly met with complaints about the gahmen, twitter hashtag jokes and tasteless humour from SGAG. (While I find the picture below from SGAG slightly offensive, I have to say some of their jokes really hit the spot). And like adding Rainbow Rice topping on your Häagen-Dazs Cookies & Cream scoop, they had to piss more people off (or piss people off more, depending on how you look at it) by saying citizens will only take up half the population.

Photo Credits: 9GAG Singapore

My personal take, however, echoes most public sentiment: Do we have the infrastructure capable of housing and moving 6.9 million people? Anyway, the gaping void in the workforce left by our “baby boomers” in 2030 needs replacing; and since our total fertility rate (TFR) of 1.2 is way below the replacement rate of 2.1, “foreign talent” would need to be roped in to support our rickety old aging population. (By the way, I don’t love or hate foreigners /endbacksidecoveringdisclaimer).

Hold on a second: I didn’t bring you all the way here to talk about boring political/infrastructure issues (I’ll leave that to bloggers who actually want to go to jail).

Realise that just 10 days ago, our “beloved” government announced the enhanced “Baby Bonus” scheme (which ashamedly kicked my fatherly instincts into life), much to the…. complaints that $6,000 cash is not enough, blah blah complain complain from most of my friends. Sigh, NOTHING pleases you guys right?

But there’s some Inception-esque stuff going on here:

“Hey, you know that if every marry-able Singaporean were to get married and have 3 kids, then we don’t need to get foreigners to come in! Here’s $8,000 for your 3rd and 4th child each, plus HDB priority if you have a child. Read: Go back babies first, leave your money housing issues to us.”

And so, the impetus is on us! I did a simple calculation. Say you were born in 1985, you’d be 28 this year. C’mon, stop being picky. Alternatively, you could get some really solid dating advice. Find a nice partner, have a kid by next year, and he/she will be ready to join the workforce in 2030! Poof! Problem solved. So now ALL of you  stop complaining about the dilution of Singapore citizens and *literally* DO something about it.

So my fellow 80s kids: Go forth and multiply. Stand up for Singapore, do the best you can. Reach out for your fellow man.

Here’s a treat for you local boys to get the hormones raging: Two (hot?) Singaporean girls with the most natural acting ever on YouTube applying things on each other:

Yours truly,

Bryan Xie

P.S. There’s a reason why it’s 6.9 million. 😉

P.P.S. I am aware this post isn’t really in the format of an open letter, but I always thought it was a cool opening. LOL.

What we can learn from the 2012 US Elections

Allow me to be upfront: I don’t really follow US Elections to a tee. Basically, all I knew for this year is that Democrat Obama was campaigning for his second 4-year term as POTUS and was up against Republican Mitt Romney.

So, news got out this early afternoon confirming Obama’s victory. I was following some of the reactions from my Facebook News Feed (I know, most reliable source EVER) throughout the day without much fanfare.

One thing really stuck though. Obama’s Victory Speech. If you have the time, please watch it. Obama is a great speaker, one of the best in our time. You may never do public speeches in your life, but there’s much you can learn, young padawan. His posture, how he pauses at the right times, his tone of confidence, the smoothness of his transitions, the progressive style and culmination of his speech, the genuine feel of his strong ambitions, how he can motivate, instill pride and show leadership, his well articulated vision and the one that really stuck to me: his idea of a citizen and his/her role in a democracy.

Image source: The Guardian

If you’re really pressed for time, or rather mindlessly scroll through 9gag, at least watch the video from 16:24 (scroll it yourself, I don’t know how to make it jump automatically LOL). Obama was thanking everyone who casted their votes, and I quote him:

But that doesn’t mean your work is done. The role of “citizen”, in our democracy, does not end with your vote. America’s never been about what can be done for us; it’s about what can be done by us, together, through the hard and frustrating, but necessary work of self-government. That’s the principle we were founded on.

Barack Obama, 2012

Wow. I’m blown away. The level of maturity he is imploring on his people is applaudable. His re-definition of “citizen” adds such a refreshing outlook and template for all citizens from all nations to follow.

My wish is that someday, all Singaporeans will realise that we have been too reliant on our government, that we need to start looking inwardly before blaming anyone else, that it’s us that need to work harder and smarter before we complain about foreigners “stealing our jobs”, and most importantly, that the spirit of competitive enterprise is meant to push us harder to improve and innovate collectively in strength as one unit, one nation.

Congratulations Barack Obama on a resounding victory. It seems Singapore and the US share the same strong beliefs in our big dreams, but only time can tell if effort will bear fruit. May the best team win.

My thoughts on the SMRT breakdowns

I write this post with a slice of frustration. Too many times have I seen, read or heard my friends (or people that are considered my “friends” because Facebook says so and decides to showcase their flaunt of wealth on my News Feed) complain about public transport in Singapore. Or all the talk of privatisation to improve standards. I grow sick of the narrow-mindedness and childishness of it all. Sure, SMRT ain’t perfect, but allow me to share a personal story of mine.

I worked for a year in Melbourne, Australia after obtaining my degree. From 8 to 9am, trains at my station came every TEN (10) minutes. On top of that, every week, without fail, there will be at least two disruptions to a service (you will hear an announcement at 8am: “The 0820 train will not be in service today”, much to the chagrin of the commuters).

Imagine a typical day: At 0815, you’re at the train station, you wait for 5 minutes for the 0820 train that you can’t fit in, only to find out the 0830 service wouldn’t be coming. You decide to wait for the 0840 service….., only to realise that the 0830 train commuters are packed into the 0840 one that you (you guessed it!) can’t fit into. You take the 0850 service in resignation and receive a stern look from the most uptight boss in the world at 0910. Wow, 55 minutes for a journey that would take 20min off-peak. And this kind of thing is accepted as the norm. *shudders*

I remember when I first arrived at Melbourne, public transport was privatised and the company operating the public trains was Connex. From what you just heard, you could deduce they failed in their service standards as set by Metlink, the “LTA of Melbourne” (Connex trains were to arrive on time, 92% of the time; the definition of “on time” being arriving within 5 minutes of stipulated time). In other words. all Connex had to do was to deliver all their trains 3-4 minutes late to achieve 100% punctuality, which they failed at doing so.

Connex was fined a total of A$70m by the state government in 3 years(link). You’d expect a company to buck up when faced with huge fines, but things didn’t improve significantly. This is an excellent example of one of the shortcomings of privatising public transport. The Connex contract was not extended and another company Metro came in. However, it was a case of different company, same problems. I suspect most Connex employees were just re-hired into Metro.

At the end of the day, Connex/Metro employees still received their salaries, the Victorian Government received their $70m, a different company takes over in 4 years, but who suffers? It’s the commuter, who pays A$3.20 just so he/she could travel for 2 hours. I forgot to add that by the time I was experiencing the story I was talking about above, Metro was already in charge of the trains.

Hopefully, after hearing my story, you can start to appreciate our trains better. I was there at Raffles Place at 7pm, in the masses waiting for half an hour for a train home. I was also there at Clementi MRT at 8am, seeing 7 fully packed trains come and go before finally boarding the 8th train to work. Everyone (and company) has their bad days, and I think it’s really childish and unappreciative of us Singaporeans to just condemn our public transport. It’s one thing to give constructive feedback and suggestions, but a whole other thing to just write off the spine of Singapore’s growth.

Ironically, it was SMRT’s reliability throughout the years of Singapore’s development that proved to be its PR undoing. This goes to show how sometimes, Singaporeans can take things for granted.