My first overseas trip was to Singapore, almost 10 years ago (December 1995). On my arrival I remember reading an issue of the Straits Times celebrating the fact that Singapore had just been recognised as a developed country. However, the prime minister of the time, Lee Kwan Yew, was warning Singaporeans that their behaviour was worthy of a developed nation. He used the example of an incident where the government was handing out free textbooks to needy families. The event was hijacked by wealthy families driving up in their Mercedes and BMW’s to grab textbooks for their own kids.

This is an example of kiasu behaviour – the fear of losing to someone else. Such behaviour is not restricted to Singaporeans, but they do seem to have taken it to the extreme. Sadly, kiasu disease is contagious and has been observed in people who were born in neighbouring Malaysia and who have migrated, or own homes, in Singapore. Thankfully, it probably requires long exposure to become infected, so I’m not worried about becoming kiasu from our upcoming four day in Singapore. However, I’m certain that chronic kiasu sufferers will ensure that we feel some side-effects.

The links below illustrate (sometimes humourously) kiasuity.

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