As the dust settled for PRC scholar Sun Xu who was duly fined and stripped of his remaining scholarship perks, another incident involving an article on Swiss expats saying that there won’t be jobs available for Singaporeans ensured that the anti-foreigner sentiments will still be in play.
I have never seen such intense anti-foreign sentiments before until the beginning of this year. Xenophobia feelings among locals seem to take on a popular undertone and t is a dangerous overplay.
The frequent local-foreigner physical spats played out in the press so prominently also did not help the situation one bit coupled with some dead bodies lying around - mostly believed to be foreigners.
Yet, it is most amazing to see how foreigners have treated locals - as if the whole country belongs to them. There is an obvious lack of respect for the country’s local culture and habits resulting in growing resentment against foreigners here.
The fact that they stole jobs away from us, jacked up our HDB resale prices and clog up public infrastructure also do not augur well for any social cohesion and integration programmes.
In fact, the whole social situation here looks perilous and some friends were saying that the local-foreigner physical spats will probably increase dramatically if nothing is done to alleviate the current situation.
The same problem happened in Sydney where I stayed for a few years on and off.
Some shopping malls are mostly dominated by Asians and you can hardly see white Aussies around.
Whites hardly mix with the immigrants and they likewise form their own enclaves in their own towns. Some immigrants don’t even speak a word of English!
Many of the whites have in fact escaped to Queensland whereby the weather is better and housing prices saner.
In Melbourne, however, some Indians were knifed in 2010 in a series of systematic attacks targetted at immigrant Indians resulting in the Indian PM calling Australia a dangerous place to travel for Indians.
I remembered shockingly how one Indian worker was knifed to death in a backlane while travelling to work in Melbourne early in the morning. Several similar knifing copycat incidents soon followed.
I do not hope to see similar incidents happening here.
I have provided 5 reasons why foreigners do not respect local Singaporeans here:-
1. Foreigners proud to work abroad
Many foreign expats were brought in using the covetous EP work permit meant for graduates and so-called talents.
For workers belonging to the third world countries, it is a big success if you travel to work abroad.
I remembered how in China people were sending their loved ones off to work in Singaporean – many beaming with pride even though they are merely here working as kitchen helpers and cleaners.
They thought that they are something when actually they are not.
I also remembered I had the same proud feeling when I travelled to China for a teaching job.
I was only paid $3000+ but it felt like a $30,000 job as I was working abroad. Everyone congratulated me as if I have struck the lottery.
Your ego suddenly received a tremendous boost and you felt good having all the intention lavished on you prior to your departure.
The same could have happened to our foreign friends here and this may have given them a fattened ego and a big head when they started to call us “dogs”.
2. Our government over-pampering them
It is still a mystery why our government continues to bring in so many PRC students studying on our limited tax payer money when so many of us have to send our children abroad for expensive tertiary education.
They also continue to bring in foreign expats when many of our local educated mid aged workers are still jobless.
Many analysts have speculated that the PRC Chinese could be brought in to beef up the reducing Chinese population as many Chinese families prefer to stop at two and some even at one.
Polytechnics are known to have set aside around 10% of their yearly intake for foreign students or scholars – largely from PRC.
Most of their school fees are paid for and they also get an allowance for daily expenses.
Some local tertiary institutions have even make visits to Chinese schools and invite them to apply for such scholarship study incentives.
If you woo, dine and over-indulge while trying to bring in too many foreigner scholars, they may feel that they are one class up on the local population.
Moreover, its a big thing to be called a scholar in China and when you land a overseas scholarship award your whole village celebrates for ten days and nights with wine and dance.
3. Foreigners getting special treatment by the law
All of us will know by now the infamous incident involving the Suntec City foreigner spat.
The accused persons, New Zealander Robert Stephen Dahlberg, 34, and Briton Robert James Springall, 25, face charges over a brawl that took place at Suntec City two years ago.
Another accused, the pair’s Australian friend, Nathan Robert Miller, 35, has since pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three weeks’ jail.
However, shockingly, the New Zealander and Briton pair managed to jump bail and returned to their own country making a mockery of our judiciary system here.
Many Singaporeans were also frustrated that many incidents involving expat foreigners were let off easily whereas those from third world countries were harshly punished for similar crimes.
For example, two live 8mm ammo was found on a Aussie woman Jessica Powter aged 34 years old while she transit at our Changi airport on Oct 12 last year.
She was merely let off with a warning only and the case was also unreported.
We only knew about this serious breach when Australia NT News reported the incident later.
All these imbalanced treatment given to foreigners only provide them the feeling that they are untouched and even given special priviledges.
It is no wonder sometimes I felt that our foreigner expats talk louder than us and some even walk with a superior swagger.
4. Foreigners getting more pay than us
It is no secret that foreigner expats doing the same kind of work will be getting better salaries than local ones.
Sometimes the salary difference could even be 2 to 3 times that of our local staff.
Granted that the whole expat salary package will have to cover our expensive rental and other start up cost but local workers will feel the pain when they saw how much our expats are being paid while performing the same kind of work.
In fact, Singapore foreign expats enjoyed the second best salary package in the world with the majority making more than $150,000 a year. It is no wonder they dine at the finest restaurants and stay in swanky condos here with our local gals bidding by their side.
It is fair to assume that the class division is more apparent between our foreign talents and local workers.
Even junior foreign Indian IT programmers working in MNC banks are paid more than $5000/month – some armed with only two years of working experience.
Local staff will count themselves fortunate if they could draw a basic salary of $3000 and above for fresh graduates working in the IT line.
Such imbalanced salary renumeration has also caused foreigners to feel superior and even look down on their local counterparts.
Their sheer massive presence in certain industries also allows them to step all over us and also many locals now have to report to younger foreign bosses.
5. Singaporeans lacking self confidence and communication skills
I always feel that local Singaporeans lack self confidence when it comes to their communication skills and handling of difficult work situation.
Perhaps our innate lack of the spoken language has caused us to step back rather than take on someone when there is a difference in opinion at the work places. We give way and retreat rather than trying to voice out our opinion passionately.
Maybe we are always taught in schools and for guys in the army not to speak out anymore or else we will be punished.
In most work places that I knew of, meetings were dominated by the managers or one of two individuals and the rest of us will be silent or merely nodding in passive agreement.
The real discussion only commenced when all the managers are gone and we are back in the canteen ;later.
Maybe we felt marked out if we always voiced out our own opinion in the office. We rather behaved properly so that we are well liked and considered not a trouble maker.
Most people whom we knew in class or the army were punished when they tried to be a hero and spoke out against the teacher or army officer.
However, in today’s working world whereby as much as 40% of our work force could be a foreigner and many of them are our bosses, keeping silent when an idea needs to be presented urgently is considered a sign of weakness.
I remembered staying in Sydney and saw how articulate Aussies were when they tried to engage me in deep constructive conversation.
Even though some are merely blue collared workers, they could strike up a decent conversation with you and communicated their thoughts well. Some could be rather fiery in the way they presented their ideas.
People judge us by the way we speak and when I saw how some local Singaporeans spoke on TV interviews, it made me cringed.
When foreigners saw how we struggled in our first language – English they thought that this must be a joke!
Some could not even make out what we say and many retreated back to their own circle of expat friends. They also began to look down on us as we can’t even utter a decent mouthful of English.
PRC Chinese also despised our brand of spoken Mandarin as it is not polished enough and reminded them of how the Hong Kongers spoke when they communicated in Mandarin.
How we presented ourselves often cause the other party to either respect or look down on us.
Moving forward, it will be perilious if we allow the current local-foreign divide to continue.
Social integration programmes seem to have fail and unless the government decides to slow down immigration and relook how this can be better managed, things look rather pessimistic and opportunists may even seize the advantage to exploit the current mess – to the detriment of the whole country.
Written by Gilbert Goh