This is taken in the local skate park at East Coast:

Xenophobia in Singapore

Locals only

Through the past decade, Singaporeans saw foreigners coming in and we get upset, that’s perfectly okay because last I check we are upset over everything. So complaining is perfectly normal, perhaps a hobby, the Indians have their cricket we have our complaints. So shutup and stop complaining.

The xenophobia thing got me thinking a lot on identity though. We realized that we are a young nation and for some people their parents were migrants themselves. This puts everyone in an awkward — AWKWARD (cheerfully) — position. What’s a foreigner then, what are we not liking.

Let’s be specific

We don’t like foreigners alright. We love tourists though. Wait what? Okay, change. We are okay with foreigners, we aren’t okay with foreign workers. But that’s not right either, most locals accepted the Bangladeshis here in Singapore because no Singaporean would want to work under those conditions. This is such a sensitive topic but a couple of times I see some Facebook posts celebrating the true heroes — the construction workers from Bangladesh. There’s something really wrong here, but something just isn’t said outright either.

So if we don’t mind construction workers, are factory workers okay to be foreigners. That’s a tough question. Well it depends, some would confess. If you can hire a local, you should, they answer and just moved on. In reality the hiring process isn’t as simple as imagined. There can be hires for entirely new roles and hires that are for replacements for positions emptied — maybe the previous dude left, or something. Typically the latter will require more urgency to fill since everyday that position goes unfilled, there’s reduction of overall productivity.

Argh! A little cognitive dissonance here

We recognize issues of employment. We want better positions for Singaporean if we are the ones getting hired. If we are bosses, we want the position to be quickly filled up at a good price. There are more people looking to get hired than hiring so the xenophobic voice is slightly louder.

At the same time those people getting hired understand that they don’t want to be in construction too. Reason they give — we didn’t study a paper on marketing to go into construction. Hello there, the Filipino house servants we hire didn’t study a degree in homemaking, I met one with biochemistry.

Reality check

We like to think ourselves to be better than others. We feel we deserve a pay better than others. However we cannot ignore the fact that others think the same too. We are the ones who create a system where foreigners come in to take up jobs to spur our economy. There’s no easy way to revert this plan and still keep up with our growth rate.

The best part is that the vocal ones are beginning to understand this as well. So they say, okay okay, foreigners here are welcomed to stay but we don’t want too much new foreigners. Also it’s not me, it’s my government, they didn’t build enough train stations and our MRTs are getting way too squeezy!


There are some people who hate foreigners, they are being led by people who are trying to advance their own goals. The vocal ones have vested interests and xenophobia is an issue that is sensitive and it is one of those things that you can be aware of but cannot have a proper public discussion. They’re entrapping the government for a discussion. Any action or inaction would lead to at least some negative consequences. This however is a good opportunity to come clean with our needs. Try to ask five whys before you give your opinions. Discuss them with your peers. Get validation.

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