Sheryl Chen, 22, Sharing Her Encounter with Xenophobia


Never felt more ashamed to be a Singaporean.

I was on the way home from meeting my French friends that I met while on exchange in Korea (backstory will be explained later on). People who take 41 from Jurong East will know that the bus passes by lots of workers’ dorms at Toh Guan, so it’s really common to have lots of Indian/ Bangladeshi FW on the bus at night.

The start of the bus ride was rather normal, with people just filling up the bus and taking their seats. That peace was broken as the bus started rolling out of the interchange. This Chinese uncle started shouting “Fuck can you shut up? Stop talking!” at a FW who was on the phone. The FW immediately told him that it’s a public space and asked him what’s wrong with speaking on the phone. I can’t remember what the Uncle said but it was something along the lines of how he doesn’t like the way he talks and the FW should know his place as a foreigner AND THEN the uncle told the FW that he should be respected because he’s an Elderly Singaporean (wtf dude?)

At this point EVERYONE on the bus was just silently looking at the commotion happening but no one was stepping in. I understand if the rest of the foreign workers didn’t want to step in due to fear of escalating the situation, but there were definitely other Singaporeans on the bus who could have stepped in to get the uncle to calm his giant mantits. At that point I interjected and (politely) told the uncle to calm down. He just kept telling me not to “act smart” and kept verbally abusing the FW with Hokkien vulgarities (classy).

I told the FW to come sit opposite me instead, and he took the offer. Despite this, uncle just kept going on and verbally abusing the FW and yet demanded that the FW should respect him. At this moment I had a very boss moment and told the uncle that RESPECT HAS TO BE DESERVED. Uncle’s best comeback was to tell me not to act smart again.

The bus fell (awkwardly) silent, until the uncle was about to alight and told the FW to “behave himself as a foreigner.” Oh that gall. FW obviously got dulan and confronted him about it so the uncle challenged him to a fight off the bus (LOL secondary school bengs don’t die, they just graduate from toilet fights to bus stop fights). The FW next to me and I both had to restrain the victim FW who was obviously riled up. So I told the uncle that his ancestors were also immigrants and we are all immigrants (yeah bro, your ancestors are from China. What are you gonna do about it????). Uncle started being physically aggressive towards me (and the said victim actually physically shielded me from the uncle :'< ) At that point I shouted at the uncle to just get off the bus (and yes, no other Singaporeans came up to help.)

Once that bugger got off the bus, the other FW and the victim had a debate about not aggravating the crazy. Victim commented that he hoped Crazy Uncle was not Singaporean, because that just gives Singaporeans a very bad name (ooooo I have news for you bro ?). He also said that its okay if he gets scolded, but I shouldn’t be scolded because I’m innocent and I’m female, which was why he was also physically shielding Crazy Uncle away from me. At that point I was rather emotional because I just kept thinking how shitty racist Singaporeans are, and also how I had used my Chinese privilege to stand up for something but I totally forgot about the privilege I possess as a female (and that I’m really more privileged than I thought.) What I really wish I said to him was that I’m really sorry that he had to experience this, and it’s even sadder that I cannot guarantee that it will never ever happen again to him.

As they got off the bus, the FW sitting next to me said “thank you sister for supporting us.” It was the victim whose final sentence to me made me emotional though. He thanked me and went “Because of you, I still have faith in Singaporeans.”

We are all foreigners. What makes you so special than other FWs just because your ancestors came here 3 generations (or maybe 2 for that uncle) ago? Were they not foreigners too? What makes you superior?

Who died and made you god that you can judge and rank cultures over others? Singaporeans have a penchant of looking up to angmohs and bending their backs over just for them. I’m pretty sure the situation will be much different if it were an Angmoh talking on the phone. We also love east Asia (don’t get me started on K wave) and we treat them so well. But when you hear someone is Filipino/ Indian/ Bangladeshi/ PRC you immediately start looking down on them and want them out of your space. You give them so much shit on a daily basis and yet you blame alcohol intoxication for causing riots. #neverforget

Singaporeans, you are really so ugly.

This is one of the example that xenophobia is real in Singapore. However, some people also stood up to challenge the notion 🙂

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