4 Cultural Ways to Confuse a Westerner

To add to the well documented cultural habits of sharing food and never wearing shoes in the house, we also include:

4 Ways to Confuse an Ang Mo

Here are four distinctive features about living in Singapore that could possibly cause some confusion for westerners:

1. Singlish

It’s English, but not English. English words are mixed with a whole variety other dialects and scrambled into ‘Yoda’ like grammar. This will confuse and cause headaches for non-Singaporeans as they try to decode the words and context of your conversations.

2. Handing over money, credit cards or business cards

In short, this should look like you are passing something sacred or the item is about to explode.

Business cards must be given and received with two hands. You must then hold the card and inspect its design. Here is a good explanation why.

Money and credit cards should be treated as highly explosive devices and also be carefully handed over and received with two hands not one.

3. Pointing without using your index finger

To point with the index finger is considered quite rude in many cultures. However, this immediately nullifies  the very title of index finger. What you should do is use your thumb to point.

4. Confusing Hand Signals

Counting on the fingers and showing a number the Chinese way. For example six is naturally the shape you make for “using the telephone” and eight will be misunderstood as two.

To get someone’s attention and tell them to “come here” place your palm down and move your fingers towards you. This gesture is used with children, taxis or waiters but is considered very rude when directed at an older person. This gesture will be seen as a little subtle wave in the eyes of a westerner, and will not really be understood as “come here”.


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