The following are actual conversations that took place between me and my direct Singaporean counterparts. Names have been changed to protect those not so innocent kiasus.
Scene 1 Act 1
Me: (Shakes hand) Hey Alex, how's it going?
Alex: Good good. Our market is growing pretty well. In fact, I think we're gonna hit our numbers way before the end of the fiscal year.
Me: Oh? That's great news. Congratulations.
Alex: Thanks. I heard you guys in Malaysia are slogging it out. What's wrong over there?
Me: Slogging it? Nah, we are not doing too badly. We've achieved all our quarterly numbers ...
Alex: (cutting me off) You know, I think it's the mentality. You guys need to work harder, and set your goals properly. You see, the objective is very important.
Me: My team is working our socks off, Alex. Frankly, I can't ask for a better team.
Alex: I'm sure you guys can improve. You see, we just sealed a 30 mil dollar deal from Singtel last month. It's all due to the hard work and never say die attitude, which is lacking in the rest of the ASEAN region. That's so sad, you know. Phillipines is doing much worst off than you guys up there, and Indonesia is not much better either.
Me: Phil is a young team, Alex. The Phil operations just started barely 3 years ago. Give them a chance.
Alex: It's not about young or old. What they need is proper guidance. In fact, I have submitted a proposal for us in Singapore to do a regional thing next Q. We'll all travel to each ASEAN outfit and try to see if we can train the sales guys up. To push the numbers, so to speak. I think our Singaporean guys can share their ideas with you guys.
Me: I can't comment on that. You need to put that up with Regional for that kind of request. Anyway, honestly, Alex, I think we're doing ok as a group. Nobody posted a red report, so far.
Alex: Yes, but with our experienced guys guiding you all, I think we can all perform better. Frankly, I am tired of the rest of the region dragging our group performances down.
Scene 1 Act 2
(Second unfortunate meeting)
Alex: Hey Leon. I heard your boss, she's not really performing.
Me: Well, as I told you earlier, our team is doing really great, much better than the previous two years, I suppose.
Alex: You know, she's a Malay. They cannot perform. All they do is wait for hand outs. I've heard about you doing wonderfully, but if you continue tagging along in the group, I'm afraid things might not look good.
Me: What? Hey man, in Malaysia, we are all performance oriented, regardless of race, nationality or religion. You need to watch those words, especially when you come to my country next time around. Besides, we work as a team. We support each other. We do not create mutiny against our superiors.
Alex: Not mutiny. We need to work smart man. Look out for our own backside. If you want to climb the corporate ladder up fast, that is.
Me: Oh? And just how am I supposed to do that?
Alex: You mustn't continue this group thing. You need to let Regional know who is performing and who is not. If you are doing well, you need to learn to take credit for it. If not, nobody will notice you. And if your boss isn't doing her job, you need to report that up too. Subtlly, of course.
Me: But we do work as a group. We help each other, and we take the credit or fall together. It's more fun that way, you know.
Alex: It's not like that here in Singapore. Here, we all watch out for our own backs. Lots of sharks around the corner, you know. Your best friend might just turn back and bite you.
*and Alex proceeds to give me a 30 minute premier on high riding office and racial politics, to which I almost vomitted at the end of*
Scene 2 Act 1
Tony: Hey Leon. I heard your team did pretty well last quarter. That's good news man. Regional is really paying attention to you now.
Me: I think our team got lucky. But oh, well, we do try our best. That's what they pay us for, right?
Tony: Yeah. It's just so sad that the head of the country is a Malay. If not, can perform even better.
Me: Tony, I don't think race got anything to do with it.
Tony: It has everything to do with. Us Chinese, we are the ones working. They are just enjoying the fruits.
Me: We do try the very best in our country to not use the US and THEM termininology, man. It's considered seditious. If we want fairness and equality, we have to first give the same.
Scene 3 Act 1
(At 8.45 after company dinner)
Me: Hi Robert, this is a great dinner isn't it? Hey you know, us and the Phillipines lads, we wanna go for a few beers after this. You wanna join?
Robert: Thanks, but we've got lots of work to do for tomorrow's presentation. Say, are u free for the next 1/2 hour? I wanna run some numbers by you...
I'm not even gonna comment on those scenes. You draw your own conclusion. And here I have people asking me why I dread going to Singapore, and why I'm always chilly towards Singaporeans in general...
(For the record, I do have a few really cool buddies from Sing. There are some down to earth, normal ones there, I assure you. It's the rest of the country that sucks.)