Content creation is a difficult job to sell to a parent. Is it predictable? Nope. Does it provide a steady income? It depends. Does it require a whole lot of self-discipline? You bet.
vagueness doesn’t help either. Content creation could span across an array of
roles from YouTube producer to Instagram photographer, or more recently, a
does help, however, is that this new generation of content creators have an
entire generation before it to thank for paving the way of what is possible and
how it could be done, proving that it could in fact be a viable career.
Tan’s YouTube channel, for instance, recently surpassed four million
subscribers, exceeding local mainstream media brands like Channel NewsAsia
(1.03 million) and other regional favourites like Asia’s Got Talent (3.21m) and
ONE Championship (2.36m). Night Owl Cinematics isn’t far behind with over a
million subscribers of their own.
if you’re a budding content creator or aspiring to be one, is it worth the
while to pursue it?
with every industry, change is the only constant, and content creation is no
newer platforms emerge, new opportunities arise, allowing early adopters to
build a presence without having to compete with established players on other
TikTok burst onto the scene, previously unheard-of names like Charli D’Amelio
were able to amass a following - now over 85 million strong – despite only
actively posting from late 2019.
Singapore, the industry has also become a lot more respected and established
than a decade ago. Besides JianHao Tan and Night Owl Cinematics, notable online
media brands like SGAG and Rice Media have built companies around their
successes in content creation.
Creators have also levelled up to improve on the quality of their content. YouTuber Jay Ng, most notable for his recurring role as Gong Gong on JianHao Tan’s channel and more recently as founder of up-and-coming tech channel PLUSSIXFIVE, noticed this shift in the last five years.
“Overall, I think the quality of production has changed a lot,” he said. “We see the pioneers change from shooting in bedrooms with little emphasis on production, to focusing more on the craft of cinematography.”
barriers to entry are also much lower today than they were before. High
production equipment like cameras and lights are more attainable than ever for
amateur videographers and photographers, catering to a variety of skill levels.
“In terms of platforms, I think creating content is a lot more accessible now as there are so many platforms and apps to help you explore creatively to put content out there,” Jay added.
increase in accessibility has its drawbacks, however. With the lower barriers
to entry, the competition for attention is getting stiffer.
For industry veterans like Audrey Goh, who shot to fame on Wah!Banana before branching out on her own, there are also larger forces beyond a creator’s control that work against them.
“The oversaturation in the market is just a small problem,” Audrey explained. “The bigger problem is the algorithm. It's ever changing, and with every change it becomes less favourable for content creators.”
new algorithm makes it even harder for a creator's posts to achieve higher or
even decent reach for their following, affecting their account growth,” Audrey
furthered. “It’s not impossible to grow but it has become a lot harder, and as
we all know, making a career out of this, is after all, a numbers game.”
to YouTube, their algorithm is “a real-time feedback loop to cater to each
viewer and their varying interests.” Essentially, by recommending videos that a
viewer is likely to watch, he or she will stay on the platform longer (hence,
more ad revenue).
this may sound good for creators as a collective, it often puts individual
creators on the backfoot when it comes to exploring or experimenting with new
ideas and formats. As a rule of thumb, it’s an algorithm no-no to if new pieces
of content lack the same reception as previous ones.
So if consistency in engagement and
viewership is a key component to garner a good channel algorithm score, it’s no
wonder why despite the criticisms of putting out overused and dated formats
like “10 Types of People You Meet”, channels like JianHao Tan are incentivized
to stick with what has worked before.
there still a place for creativity then?
established channels may be bound to formats they are known for, it’s also an
opportunity for innovators in the space to differentiate themselves from the
And as for established names, a neat workaround has been to create subsidiary channels that allow them to explore new formats without affecting the algorithm score of their main channel. Night Owl Cinematics has Team NOC, for instance, while Wah!Banana has Wah!Banana Too.
of course, comes with its own set of dilemmas and issues. Starting a channel
from scratch and garnering an audience for it is a daunting task, particularly
after pouring sweat and tears into the main one. As a business, it also becomes
increasingly difficult to prioritise resources and manpower to build a new
channel that may not be monetizable for months or even years.
“It’s not impossible to grow but it has become a lot harder, and as we all know, making a career out of this, is after all, a numbers game.”
as Audrey pointed out, making a career out of content creation is a numbers
game. Not only are creators competing with one another for eyeballs, often they
are competing for the same advertising dollars.
though I’m someone who doesn't like to care about numbers, I am forced to and
rightfully so,” Audrey added. “If an advertiser is paying me to promote
something, I want to deliver results. That does add pressure into every posting
(client or not), because ultimately, your account overall, will be affected by
how your postings average out.”
if creators are at the mercy of platform algorithms to build their channels in
order to generate ad revenue, are creators getting the short end of the stick?
After all, a creator doesn’t have ownership of their following, the platforms
do, which places the power in the platforms’ hands rather than the creator. To
circumvent that, Audrey believes that creators may one day return to owning
their own platforms again.
think we might actually go full circle and head back to blogging,” she said.
“The platforms are great, but as a creator, you are at the mercy of whatever
algorithm is implemented.”
could be doing really well one day and with one app update, that can just
change. I don't see it happening soon, but I predict a shift towards creators
having their own websites again.”
“If you don’t capture their attention within the first five seconds, they’ll swipe away. That affects the angle and way you produce your content.”
dealing with algorithms, staying relevant and up-to-date with the latest
platforms can also be quite challenging.
Real Talk cast member Nicole Chang Min, who also produces videos on love and relationships on her own YouTube channel, attributes the dynamism of the industry to media consumers.
“Various platforms rise and fall throughout the years,” Nicole explained. “The main difference I’ve noticed is that people have much shorter attention span consuming media nowadays.”
“If you don’t capture their attention within the first five seconds, they’ll swipe away. That affects the angle and way you produce your content,” she furthered.
the growing competition for attention, Nicole believes that working together
rather than against other content creators will benefit the community on a
my opinion, the ideal way to make creativity grow is through collaborations,”
together, growing ideas, helping each other out instead of trying to step on
each other to scale higher.”
And with audiences spoiled for choice on content these days, Audrey’s advice is to focus on consistency.
for Jay, success boils down to putting in the shift.
think it's a matter of how hard you are willing to work,” he said.
“Most people find it "hard" in the sense that they missed the wave, do not have the equipment, or that algorithms change too fast,” Jay added. “I think so long as you enjoy the process, you've "made it" and everything else will come as long as you continue to put in the work.”
you think you have what it takes, Sony is giving creative individuals a chance
to showcase your creativity with the Alpha Creators Photography Contest.
we transition into the new normal, how the story unfolds is in your hands. Get
your cameras ready and tell your part of the story. Stand a chance to be one of
four semi-finalists who will win S$1,000 in cash prize each and move on to the
participate, simply follow @SonySingapore on Instagram, set your account to public, upload your photo
with a caption relevant to the theme, and lastly, remember to hashtag
#SonyBeTheChange and tag @SonySingapore. Submit your entries before 11.59pm
on September 20, 2020.
For more information, head over to the contest microsite.
View this post on Instagram Amazing prizes and the opportunity to inspire many with your photography. Do you have what it takes to be the grand winner of Sony's Alpha Creators 3.0 #BeTheChange contest? Join now and tell your story of our new normal. How to participate: 1. Follow @SonySingapore on Instagram 2. Set your Instagram account to public 3. Upload a change-making moment in 2020 and caption why this moment in time is meaningful to you 4. Hashtag #SonyBeTheChange and tag @SonySingapore Contest participation ends at 11:59pm SGT on 20 September 2020. Click the link in our bio for more information. #SonyBeTheChange #BeAlpha A post shared by Sony Singapore (@sonysingapore) on Sep 1, 2020 at 11:59pm PDT
Amazing prizes and the opportunity to inspire many with your photography. Do you have what it takes to be the grand winner of Sony's Alpha Creators 3.0 #BeTheChange contest? Join now and tell your story of our new normal. How to participate: 1. Follow @SonySingapore on Instagram 2. Set your Instagram account to public 3. Upload a change-making moment in 2020 and caption why this moment in time is meaningful to you 4. Hashtag #SonyBeTheChange and tag @SonySingapore Contest participation ends at 11:59pm SGT on 20 September 2020. Click the link in our bio for more information. #SonyBeTheChange #BeAlpha
A post shared by Sony Singapore (@sonysingapore) on Sep 1, 2020 at 11:59pm PDT
For the majority of us, the COVID-19 situation is a major inconvenience, largely because of the CB measures. However, considering the many uncertainties ahead, it is also important for us to pay a little more attention to our finances during this period.
For those whose income has been affected especially, it’s time to take a step back and look at ways to improve your finances. So here are some practical tips to help you get started amid the current global crisis.
Think of the CB as a pause button for you to revisit how you use your money. The best way to start is to list down all your estimated monthly expenses.
Look at how much you’re spending in categories like food, clothing, travel, entertainment, monthly subscriptions, loan repayments, or even the allowance you give your parents. And yes, while this may seem like what an insurance agent would tell you to do, it’s a handy way to break down your expenses and it gives you a better understanding of where you can cut back on.
At the same time, make sure that you have a ‘rainy day fund’ that you can access easily. Most financial planners would advise to have at least 6 to 12 months worth of your salary in your emergency fund. This is particularly apt in the current situation, as some of us may have lost our source of income because of COVID-19. Having this pool of funds ensures that we have enough money to survive through such situations.
Once you’ve detailed your monthly expenditures, you will find yourself with several fixed expenses which may take a significant chunk off of your income. These include any loans and insurance policies you may have.
To help free up your cash flow, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has launched measures that allows you to defer debt obligations. You can apply to defer premium payments on your life and health insurance for up to six months. If you are paying off your housing loans, you can also apply to defer your mortgage loans until the end of the year.
Many banks have also rolled out initiatives to further help their customers tide through this challenging period. For example, CIMB Singapore is offering deferments on its renovation and education loans, and OCBC is automatically reducing the minimum payments for its credit card to 1% of their statement balance.
If you are still struggling to juggle your daily expenses, find out if you qualify for any government relief and assistance here.
You may also want to consider a personal loan just to tide you through this period. There are several options available in the market, each with its range of benefits. For example, Standard Chartered offers a CashOne Personal Loan starting from an interest rate of 3.88% (EIR 7.67% p.a), and you also get a 50% off your first month’s instalment amount. (Terms and conditions apply.)
Besides keeping tabs on your spending, review your health and medical policies. This is prime time to ensure that you are sufficiently protected as you wouldn’t want your savings wiped out from a medical bill.
Know what you are covered for. This includes the extended protection you may be getting from your insurers. Many insurance providers and banks are offering complimentary protection plans for their customers. Be aware of these benefits as it will be a tremendous help should you contract the virus.
SingSaver has very succinctly compiled the list of extended and complimentary coverage from all the insurance companies in Singapore, which you can find here.
This CB period is the best time for accumulating your savings. Staying home would mean that you are already going to be saving the money you would have spent on travel or night outs.
Many brands are also running attractive discounts and promotions, but remember to spend wisely. Do you really need a new pair of sneakers during this #StayHome period or do you need groceries?
Chances are, food is the main aspect that you will be spending on this period, followed by other household necessities like toilet paper. All the supermarket chains in Singapore and smaller online grocers offer free delivery with a minimum order.
There’s even a comparison of the different online grocers available in Singapore, which will satisfy the Singaporean in you to find the ‘cheapest and good-est’ deals for your necessities.
Take this chance to bank on the best deals, bulk order your groceries online and have them delivered for free, and start saving on food by prepping your own meals.
Here is a list of over 30 budget-friendly meal prep recipes you can get started on.
Alternatively, if you need to order food, you can find a list of ongoing food delivery promos here!
Being forced to stay home frees up extra pockets of time, which is a golden opportunity to pursue all those things you have been wanting to do but could never find the time to.
Work on your fitness goals: Gyms are closed and fitness classes are all halted, but there is now an influx of online fitness classes which you can follow at home. This also means that you can save on gym membership or the usual paid fitness classes.
For example, Nike and Adidas have launched free fitness videos which you can follow at home. Gyms like Evolve MMA have also been holding live classes on their Facebook and Youtube channel.
Here’s more online exercise classes you can try!
Or perhaps you have always wanted to learn Korean, or improve on your photography skills, there’s no better time to pursue all those goals.
Pick up a new language with Duolingo, or take advantage of free online courses to learn a new skill. If you haven’t got around to using your SkillsFuture credits (which is $500 sitting there, waiting for you), take this chance to sign up for a course here.
Being at home 24/7 can get really stifling and dreary, but as with free online classes, there are many ways to keep yourself entertained (and sane).
Stay connected with your friends and family with Zoom, or play games together with social apps like Houseparty and Psych!. You can even get the KTV experience with this Chinese karaoke app, <a href=" Party.
For existing Netflix subscribers, there’s a Netflix Party Chrome extension that allows you to watch Netflix remotely with friends. The tool synchronises video playback and there’s even a chat bar for you to chat as you watch!
You can even <a href=" the Great Barrier Reef with David Attenborough if you want. There’s really an abundance of entertainment resources available online, and the best part is, all of these are completely free.
To help those who may need immediate help with their cash flow, SingSaver is also running an exclusive promotion with Standard Chartered regarding their CashOne Personal Loan. Each approved applicant will stand a chance to win a #cashcushion of up to S$10,000!
Simply apply for the Standard Chartered CashOne Personal Loan for a chance to win the cash cushion. The campaign runs from 6 Apr till 30 Jun and 3 winners will be picked every month.
Find out more about how you can win yourself a #cashcushion here!
(This article was written in collaboration with SingSaver.)
(Header Image Credit: Sam Dan Truong on Unsplash)
I am patient #347.
This is my story and how I would like to rally all young Singaporeans to take this pandemic situation seriously. Stay home and we will all tide this over together.
It’s been a month since I got tested positive. I’ve been warded at the hospital, taken a lot of different medications, shifted to an isolation facility, and done everything I can to keep myself healthy, but I still have the virus.
Being isolated and away from your loved ones for so long really gets to you, and every day, the only thing I can hope for is the day I get two negatives.
In order to be considered fully recovered and discharged, you have to be tested negative twice in a row, but I have never come close to that. After a while, this cycle of hoping for that and then being disappointed by the results takes a mental toll on you. What’s even scarier when you are a Covid-19 patient is that there is no cure for Covid-19. There’s nothing else you can do but hope your body is strong enough to fight the virus.
On 18th March, I came back from the UK with a sore throat, but it didn’t feel like just a normal kind of sore throat. I knew something wasn’t right so after a quick shower, I went straight to the hospital to get tested.
Everything was very organised there: I filled out forms, waited in a tent, did a chest X-ray and a nose swab test. The whole process took about three hours and by the time I got home, it was almost midnight. My throat was still sore, my bones were aching, I felt a fever coming, and I was just feeling generally very unwell.
By the time I woke up the next day, I got the call: I have Covid-19.
At that point, I remember thinking about how unreal it was because I never thought I would get the virus. And being told that you have it was like a harsh wake-up call.
It was then that I thought, “okay, this shit is real.”
Everything happened really quickly. I was first isolated in a single ward room at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH). That first night there was horrible. I still felt really sick. I had a fever and my backbone was so painful that I had to numb it with panadol pills.
At the same time, I was really worried that I might have passed the virus on to my family, my colleagues, and my girlfriend–the people I had been in contact with for the past two weeks. I texted all of them and advised them to get tested as well.
Surprisingly, I woke up the next day feeling like I’ve fully recovered. My sore throat, runny nose, and fever were gone, but it wasn’t safe for me to be discharged yet. The doctor came and shared about how because there's no cure for this virus, they could only prescribe medicine like malaria medicine to boost our immune system for our body to fight the virus.
Thankfully, I’ve been in a stable condition since then. I was transferred to a shared ward on the third day, where I spent a week at before being transferred to an isolation facility at D’Resort, where I am at now.
I’m lucky to have only had very mild symptoms, save for the bad pain in my backbone, but the emotional and mental pain, and the homesickness is very real.
Being taken away from your family so suddenly and not knowing when you can see them again gets to you. And when you are in a shared ward where people around you are all sick, coughing, and puking, it makes it hard for you to stay positive as a Covid-19 patient. I didn't have any motivation to do anything.
“I wasn’t in a right state of mind there at all.”
The doctors and nurses gave us utmost care, but in that environment where you don’t get sunlight and fresh air, it can get really stifling. All of us in that ward were just there, waiting for time to pass, waiting to be tested, and waiting for the day we can get out. It was very, very depressing.
Every day, I was just hoping to get a negative. I had that thing up my nose more than six times in the hospital and I tested positive for every single one. And the funny thing about this virus is that the other patients in my ward who were vomiting and showing more symptoms than I had got tested negative first before me.
I'm doing a lot better now. Here at the isolation facility at D'Resort NTUC in Pasir Ris, I have my laptop, my own personal space and toilet, and a view of the beach and the park. I have a roommate around my age as well, so it feels just Iike NS.
Time actually passes fast here but you do lose track of the days here. I’m lucky to have very supportive family, friends, and a girlfriend who have kept me sane through messages, video calls, and care packages.
I've been trying to be healthier as well, eating more vegetables, working out a lot, and taking a lot of vitamin pills that my mum has been sending me. I've been drinking a lot of water, drinking a lot of green tea, and pretty much doing everything I can with the hope that it can flush out the virus. Nothing seems to work so far.
All of us here are just hoping to get that two negatives, and it gets mentally draining and depressing when you get tested positive again and again.
I just want to go home.
With that said, I’m very grateful for the quality of care I’ve been receiving right from the start. All the healthcare workers at KTPH who have made my recovery process a lot easier, keeping me calm and always checking in on me to make sure I am fine mentally. The professionalism, attentiveness, and warmth have given me a lot of comfort and the confidence that I was in safe hands, and the human contact and affection that they gave is just top-notch.
Compared to other countries, our country is doing such a great job at making sure that we are being cared for.
There may be a few Singaporeans breaking the Circuit Breaker measures, but I'm very happy to see that the majority of youths are actually abiding by them. And it’s heartening to know that in a recent poll, the National Youth Council found that over 70% of youths want to do their part to stop the spread of Covid-19.
Personally, I’ve seen how a lot of young Singaporeans are finding little ways to help make this Stay Home period a little better for friends and family, be it through ‘Zoom parties’ or sharing content to help each other cope with cabin fever. We can also do more to help educate those who may not be as aware of the severity of the situation.
This virus is not something that should be taken lightly. Europe and America are in disaster but we are not in that state of panic because we are lucky to have a government that had plans in place to handle the situation. Which is why I sincerely hope that Singaporeans will continue to do their part as well. We should continue to care for one another during these challenging times and not perpetuate any racist or xenophobic sentiments.
Please don't break the Circuit Breaker measures. I overlooked some of the measures and I got the virus, and still have it. This is so important because you never know if or when you are going to get it.
Majority of people who have it don’t even show any symptoms. I haven’t shown symptoms for a while now and I’m still being tested positive, so the only way to not get this virus is to practice safe distancing, wear your mask, stay home, and abide by the measures. As a young Singaporean, I can understand the inconvenience, but as someone who has the virus, I’d do anything to be healthy now. The quicker we follow the rules, the quicker we'll go back to normal.
This story is written by Millennials of Singapore, as told to us by the featured individual. The individual has since been discharged on 22nd April.
"Prove to the others out there that Youth can do this, and do it well too. Show them that despite your years, you are tenacious and determined. There will be a few bad hats here and there, but we know from our polls that the majority of youth want to do the right thing and be counted in a time of crisis like we have never faced before. So stay home, stay safe and make us proud!" - National Youth Council Chief David Chua
Looking to try something new during this circuit breaker period?
You’re not alone! Visit MehGoWhere.sg, an interactive site that's been created to help keep you entertained during the Covid-19 period!
Get all the latest info and resources while having fun at the same time! It’s impossible to be bored with engaging videos and stories as you #StayHomeForSG with MehGoWhere <a href="
(This article was written in collaboration with the National Youth Council.)
‘Made in China’, but Singaporean.
For 30-year-old Ou Ningfei, who migrated to Singapore with his family when he was 7, this puts him in a spot where he was, in a way, stuck between two cultures.
Being a foreigner meant being an ‘outsider’ in a land foreign to him, and some of the things he experienced back then include being treated with prejudice, or “they would start to interact with you lesser because they see that you’re from another place.”
Such ostracising and marginalising behaviours towards migrants are ubiquitous, but it is also exactly that that often makes our society forget empathy.
Fortunately, those experiences only pushed Ningfei to pick up on the nuances of the local culture more quickly. And today, his identity as Singaporean is no less than any other born-and-bred locals, for he has spent almost this entire life here and also fulfilled the service of every Singaporean son.
However, for many other immigrants who come to Singapore in search for better livelihoods, the privilege of being accepted by society may not exist.
Besides personal experiences, Ningfei also had his share of interaction with migrants and the hardship that they face. His parents were migrant workers themselves and his mother, a regular volunteer at church events that support migrant workers.
“I’ve seen the spaces that [migrant workers] occupy, the issues that they face, physically and socially. And many times, they get exploited in so many ways.”
Migrant workers lack privilege and power of influence in a foreign society, making them more susceptible to being taken advantage of by errant employers.
“There are so many stories that are so hard to hear, so painful,” Ningfei added, as he shared about migrant workers who end up with injuries or even permanent impairment caused by their work, as well as the exorbitant agent fees and low salaries.
In an interview with another publication, Ningfei shared that some workers pay “as much as $3,000 SGD to $15,000 SGD to their agents in home countries like India and Bangladesh.”
Once, at a gathering he and his mother were helping out at, Ningfei met a Chinese migrant worker who was forced to do OT for 2 weeks straight without remuneration. Seeing that the worker had come at almost 10pm to collect the packet of Cai Png for dinner, Ningfei spoke to him to understand why.
Describing the grease, grime, and blisters that marked the worker’s arms and hands, Ningfei recalled, “You can tell how hungry and tired he was. He was crying and telling me how he hasn’t gone home for a long time. And I realised how even though we were around the same age, we lead such different lives.”
“You look at people like him, and you know that there’s really a lot of things you can do for the underprivileged.”
After having helped out at many welfare support events for migrant workers together with his mother, Ningfei decided to do more on his own.
In 2018, he started Labour Arty, a ground-up initiative that leverages various mediums like photography and digital media to promote appreciation and awareness for migrant workers in Singapore.
“The genesis of this is that I’m Singaporean but I’m from China. My parents are migrants themselves, which is why my heart goes to migrant workers.”
With the support of friends, Labour Arty shot and launched their first project: A humble photography exhibition titled Blind Spots. It captured a sight familiar to all of us but often go unnoticed.
Since then, Labour Arty have gone on to launch several projects. These include the Tap4You project, which encouraged NUS students to share a meal with migrant workers, as well as the Yellow Helmet Challenge, one of their earlier works, which aimed at increasing the visibility of and appreciation for migrant workers.
Just recently over Chinese New Year, they also partnered with sponsors like Impossible Foods and Dumpling Darlings to organise a Dumpling Party for migrant workers who were affected by the travel restrictions arising from the COVID-19 situation.
Besides championing for the migrant workers, Labour Arty’s work is also a subtle approach at increasing social harmony in a community. This is especially important in Singapore, as our society is such a diverse conglomeration of different nationalities, races, and cultures.
“We try to change the perspectives people have of migrant workers. By increasing awareness amongst those who aren’t aware, and by making those who are aware be more ready to stand up, so that [migrant workers] don’t get exploited.”
However, juggling full-time work and personal commitments on top of running a ground-up initiative comes with its share of challenges of course. For example, the lack of resources to do more.
Although Labour Arty has been fortunate to receive support from various parties and organisations including the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre, it is fully run by Ningfei and a team of like-minded friends on a volunteer-basis.
A full-time product and process manager himself, Ningfei explains the constraints they face in championing for change.
“It’s fun for friends to help out for one or two projects, but it’s tough to sustain an entire movement.”
However, the mission has always been very clear to him: Every little bit helps.
Citing several similar movements and initiatives like Migrant x Me and Sama Sama, he spoke about the inspiration he draws from them, as well as the sense of camaraderie in working towards a common cause.
He also emphasised the importance of collaboration and finding the right partners in achieving the mission, “good partners can give you support and help you spread the work you do.”
Besides Labour Arty, Ningfei also co-founded another groundup last year. Aptly named codeToLove, the initiative helps other non-profits with their IT needs.
In some ways, codeToLove is also a passion project and one that allows him to help amplify the good that others do while practicing what he likes (designing and writing digital/UX content).
“If I am to be labouring, it better be for good, and to have some fun out of it,” he explains.
“If it’s purely meaningful but not fun, it’s going to be miserable. But if it’s fun but not meaningful, then it’s not going to mean much at the end of the day.”
And yes, at the end of the day, Ningfei’s motivation is something that many of us can relate to, which is a desire to derive meaning and enjoyment out of what we do. It can come from your job, or it can come from starting your own groundup, but what he said will ring in our ears for a long time to come: “Do something that’s close to your heart.
Passionate about a social issue and wish to make a change, or keen to contribute towards a certain cause? Check out how you can get support from Groundup Central here!
(This article was written in collaboration with the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre.)
(All images credit: Ou Ningfei and Labour Arty)
Growing up, John Paul’s family was unlike most of ours. Their family dinners were at the coffee shop tables where his dad peddled their famous beef noodles, and John pretty much grew up there.
“I was that small boy at Siglap who carried like three, four bowls of hot soup all at once.”
At 11 years old, John was already known by regulars as “Gubak Kia” (Hokkien for “beef boy”), an endearing nickname for the son of ‘Gubak’, which is what they called John’s dad.
It was a name that John hated, but grew to embrace as he continued helping out at his father’s stall. In fact, this name now brands the hawker stall John runs at Timbre+, where he sells the same traditional bowls of Empress Place Teochew Beef Kway Teow along with his modern creations.
Now 25, John is a full-time hawker. But this was not exactly his plan at the start.
As someone who always wanted to be out-and-about, John had lofty dreams of making a living off travel photography and writing. This led him to pursue a Mass Communication course in Kaplan.
However, the more he helped at his dad’s stall, the more he felt pulled into the trade. He began observing the way his dad prepared orders, noting details like how long his dad would cook the kuay teow for or how to portion the meat.
His first attempts at cooking came about when his dad left him alone at the stall.
“I started making my own bowls of noodles when my dad went on breaks. Then, my dad would tell me what I did right or wrong when he came back.”
With time and practice, John developed a better understanding of cooking, and this sparked his deeper interest in the culinary world.
John’s ‘big break’ came when the boss of Wolf Burgers saw his resume on a job portal. In disbelief that a 19-year-old kid could have nine years of hawker experience, he paid a visit to the stall covertly.
“He came with his wife, ordered a bowl, sat outside and watched me,” John recalled.
That day, John was offered a job in the Wolf Burgers kitchen. It was a golden opportunity, but John hesitated.
“I was really scared that I would mess up, because I had never worked in a professional kitchen or had any proper training,”
He gave it a shot in the end, and it was also through this stint that John realised his true passion in cooking. He went on to work at Camp Kilo and Kilo Lounge, where he was trained in more diverse types of cooking and cuisines.
Then, his dad got into an incident.
“I saw how bad my dad’s hand injury was. I also saw that he was getting older, and I knew I had to do something.”
Coming full circle, John brought years of culinary expertise in different kitchens and cuisines back to the beef noodle stall.
He started experimenting with the various ingredients he could find around the stall during lull periods.
As luck would have it, he met an old friend, Lincoln, who saw the potential in the beef noodles and John’s desire to build the brand. The duo drew up business plans and sought investors, but “who in the world would entrust such a big amount of money to two 24-year-olds to run a shop?”
Instead of giving up, the pair took the leap themselves. Lincoln forked out the capital and with some help from John’s former boss, their stall Gubak Kia came to fruition in May 2019.
In a way, Gubak Kia is John’s homage to his family legacy, which traces back to his great-grandfather’s time at Hock Lam street in 1921. Despite this history, John’s dad never asked for John or his siblings to take over. But for John, he naturally saw it as his duty to preserve their name.
“If it stops at my dad, I don’t know if I can live with that.”
“I love the food,” he explained, “and if I don’t cook it, I won’t get to eat it ever again.”
Starting Gubak Kia is also John’s way of showing appreciation to his dad.
“My dad toiled so hard to build this name up, and I don’t want to see it go to waste.”
While John retains most of the foundations of his dad’s dishes, he also creates modern twists to these traditional dishes, like introducing Beef Short Ribs to their classic bowls of Beef Kway Teow, and Gubak Bao.
No doubt, being a young hawker has its challenges. Whether it’s the worry of an inconsistent cash flow or the physical strain of working in a hawker kitchen, these are all part of pursuing a business venture or an unconventional career. But for John, the food always comes first.
“I don't really care about the money part as much, I just hope that we can make rent. The only important thing is that people are happy with the food, and they know about my father, about Empress Place.”
“It’s tiring but fun,” John mused. After all, the kitchen is where he comes alive. The best part of it all is that he toils, knowing that people will get to eat what he loves.
Reflecting on his journey, John talked about many fears he had, but his persistence and determination paid off.
“If you know you’re working towards something and you are humble about it, there will always be a way to make it work.”
Like Gubak Kia and many others, we all have dreams we wished we were brave enough to pursue.
Check out a series of workshops done in collaboration with Spark The Next here for more inspirational passion stories, and how you can chart your own path to success!
(This article was written in collaboration with Spark The Next by the Ministry of Culture, Community & Youth.)
“Faster, what colour, what colour!”
This is something that many of us are familiar with: The ‘pinching game’. For the uninitiated, this ‘game’ is initiated when one spots a man with a turban in the vicinity. One will then pinch our friend(s) and continue pinching them until they tell us the colour of the turban.
When we were younger, this ‘pinching game’ was just some harmless fun with friends. We were naively unaware of how racist the game is. We knew very little about the meaning of a turban or the people who wear one and to us, we were just poking fun at something that was unfamiliar.
However, we have grown up, both individually and as a society, to be a lot more careful around topics of race and religion. We have emphasised on the importance of respecting the Malays, Indians, even the Chinese group, and the different religions in Singapore.
There is one minority group, however, who has often gotten sidelined in our society: The Sikhs.
We see them around, but most of us have hardly mingled with a Sikh before, much less know anything about the Sikh culture. The average Singaporean would have only noticed the turban and the bearing of ‘Singh’ or ‘Kaur’ in their names, but what else?
I first stepped into a gurdwara (Sikh temple) last week, where I met the founder of Sikhs of Singapore, Perinder Kaur, to learn about the Sikh way of life.
Midway through the tour around the Gurdwara Sahib Silat Road (Silat Road Sikh Temple), we also got to speak with Harjit Kaur, the Vice Chair of the Sikh Centre at the temple, and Baljit Singh, the President of Central Sikh Gurdwara Board, who gave us insights into what it means to be a Sikh in Singapore.
As an agnostic, what stuck out the most to me is how authentic Sikhism, the faith of a Sikh person, is. The beliefs and teachings of Sikhism are largely centered around being a good person.
In fact, in the words of the trio, being a Sikh is to be “a student of life.”
Baljit explained, “we are all on a journey, between now and the end point, and one of the things I’ve learnt [in Sikhism] is that you want to attain Mukti, salvation in your living life,” and for him, attaining salvation is simply being able to be a good person and leading a truthful life.
Teachings like the three tenets of Sikhism, act as a guideline and a conscious reminder for Sikhs to be a good person.
Sikhs believe in one God and follow the scriptures laid out by their Gurus, and it is up to every Sikh individual to interpret and follow the teachings. As such, Sikhism is a very personal journey for every Sikh.
“Each of us is on a journey at a different pace, and the accountability is in each of us to answer to the one supreme Lord.”
Interesting, although Sikhism is a monotheistic religion, Sikhs do not pray to a definite form of God. Rather, their God is an abstract interpretation of a higher force.
Thus, if you were to visit any gurdwaras, you will not find any effigies like you would at churches (Jesus Christ) or Buddhist temples (Buddha), for example. Instead, Sikhs pray to the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh holy scripture, which contains the teachings of the Sikh religion.
The 1430-page holy scripture is so highly-revered that one does not simply buy it off the shelf at a bookstore. It is meticulously transported from India to Singapore with assistance from authorities at Changi Airport and even our local police.
“It’s almost like you’re welcoming God into your home,” Perinder mused, on bringing the holy scripture to a new home.
Like Christianity, Sikhism has its version of baptism as well. The Amrit Sanchaar, or Amrit for short, can be taken by a Sikh anytime, but once undertaken, it is a pledge to lead the Sikh way of life.
Besides the believe in one eternal God and the 10 Gurus and to follow the teachings of Guru Granth Sahib, this commitment includes a firm promise to live by the 3 tenets of Sikhism, The Five Ks, and the rules of the Four Taboos and Five Vices.
The Five Ks
The Five Ks are five articles of faith worn by Sikhs and are symbolic of the Sikh culture
The Kara, is an iron bangle that a Sikh has to wear at all times, irrespective of gender. There are multiple interpretations to the meaning of the Kara. One of it propounds that the circular shape of the bangle signifies eternity, which also means that there is no beginning and end to the almighty.
The Kesh represents hair, which Sikhs believe is a gift of God and Sikhs keep their hair as a form of respect. This is why many Sikhs have a long beard or long hair.
One of the reasons why Sikhs wear turbans is also to honour this gift (of hair), and to keep it clean and neat. A turban is also part of the ‘uniform code’ and has become an identity for Sikhs. And because a turban has become a form of identity for the Sikhs, making fun of a Sikh’s turban is akin to making fun of an Indian for having ‘brown skin’, for example.
Then, there is the Kanga, a small comb that Sikhs keep in the hair (within the turban). Likewise, it signifies discipline and cleanliness.
Sikhs also carry a Kirpan around, which is a dagger and a symbol of the Sikh’s sovereignty, pride and dignity. It also signifies a Sikh’s duty to defend the weak and helpless from any injustice. In Singapore, there are regulations in place for safety, such as a limitation to the size of the dagger (up to six inches long).
Lastly, the Kashera, which is a pair of ‘baggy shorts’ that signifies ‘self-restraint’ and falls in line with one of the Four Taboos (adultery).
The Four Taboos & Five Vices
In Sikhism, Sikhs are supposed to steer clear of the four taboos and five vices.
The four taboos in Sikhism are: No adultery, no cutting hair, no intoxication (cigarettes, drugs, or alcohol), and no consumption of meat that is slaughtered or prepared in a religious manner.
Lust, anger, greed, attachment, and ego makes up the five vices.
Although these are taboos and vices laid out by the faith, almost all of these (besides the one about hair and meat) are temptations that all of us face in life. These ‘rules’ are pretty much guidelines to help one become a better human being.
With that said, what I respected the most is how honest and real Harjit was when she spoke about these commitments.
“Having said that, it's not like you have taken Amrit (baptism) and you've become perfect, It's a promise. I have taken Amrit but I can still get angry. It is something that I'm still working on.”
Besides those core teachings, there is another prominent trait of Sikhs, which is their concept of Sewa (selfless service).
It is mentioned in Gurbani, that Seva (service) can be done by “tan, man, dhan,” which breaks Seva into three types: “Physical service, mental service, and monetary service.”
This ethos is so strong among Sikhs that it is literally what keeps the gurdwara running.
Harjit shared: “[The gurdwara runs] totally on the basis of sharing, hundred percent. With everything, the building, the food, the provisions for Langar (food), the upkeep of the place. Anytime we want to change the carpets or the lights, people donate wholeheartedly. Everything.”
Considering how expensive it must be to run a temple and how small the community is in terms of numbers, I was surprised to learn that all seven gurdwaras in Singapore are fully supported by donations. This takes into account the supply of free meals at their Langar hall every day, which is open to anyone and everyone regardless of race or religion.
“The people that you see in the kitchen are all volunteers who come down to cut the vegetables and prepare the rations for the day so that the community kitchen is kept running. This is basically the essence of the religion, to serve without any inhibitions.”
There are also many regular volunteers who do different types of Sewa for the temple and the community. Even Baljit and Harjit, who both hold positions of authority in the gurdwara, are volunteers themselves.
In fact, the temple board faces a ‘happy problem’ of regular volunteers refusing to accept plaques for their years of service, because “they said they don’t do the service for any sort of appreciation or recognition.”
There are about 12,000 to 15,000 Sikhs in Singapore today, which makes up only 0.26% of our population of about 5.8 million. That possibly makes Sikhs a minority among the groups of minorities in Singapore.
Despite the size of the community, I have, through the two hours spent at the gurdwara, realise how much they have to offer to our society. For example, in the recent incident where local influencer Sheena Phua called two Sikh men “obstructions”, the Sikh community could have easily hit back with criticisms. But the youth from the Young Sikh Association invited Sheena to the Gurdwara, showed her around and shared the beliefs of Sikh faith with her.
Perinder explained, “But you look at the bigger picture: What do you want to do? Do you want to stay angry or, moving forward, do you look at it as an opportunity for you to actually engage? As a community, we took a very important stand that we would not react with anger. Rather, educate, not hate.”
This is where a platform like Sikhs of Singapore comes in to raise awareness and bridge the gap, through sharing stories of the everyday Sikh and to address common misconceptions among Singaporeans.
In a country like ours where we are so multiracial and multicultural, this is so important: The empathy and patience in being able to take a step back to re-evaluate how we deal with or even react to any racially or religiously sensitive situation.
It’s hard in practice of course, but as with the teachings of Sikhism, it is something that will do all of us good to strive for.
Baljit shared that 550 years ago, their first Guru made a very apt comment about how there is no separation between different races or religions, because at the end of the day, we are all the same. It’s all about humanity.
“We don’t identify people by their faiths, we identify that every person is a human being."
Also read: He Became A Monk At 23: What It’s Like Living By 227 Rules.
Kiasu, competitive, impatient, and grouchy. These are traits that are often associated with being a Singaporean.
Despite this negative perception of our society, I truly believe that Singaporeans are highly compassionate people. We have had multiple awards celebrating the good that Singaporeans have done, and we have heard so many stories of the people who have dedicated their time and energy into building cities of good, where we give our best for others.
Just last year alone, people in Singapore had donated about S$30 million to one-stop giving online platform, Giving.sg, with $12.2 million raised during the Giving Week season. This is just one of the many examples of how Singaporeans are actually altruistic at heart. We just tend to be too self-critical to realise it, and it’s not in us to accept credit for being model citizens.
For some of us, it may even come as a surprise to know that Singapore is one of the top 10 most generous countries in the world. This is because on the surface, it seems like a lot of us barely do anything to give back to our society.
We’ve all had the mandatory CIP modules in school. Many of us have also gone on field trips or did personal projects where we headed out and interacted with the beneficiaries. We’ve experienced the sense of fulfillment and contentment from being able to make a difference in someone else’s life, especially someone less well-off than we are.
The same sense of gratification from giving is something that so many in our millennial generation seek for in life—meaning. The majority of us have an innate desire to give or contribute to making our society better.
According to the Individual Giving Study (IGS) 2018 by the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre (NVPC) on individual giving habits and motivations of people in Singapore, they found that most people in Singapore have the intention to volunteer or donate in the future.
In fact, 9/10 people in Singapore have the intention to donate in the future and 7/10 have the intention to volunteer in the future.
Through the course of creating content for our (MOSG) platform, I am often surprised by the amount of public-spirited reactions on our posts.
When we ran a feature of Rahman, a migrant worker who suffered severe burns, we were so heartened by the number of people who left comments on their wish to help him. Private messages also came in enquiring on ways in which they could extend various forms of help to the individuals we’ve featured.
Despite our altruistic views towards giving however, many of us still feel that we are not doing enough to help the society, and we often feel bad about it.
In an article Vulcan Post wrote about five millennials’ track record in volunteering, almost all of them revealed that they are not proud of how little they volunteer in recent years. The reasons for that largely revolve around one issue, which is the lack of time.
Singaporeans are inherently pragmatic. As an independent adult, there are so many commitments in our life to worry about. When you only have 24 hours to make a living, spend time with family and friends, and to pursue any other personal projects or hobbies, you are forced to prioritise. And chances are, the priority will be for self before strangers.
Furthermore, we associate giving with having to plan and to put in hours into volunteering at an event or with an organisation. This will seem like a big commitment amidst our perpetually filled schedules and more often than not, we put it off simply because it seems like too much work. It doesn’t help that most of us find it intimidating or are too paiseh to volunteer alone.
The other kind of giving we usually think of is monetary donations.
In the same IGS study, Director of Knowledge, Marketing & Advocacy with NVPC, Mr Jeffrey Tan shared that financial security is among the top three life priorities for Singaporeans, so “in times of perceived economic uncertainty, more Singaporeans may hold back on cash giving.”
However, while there is that, and there is still a stigma against donating money for fear of it being exploited by fundraisers, we have also seen so much generosity from Singaporeans on the many fundraising campaigns on platforms like Giving.sg.
A friend of mine told me about how she used to actively volunteer at an elderly home. She eventually stopped volunteering due to the emotional toll of having to witness the sufferings of the beneficiaries, and the painful realisation that there were a lot more that needed to be done for them, but there just weren’t enough resources.
There’s also the question of whether one’s action does any good for the beneficiaries. In fact, besides the aforementioned reasons, the 2018 study found that 25% of former volunteers stopped volunteering because they found that the activity they engaged in created little impact or meaning.
The desire to make a difference is something that is growing on many Singaporeans. As mentioned above, we are constantly seeking meaning in what we do, and it can be very difficult for us to engage in something if it doesn’t seem to be making a notable difference.
With all that said, the spirit of giving certainly isn’t lost on Singaporeans. We just need to be more conscious of how we can give.
Giving really shouldn’t be something that is difficult as it is merely something that comes from one’s heart. It can be as simple as giving up our seat on the MRT or returning our food trays at hawker centres. These spontaneous acts may seem insignificant as we are already so used to doing this in our daily lives, but I take heart in knowing that these are micro-giving behaviours that make a difference and sets the foundation for a giving heart. This is in fact, the ethos of Giving Week’s belief: where little acts, multiplied by millions, can make a world of difference.
There are also plenty of other avenues in which we can contribute to charitable causes, especially during Giving Week 2019. For example, there are many events that are held in conjunction with non-profit organisations, and companies that have corporate social responsibility programmes, and supporting these events or companies are also ways to help.
From 1 - 7 Dec, be part of the Giving Week movement and join us at The Good Hubs and The Good Life as we celebrate the spirit of giving. Show your support by checking out the carnivals and flea markets held by various organisations at The Good Hubs here!
Businesses across Singapore will also be running special promotions and campaigns under The Good Life! Shop, dine, and live for good when you support the businesses here.
Every bit counts when it comes to doing good, so head on over to givingweek.sg for more information on the events and how you can share your time, talent, and voice to the people who need it. Together, let’s build a City of Good!
(This article was written in collaboration with the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre, organiser of Giving Week.)
(Header Image Credit: GivingWeekSG)
Love is a game and in Singapore, you automatically play on ‘hard’ mode once you become an adult.
There’s barely enough time left for anything else when you have to juggle work and spending time with loved ones. And when it comes to finding love, it can be difficult to meet new prospects. Your selection is scaled down to the people you work with and even then, there is also the worry of things getting complicated when you mix personal life with work.
Any thoughts of networking or to actively seek out someone to date will be thrown out the door when your life is already exhausting as it is.
A lot of us also tend to spend most of our youth believing that love will come when it comes, and none of us want to be caught looking ‘desperate’. All these reasons can make it seem like life, on the love front, is bleak.
Singaporeans are increasingly turning to meeting people ‘online’. I mean, even when we were teenagers, there were already the ‘OG stories’ of people who met and fell in love through online multiplayer games like Maplestory. In a way, I guess we can say that tools like dating apps are a natural progression for our attempt at love.
Just within my social circle alone, I know many people who have found their partner through apps like Tinder and Coffee Meets Bagel. Some of them are even happily married with kids now.
Most of these friends were initially highly-sceptical of getting anything ‘real’ out of a dating app. One had even consulted me about his fear of falling for a girl he met on Tinder because he just couldn’t “trust anyone who would go on Tinder for love.” I reminded him that he was there for the same reason. Today, they are in a happy relationship.
With that said, there are also many people who still doubt the value of dating apps. It is difficult to trust a dating app to find someone (with the intention to date) authentically, furthermore, when some of these apps are also exploited by people for casual flings and sex. To begin with, the conservative Asian in us already screams ‘danger’ the moment we start swiping.
Maybe we are too conservative or prideful to buy into such an unconventional approach in love. Or maybe we are just too picky. Whatever it is, Singaporeans clearly have a problem with finding love and studies have shown that we are settling down later.
The government never fails to remind us that we need to buck up because of our low birth rates and aging population. In their bid to play matchmaker, the government even has an initiative that gives singles $100 in credit to spend on subsidised dating events and services. Though, whether Singaporeans are actually using this is another question.
Objectively speaking, dating events and matchmaking services are great ways to find love with. If you were to look at it as a game, these are ideal tools that will increase your chances in finding love.
While dating events are still fairly acceptable, most Singaporeans still find it a tad embarrassing, or awkward, to ‘resort to’ matchmaking services. After all, the fees for matchmaking services is still a gamble that one must be willing to take, because you may end up not finding your ideal partner after paying so much.
With that said, there has been an increase in the number of matchmaking agencies in Singapore.
To understand more about the stigma against matchmaking services that I believe exists in Singapore, I spoke to one 34-year-old Clement, who had used different matchmaking services in Singapore. He is also currently paying about $6000 for matchmaking services with local company, Destini IS, which specialises in matchmaking services between Singaporeans and Japanese.
Despite having spent so much money in his attempt in finding a life partner, Clement admitted that he hesitated signing up for matchmaking services at first.
“While matchmaking is common in China, Europe, and the US, many Singaporeans are still shy about it.”
He was initially doubtful of it because of how unfamiliar matchmaking was in Singapore. Besides, he had always believed that meeting people through his own social circles would be easier and more comfortable, since there would already be a sense of acquaintance through common friends.
But the harsh reality is that with every year that passes, Clement’s social circle gets smaller, and so does the number of available singles in his community. It didn’t help that he is working in a male-dominated industry.
“There’s also been pressure coming from peers and family, especially when I get their wedding invites and during social gatherings.”
“It’s what actually made me resolve to start focusing on settling down as well.”
After his experiences in four relationships, dating apps and with matchmaking, Clement no longer sees it ‘shameful’ or embarrassing to use matchmaking services to find a partner.
“When you want to be fit, you would sign up for a gym membership or a yoga plan, and you would make the best of it. You would even invest in relevant gears like sportswear. Likewise, the same logic applies on a matchmaking service. Since I have decided to step out to try it, I’ll make the best of it to succeed in what I signed up for.”
Moreover, there are several matchmaking agencies in Singapore, some of which are officially recognised under the Social Development Network (a government page). It is also increasingly normal to see Singaporean men finding love through other means. There are ‘non-official’ services that operate through all kinds of platforms from webpage services to even apps like WeChat, and I’m sure most of us have heard of the ‘Siamdiu for Life, Siambu for Wife’ motto as well.
There was a time where matchmaking is the last thing anyone in our generation wants. One would rather die alone with their 99 cats (or dogs) than be forced into tying the knot with someone we have no interest in.
However, getting a little help to broaden our horizons in an attempt to find a partner is no longer unusual. It’s funny that in an age where we are more connected than ever with the help of technology and social media tools, building relationships have become even more difficult than before.
Love no longer comes that easily and while I’m glad that there are all these dating apps and services to help us advance in the game of love (and life), I certainly hope that there won’t come a day where we have to rely on these tools to help us maintain all our relationships.
Also read: I Question My Marriage Now That Our Blood Types Are Not Compatible.
(Header Image: Odyssey)
It’s a snide remark that Alan has gotten a lot of since young. It is not that he had anything against non-heterosexuals. It was simply a societal expectation to fit into the mould of a typical guy who'd do sports, enjoy computer games, and talk about the hottest girls in class, but he wasn’t that kind of person. And when you don’t fit into what society deems as ‘normal’ for your gender, it can be quite agonising as a young person trying to find a place in the world.
Growing up in a female-dominated family rubbed off of him because his mannerisms have always been quite effeminate. This, in addition to how soft-spoken and shy he is in new environments, yet expressive and overly-enthusiastic around friends, has often caused Alan to be mistaken as gay.
For the longest time, ‘gay’ has been a common label that people use to categorise guys who are too soft or feminine. For most men however, being called gay is an insult, not because it’s degrading, but because it’s a stab at their masculinity.
Despite the progressive and liberal beliefs that we are increasingly adopting, we still subconsciously subscribe to traditional traits that identify men and women. Men have always been expected to be masculine.
Masculinity and femininity has long been associated with men and women respectively. Femininity checks out for women, because the associated traits grant us the ability to be empowered and to be celebrated for our strength (as we are supposedly gentle and weaker creatures).
Masculinity, however, is a concept that has caused many men to feel the stress of living up to expectations.
Women are expected to uphold traditionally feminine values like being gentle, caring, sensitive, and nurturing. Men, on the other hand, are seen as the alphas. They are expected to be strong, dominant, and tough. These are all traits that we often expect of men, and they are also traits that we see as attractive and desirable in men.
And therein lies the problem, because the need to be masculine will easily become toxic for men.
For Alan, he has gotten so used to being mistaken as gay that it has become second nature to joke about it. Nonetheless, growing up with bullies picking on him for his ‘girly behaviour’ left a mark.
“Being mistaken for something that I’m not affected the way I think of myself as I grow older.”
The way his mother reacted to him contributed to his insecurity. Once, when Alan was watching Winx Club in the living room with his sister, their mother said:
“Can you guys change the channel? This is why your brother’s turning gay.”
Alan’s mother would also often make comments like “Can you be tougher,” and “Can you don’t move like that?” These made him feel embarrassed and ashamed of himself. All these experiences in his childhood have often made him mask it with boyish behaviours like spiking his hair or even cursing.
Over time, it caused him to question his identity. It took a long time before he finally got comfortable being himself. He is just a guy who is softer and more expressive than most guys.
However, Alan’s story is one of the many of our men have but hide, because toxic masculinity is just not something that men talk about.
As defined by Wikipedia, toxic masculinity is when we restrict boys and men to only expressing certain kinds of emotions, “including social expectations that men seek to be dominant, and when we expect them to conform to “certain traditional masculine ideal behaviors such as dominance, self-reliance, and competition.”
Whether it’s the need to suppress emotions or to maintain a mask of toughness, these are all beliefs that I believe many of our men have dealt with, as with what Alan had gone through.
We just aren’t aware of their struggles, because men don’t talk about it—how could they?
Besides Alan, I’ve had openly gay friends who have told me about how they have been told by family members to stop being so “娘” (loosely translates to mean girly). “They always tell me things like ‘men must learn to drive manual, not auto, and must learn to do DIY homefix nonsense cos next time you will be the man of your house, etc.”
Beyond mannerisms, there’s also a very real pressure for men to be a leader and provider, or the ‘man of the house’.
We may not always explicitly say it to our men, but it doesn’t take away the fact that men have always been expected to provide, whether it is for their ageing parents, partner, or children. And the stress of having to live up to these obligations can often be suffocating.
For 32-year-old George, the stress built up when he lost his father. As an only son, he saw it as his duty to takeover his dad’s role in the family in looking after his mother and looking out for his sister. At the same time, he also had a duty to his newly wedded wife and her parents. The pressure of having to be that manly figure to all his loved ones, while juggling his own obligations at work, led him to feeling exhausted.
People don’t expect men to be weak, but when you are at your lowest, it can be very easy to feel inadequate, which was what crept up on George. Men aren’t expected to openly reveal their fears and insecurities, which was why despite feeling lost in his struggle to be that manly figure to his loved ones, George felt the need to suppress the fragile side of him. Moreover, it is his duty to protect them instead, not weigh them down with his problems.
Likewise for 27-year-old Lester, the pressure to be masculine was always present. When he was growing up, he “had a hard time trying to look cool or be cool in school, which in my head, was synonymous with being manly.”
Although Lester no longer sees the need to intentionally portray masculinity, these ‘expectations’ will always return. For instance, he will be more cautious in front of his girlfriend's parents, because “there's a chance that they would think I’m not ‘man’ enough for their daughter, whether it's my job position or mannerisms.”
There’s also the pressure to excel professionally. 29-year-old John added, “in society, there's a lot of expectations for men to be more successful than their female counterparts and I think it's what's holding up a lot of norms that are seemingly out of place in the 21st century.”
He explained, “for example, if a couple needs to decide who to stay home for the child, chances are it is usually the girl. People get that it's unfair for women, but it is also unfair for men because we also have to deal with the expectations of others besides that of your spouse.”
This year, the Samaritans of Singapore reported a 10% increase in total suicides in Singapore. More importantly, suicide is more prevalent among young men.
There’s been articles written about how toxic masculinity triggers suicidal tendencies in men, and while I cannot speak for the men, I can imagine how difficult it must be to have to mask emotions and put on the front of a tough guy just because it is what society expects of you.
I can only imagine the kind of pressure that my male friends and family have faced or are facing. I only know their woes through the stories they are willing to reveal to me. However, judging by the stories I’ve heard and read, I’m pretty sure many Singaporean men have had similar predicaments at some point. They just aren’t as vocal about it because society doesn't expect them to ‘whine’.
We’ve always encouraged our empowered our ladies to speak up and celebrated women, but we often neglect our men. In light of International Men’s Day today, let us turn our attention to our men, and be a little more empathetic about the struggles that they face, and to also celebrate them for being the pillar of unwavering strength.
From a Singaporean female to our guys, kudos to those who have managed to fight the pressure of toxic masculinity, and to have emerged more self-confident. However, if you are still struggling with inadequacy or insecurity, do not be afraid to seek help. And like what’s been preached in the many movements and causes for women: Don’t be afraid to speak up just because you are male.
Also read: I Became A Dad At 22 – Our Parents Opposed But We Kept The Baby.
(Header Image Credit: TheHealthSite)
Remember when we used to have Ofo and Obikes?
They were such a blessing and provided so much convenience, until we killed them off. Sadly, Singaporeans were just not gracious and civil enough to look after these nice things.
When shared bikes exited Singapore, PMDs took over. It was a great mobility device for its ease of access and price point. You didn’t have to go through the lengthy and expensive procedure of getting a vehicle (and license), and these devices were a great step up from bicycles.
When PMDs became more popular in our society, problems began to arise.
On the ground level, you have the groups of Young Punks that zip around on their modded e-scooters or e-bikes, like they are the kings of the road. Modern day romance for the younger generation now includes standing in tandem on a speeding e-scooter with chroma lights and raucous music to boot. And if you have ever stood in the way of one of these YPs, you will understand what it's like to be assaulted by the blaring music that almost seems to scream at you to “SIAM LAH”.
PMD riders may also be overzealous to trust in their ability to have full control of their devices and in preventing collisions, because the thing about accidents is that you never really know when an accident will happen. What's more, when many pedestrians are like digital zombies with their phones.
PMDs had become increasingly problematic as they fall between the cracks—they don’t belong on the roads as it is too dangerous for motorists and PMD riders, but they don’t really belong on the footpaths either because of the potential severity it can cause due to its speed and weight.
Furthermore, with the increasing number of accidents in the past year or so, the ban was something that has been brewing for a long time coming.
On the surface, it’s a relief that the ban wasn’t a complete one of all PMDs across Singapore. However, restricting e-scooters and e-bikes to cycling paths and park connector network is like removing toilet paper from toilets. Sure, one can still use their devices but it’s going to be very inconvenient.
The biggest problem of all isn’t exactly the ban itself, but how it was introduced so suddenly.
The advisory period allows offenders a chance to be issued warnings before the penalties (fines and jail time) kick in next year, but the end message is still the same: E-scooter and e-bike users are not allowed on footpaths.
It has affected thousands of Singaporeans. Some of whom depended heavily on their PMDs for their livelihood. If my livelihood had been taken away overnight, I would be riled up too.
One day is hardly enough time for anyone to make alternative arrangements, especially for those who had been relying heavily on their devices for a livelihood. And it is for this reason that so food delivery riders have gone on to meet with some of our political leaders to seek help.
People were also upset because it seemed like there are alternatives that wasn’t explored before the ban kicked in. For example, could it not have been a more gradual transition? Why had the possibility of providing at least the food delivery riders the chance to be licensed to ride not been considered? And what about dedicated paths for PMDs?
Subsequently, LTA and the Ministry of Transport have launched an e-scooter Trade-in Grant (eTG) to provide comprehensive assistance to affected food delivery riders. Riders who wish to continue working for food delivery companies will receive $1,000 to switch to Power Assisted Bicycles (PABs) or $600 for bicycles.
Moving forward however, I highly doubt that the future for e-scooters will improve anytime soon. The issue is as with any new disruption. It requires the authorities to come up with new solutions to address the disruption. Any changes to reverse the ban or for e-scooters to be conditionally allowed ‘on the roads’ again is going to involve large-scale work.
The ban wasn’t exactly a surprise either. The fact is that we just didn't know how to coexist on the same footpaths. Most of our footpaths is at a comfortable size to be shared with pedestrians and mobility devices. We’ve had bicycles on our footpaths for so long, and PMDs are essentially its power-assisted counterparts. So in terms of size, I believe it is possible to coexist on the same path.
The issue is that both pedestrians and riders had been taking safety for granted. Should we have been more aware of our surroundings and be more careful on these shared paths, having PMDs around really shouldn’t be that big of a problem.
The reality is that many PMD users did not even regard the speed limit with importance. The Sunday Times once staked out at 2 locations and they found that every single PMD rider from both locations were “travelling at more than twice the speed limit.” Although, as someone who uses food delivery services, I also understand the pressure food delivery riders must have in delivering on time, which is an unconscious motivator for these riders to speed.
It doesn’t help that pedestrians are often glued to their phones since we unconsciously assume that our footpaths are a safe space for us. I’ve even seen people who were so absorbed in whatever’s on their screens that they wouldn’t even notice it if someone was riding straight at them.
Then, there are the black sheep of PMDs riders who are truly a nuisance on the road when they behave like the kings of the road. These are the people who have accelerated the demise of e-scooters.
The ban may have been introduced overnight, but it is one that has been in the making for a long time.
PMDs have posed so many safety risks, from the countless PMD fires that have burned down flats to the increasing number of accidents and the recent death of the elderly woman. If all these risks are not enough to endorse a stricter regulation or structure for the use of the devices, then I question how much more we are willing to risk before we address these risks.
Nonetheless, it is a very touchy situation because like what Mr Teo Chee Hean said at a meet-the-people-session on Friday, the whole issue is one “of trying to safeguard lives as well as trying to safeguard livelihoods”.
Thousands of people have depended on the ability to ride for their livelihood. But the number of PMD-related accidents have also been increasing. An ST article states that “almost 300 people were treated last year at hospitals for accidents related to personal mobility devices (PMDs).”
Most people are also unaware of how severe PMD accidents can be, but according to an impact mechanics expert Professor Victor P.W. Shim, getting hit by “a 65kg rider on a 10kg PMD travelling at the speed limit of 25kmh would be equivalent to being struck by a 10kg sack of rice dropped from the seventh floor of a Housing Board block.”
Most of all, the unfortunate reality is that on top of our inability to share our footpaths, we simply do not have adequate infrastructure to support the widespread use of mobility devices on our streets, especially when these devices are becoming increasingly popular.
Thus, until the authorities figure out a way to strike a balance between achieving safety and the benefits of having e-scooters around, the ban is probably in the best interests of the majority of Singaporens.
If anything, the only redeeming quality of this sudden disruption is how it has made Singaporeans hyper-aware of safety on footpaths.
If you think about it, it’s also a wise move to introduce the ban. For food delivery riders, licenses to allow users to ride on footpaths is now also seen as the most desired alternative. Had licensing been introduced instead of the ban, it would have been seen as a huge hassle.
With all that said, I empathise with the riders who depended on their e-scooters and e-bikes for a living, as well as the merchants and companies who had been working on introducing PMD-sharing services in Singapore.
Unfortunately (or fortunately), Singapore is a nation that prioritises law and order, and the only way forward is to take safety more seriously. If we don’t know how to behave ourselves and look out for each other, then we can’t complain if we are forced to do so. And if we don’t want to kill of PMDs in Singapore like we did with shared-bikes, then we ought to start being more careful with and around these devices.
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