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Social class or the lack of it

When I first took on work as a waiter in 2012, one of the people I hung out with told me that I should ensure that I was not paid CPF because it would reflect badly on my work history. This friend of mine also got upset when I told him that I did do things like use newspaper to clean the class door and he said that it would upset my family that I, as a graduate Chinese, was doing menial task.

I bring up this conversation I had all those years ago because many people assume that because I had no qualms taking on a “menial” job in my late thirties, that I am not class or status conscious. As is often said, I clearly didn’t have the pride not to want to be seen doing “menial” things.

This impression about me is actually wrong. I am exceedingly class and status conscious. I actually believe that there are “high” class, “low” class and “no” class people in. I can’t say that I don’t get impressed by external factors like how someone is dressed (“Cosmetics count” as an uncle and former boss used to say), wealth (who doesn’t like being around the guys who have a “good” life) and education (who doesn’t like being around witty people), the biggest differentiator of class is in one’s behavior, particularly in how they treat those they perceive to be of a “lesser” social status.

I live in fear of being thought of as a “low life pariah.” So, I am extra conscious of being polite to the point of being meek whenever I speak to people like construction workers, street sweepers and maids. I believe that if I ever spoke like an “overlord” people around me would cringe in embarrassment of being in my company.

He said it Best.

One of the best impressions I had was of a former colleague. This colleague of mine is one of those chaps who is happily laid back and chilled out. His idea of “formal” dressing is a polo-t-shirt and he has no qualms about being known as “low-life-scum” (which he proudly told me was one of the email addresses he had). Yet, whenever I was around him, he was always polite. When we were served lunch at the client’s location, he made it a point to wash up (or in his words “don’t want them to think we’re animals”). His behavior was such that I understood him to be a high-class, well brought up person.

By comparison, I have met people who have everything that I don’t have like money, brains and hair. Yet, instead of feeling envy, I’ve been so repulsed by them that I’ve been praying for the opportunity to take a baseball bat to them and then to myself because I wouldn’t know how to clean of being contaminated by them. I meet a lot of such people in the liquidations industry. One of the very worst were a group of directors of a former listed construction company (the type that gets government contracts). Everyone in the group was well to do (the least paid was the finance manager on a small salary of $8,000 plus a month). Yet, they were repulsive and I cringed every time I was in their presence. You’re talking about guys who thought were pretty cool to be able to feed the 60 over construction workers they had not paid for several months and left on the construction site with no food, running water and a generator for electricity – which only had fuel for a few days by the time they went into provisional liquidation (and they only paid the said $600 because we advised them that they needed to get the workers off their payroll).

Working a “menial” job in my late thirties helped propel me into the leagues of the “class-sensitive.” I would notice that people who were nice to me but rather less so to my Pinoy or elderly colleagues, who were actually doing the same job as me.

Unfortunately, there seems to be a casual acceptance of what you’d call “pariah” behavior in Asia, especially if the pariah in question has a bit of money to throw around or comes from a prominent enough family. I remember an Italian colleague at the Bistrot getting the shock of her life when one of our customers, who happens to be from a wealthy enough family and a good friend of the Bistrot owner, slammed her class on the table in her direction. This girl’s sister used to think it was a point of generosity to invite the chef out to drink her left over wine. It was, as they say, acceptable behavior because she had money and came from a “good” family.

You could say that this is life. When dealing in business, you want the people with money to spend it with you, so you do what you need to do. However, that doesn’t mean that such pariahs need to be respected as anything more once they are of no use to the people who know how to speak human to each other.

 

Tang Li

*Although I’ve been based mainly in Singapore for nearly two decades, I’ve had the privilege of being able meet people who have crossed borders and cultures. I’ve befriended ministers and ambassadors and worked on projects involving a former head of state. Yet, at the same time, I’ve had the privilege of befriending migrant labourers and former convicts. All of them have a story to tell. All of them add to the fabric of life. I hope to express the stories that inspire us to create life as it should be.

 

 

yyy
READER COMMENTS BELOW

14 Responses to “Social class or the lack of it”

  • Pariah wantsit oneway orother:

    A hot girl wants to commit suicide by jumping from a bridge when an ugly smelly homeless pariah walks up to her and proposes: “Hey you hot babe, let’s f*ck! The girl shouts back: “Get the fiack away you ugly bastard”. The guy breaks into perverse laughter: “Alright,” he insisted, “I’ll wait for you down there hahahaha”.

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  • xoxo:

    Social cla$$ maybe,yeah?
    Money TALKS N TALKS LOUDLY IN $inkaPOOR.
    THE RICH,WE MAKE THEM RICHER.
    As for the poor,you die your blardy business.

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  • HDB depreciates to ZERO:

    Straits Times: Sell back to Govt, shorter lease: Six proposals that were not adopted in prime location HDB model

    These were most likely not adopted because it they would set a “bad precedent” which will vacfire on the Government when the price of old HDB flats start going down sharply after they are over 50 years old. Then around 20,000 old flats will be added to these annually likely causing a collapse of HDB resale market.

    Majority of Singaporeans gave most of their CPF savings tied to their HDB flat. With prices collapse there will be pressure to sell old flats back to the Government without losing CPF money invested in depreciating to zero HDB flats.

    PAP under LHL made HDB a Ponzi Scheme. “There will be blood on the streets” when price of HDB flats collapses. HIP1, HIP2 and VERS will not make any difference because when the 99-year lease ends HDB flat is worth nothing (zero).

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  • Temusik Patriot:

    Nothing new Tangfastic, the man who conned all of you aptly named Lie & Con You…”thinks”…lower mortals will Breed a class of Idiots…take a look at his selective Breed…stay true to yourself n keep well…Evil is all around

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  • Hey Botak - F*** You Botak:

    “Don’t do unto others what you don’t want done u…”

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  • AhLi's class or the lack of it:

    Two men sit on a porch in plantation times:
    One is the son of a rich plantation owner and the other is the son of an average middle class southerner. The rich son loves to brag so naturally he looks over at the middle class son and says “My dad just got me this golf-clubs, see all these intricate workmanship?” the middle class son looks at them and says, “Well that’s nice.” in a cordial tone.
    The rich son begins to get annoyed that he isn’t impressed like most other dudes in the town so he continues. “The other day my daddy also got me a $500,000 Chevrolet straight in from Detroit!” The middle class son, still unphased looks at him with a warm smile and says “Well that’s cool.” The rich son is furious by this point, and he decides one more time to try to impress him.
    “Well my dad also got me a whole set of gold watches just to see me happy!” Again the middle class son just says “Well that’s nice.”
    Not being able to stand it anymore and guessing the middle class son must have something better, he asks “Well what did your dad get you?!”
    With a warm and inviting smile the middle class guy looks directly into the rich guy’s eyes and says “my dad sent me to charm school” “Oh really? What’s so great about that?” says the rich guy. The middle class guy not wavering in his civility says “In charm school they teach you to say “Well that’s nice” instead of “Hey, fiack you!”

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  • Harder Truths:

    Let’s talk about something besides CoVID.

    This guy Birtwistle who has left $G on the sly is now ‘renouncing’ $G citizenship because he has to retain his UK citizenship.

    https://sg.yahoo.com/news/harry-birtwistle-father-son-never-wanted-renounce-citizenship-skip-ns-140123915.html

    So he has been having two citizenships? That is ok – he has Ang Moh father, and Ang Moh name, so he can do all kinds of illegal things like have dual citizenship. And of course he is not coming back.

    Actually this guy and his father are smart – they know how to play the system. Well done!

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  • Harder Truths:

    Hey Botak - F*** You Botak:
    “Don’t do unto others what you don’t want done u…”

    “Do unto others before they do it unto you.”

    - 4 Gen

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  • Sith Lords' favorite PR guy:

    Which Star Wars character works at a restaurant?
    Darth Waiter

    What did Darth Waiter say to Ali when the boxer took his time chatting over the table while poring over the menu?
    Hey bro. you can dance like a butterfly or vilify your oppo in the ring but at this makan table please focus ok? What the fiack….. you think you’re a lousy Jedi ah? Can bully working shit lords ah?

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  • Smart? Play the system?:

    Harder Truths: Actually this guy and his father are smart – they know how to play the system. Well done!

    Where got smart? Should renounce long ago. Now cannot even come back

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  • Skeptic Alec:

    Sith Lords' favorite PR guy:
    Which Star Wars character works at a restaurant?
    Darth Waiter

    What did Darth Waiter say to Ali when the boxer took his time chatting over the table while poring over the menu?
    Hey bro. you can dance like a butterfly or vilify your oppo in the ring but at this makan table please focus ok? What the fiack….. you think you’re a lousy Jedi ah? Can bully working shit lords ah?

    2 “AhLI” here. One shiny, one black superman. So Daft Waiter is the shiny one.

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  • #06-177 water plants naked:

    High class doesn’t mean have class.

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  • Temusik Patriot:

    Harder Truths:
    Let’s talk about something besides CoVID.

    This guy Birtwistle who has left $G on the sly is now ‘renouncing’ $G citizenship because he has to retain his UK citizenship.

    https://sg.yahoo.com/news/harry-birtwistle-father-son-never-wanted-renounce-citizenship-skip-ns-140123915.html

    So he has been having two citizenships? That is ok – he has Ang Moh father, and Ang Moh name, so he can do all kinds of illegal things like have dual citizenship. And of course he is not coming back.

    Actually this guy and his father are smart – they know how to play the system. Well done!

    Dual citizenship allowed until age 21 when you have to renounce one to retain Singapore citizenship…many sent their sons away at 8-12 to avoid NS at 18…should their gain PR or citizenship from wherever they are…give the middle finger to NS

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  • Singaporeans R Free Riders:

    One of the very worst were a group of directors of a former listed construction company (the type that gets government contracts). Everyone in the group was well to do (the least paid was the finance manager on a small salary of $8,000 plus a month). Yet, they were repulsive and I cringed every time I was in their presence. You’re talking about guys who thought were pretty cool to be able to feed the 60 over construction workers they had not paid for several months and left on the construction site with no food, running water and a generator for electricity…
    =====================================================================
    Dear Tang Li,
    Yes, this is how you get rich, exploiting and preying on the poor ..this is how many Singaporean old, ugly, big tummy man do.

    Lots of Awkward Couples!
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E9qnc429HRI

    Luckily we got LKY who is not like that. And LKY believe that the rich must help the poor.

    So we have the best MOM to take care of us with the right rules and regulations

    GE2024.PAP.Guarantee.Win.Again
    Majullah $PAP$ $PAP$ Huat$ Huat$ Huat$
    Singaporeans must be Cheaperer, Betterer, Fasterer
    Workers must accept wage sacrifices to keep businesses going.

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