Monday, July 7, 2008

Mrs. Manners

Remember all of those things our parents told us as children regarding how to act at the dinner table? There were many nights in the young Heffley house where Ryan was in tears for being criticized on how he holds his fork and I would be annoyed because I was in trouble for my napkin not being in my lap. Our parents made damn sure that we didn't behave like animals at the dinner table in any situation. I thought this was good stuff to know as I became an adult. Did you know that KU even holds a seminar on dinner ettiquette? So it's pretty important to know this stuff.

That is, until you come to Singapore.

Then you can throw most of those rules out the window.

Singaporeans have their own list of table manners, many of which are pretty offensive to Americans. It's still hard for Aaron and I to get used to and people often stare at us for our "odd" eating techniques. Let me explain:

1) Singaporeans ALWAYS have two utensils in their hands. If they're using western silverware, they usually have a fork in the right hand and a knife or a spoon in the left. When they eat, they use both pieces. The spoon or knife will be used to push food onto the fork.

If they are using chopsticks, the sticks will be in the right hand and an asian soup spoon will be in the left. They will use the chopsticks to pick up food and place it in the spoon in their left hand. Then they eat out of the spoon. It seems like an unecessary, extra step to me, but whatever.

2) The above rule only applies to those eating non-Indian food. People from India don't use silverware. They use their hands ---er, hand. (They only eat with their right hand because they use their left hand in lieu of toilet paper, not even kidding. I can't make this stuff up.) Anyways, the Indians eat a lot of curry and cous cous, rice and so on. It's a pretty revolting thing to see all over their hand and face. It's messy. It's slobbery. It's just plain gross. Which brings me to the next issue...

3) They don't use napkins! In fact, they don't even have them at hawker stalls or food courts. The only place they have napkins are restaurants and even then, don't expect a surplus. I have to carry around kleenexes and a Tide pen for us when we eat out. I'm not sure why the Singaporeans don't value cleanliness. They eat lots of soups, sauces and other things that could end up on the front of your t-shirt. So why wouldn't they want napkins around?

4) Speaking of the soups, here's another thing they do. They slurp soup. I remember my mom specifically telling me not to slurp my chicken noodle because it's obnoxious. The Singaporean moms forget to tell their children. All of them slurp their soup. They use the Asian spoons and the Western ones and place their mouths on the edge and suck in the liquid. They don't ever put a whole utensil in their mouth. It's merely a vehicle to get the soup to a suckable distance. Super annoying.

5) Ah, then there's the children in restaurants. As a server, I hated when small children were at my table because that meant two things: 1. A crappy tip because they have to buy diapers and 2. A huge mess to clean up and the loss of more tips while I take 20 minutes to do so. However, American children in restaurants is NOTHING compared to Singaporean children in restaurants. Parents in Singapore are very passive. They let their children run wild and scream as much as they'd like. We were eating at a restaurant in Clarke Quay last February and actually saw two children getting shooed away by their parents because they didn't want to deal with them being wild. Um, what? Your children are playing tag between the tables and yelling amongst other diners and you'd rather the rest of us put up with them than you?! I didn't decide to give birth to your bratty little monsters. I wanted to slap their mother. The fear of being caned stopped me.

I'd really like to hear exactly what the Singaporean mothers tell their children in regards to manners and dining ettiquette.

"Eat your soup louder!" "Use both hands so you don't miss a bite!" "Run around and work off some of your dinner before you finish!"

I can only imagine.


Cori said...

Paging Dr. Cori (I'm wearing my psychologist hat today.)

"Megan, you seem to be exhibiting more and more hostility towards your Asian neighbors. Not playing well with others."

Jules said...

I am Singaporean, and I've been wanting to slap many mothers for letting their kids off leash. I avoid going out on weekends because that's when they (the kids) come out to play. Little terrors.

I lived for 10 years in a small quiet town in Canada, and this place - my hometown - has been driving me nuts ever since I came back.

Lovely blog :-)