No. 1 is 第一 (dìyī)

Singaporeans are known for being “kiasu” i.e. competitive in everything.

Now, I think that the mainland Chinese beats Singapore for that title because they are SUPER competitive.

Anyone who has ever visited China will return home to share stories of people pushing, shoving, elbowing or blatant queue jumping.

The culture is so strong that even my son does it to us! I have to remind him repeatedly that it’s rude to elbow people out of his way.

Most people visiting China are not used to it – imagine that you are alone lining up to buy tickets and this guy just comes up and steps up in front of you. Yup, you are invisible.

I was indignant and I still am but Hubby is used to it.

Now that I can speak a bit of Chinese, I’d say, “排队好吗? [páiduì hǎo ma?]”. In most cases, they would apologize and step back. In some cases, they just ignore you and go on!

The competitiveness spills over every aspect of their lives e.g.
a) the type of car each person drives – it’s not unusual to hear of people changing to a better car every Chinese New Year.

b) the school the child attends – My students who come from “No. 1 Middle School” or “No. 1 High School” are very proud of the fact. Students who come from No. 3 and onwards are rather shy about it.

I think it’s silly to name schools that way. Thank God our schools back home are given proper names. Don’t you think it’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy i.e. No. 3 school will always be a third-rate school?

I find that students from No. 3 schools are more creative and streetwise than the scholarly ones from No. 1 schools…

c) everything others eat, own or use.This is one aspect that I cannot tolerate about the mainland Chinese i.e. how snoopy they are!

They see no harm in asking you point blank about anything and everything that you have.

I have had people poke around the stuff I have in my supermarket cart.

I’ve had had people snoop around my home and open close doors.

I’ve had had maids who ask me where I bought my underwear!

Err…I don’t think they understand the concept of privacy.

When I started teaching, I learned fast that you have to tap on this competitive spirit to motivate the students.

Want Chinese students to do something? Offer them awards and trophys to become 头号 [tóuhào].

Then, step back and be impressed 😀