For a foreign perspective economist Graeme Maxton who is based in Vienna & S'pore describes kiasu (a chinese dialect) as must win, never lose. It is a sinkie trait common among many sinkies which makes S'pore an unpleasant place to live. Of course he said the trait also exist elsewhere. But i would say the kiasuism here is chronic.
Examples of an individual seeking to gain at the expense of others which Maxton observed after living in S'pore:
- when shop giving away a free packet of tissue as part of a promotion, a line will form whether those waiting need tissues or not. Many sinkies will wait 30mins for a free packet of tissue they do not need.
- When sinkies get in elevators, they press close button as others approach, just to gain.
- When driving on S'pore expressways, drivers are advised not to signal before they change lanes. Signalling will only encourage a fellow motorist to move into the spot you need, just to make it awkward for you to overtake or exit.
- Kiasu means filling your plate at buffet meal with as much of the best & most expensive food as possible, even though you will not eat it - just so no one else can get it.
My personal experience in my life is it creeps in at upper secondary school. Is a time where one find out which of your fellow students are helpful ones & which are selfish ones in preparation for the leaving exams deciding which tertiary school one goes to. Till this day i can still remember who helped me & who 'UNhelp' me.
The situation is especially chronic now with tuition being rampant as parents try to gain their kids an advantage in their grades. Schools become more like a battleground - you 'die' while i live to get into a faculty/school of my choice. Overdose of competition is unhealthy for teenagers.
When the govt floods this tiny island with more people it just makes the kiasuism even worse. More people fighting for limited spaces in schools, jobs, housing, toilet seats, hawker centre seats, train/bus seats tennis/badminton courts etc. More & more people feel stressed out living at this type of 'battlefield'.