Better grab first, later no more!

-- Mr. Kiasu

Kiasu (怕输) is the national trait of Singapore. From a Hokkien (Chinese) word meaning "afraid (怕) to be inferior (输)", the term was popularized by the eponymous cartoon character Mr. Kiasu, whose exploits were compiled into a best-selling book entitled Everything also I want (Singlish at its best!) and later even turned into a rather less successful sitcom. The word is now widely used to describe the average Singaporean's philosophy of life, to the extent that the word now covers everything from competitiveness to overengineering and outright rudeness. Manifestations of being kiasu (also known as kiasuism) can be observed at...
  • all-you-can-eat buffets, where people first reserve an entire table for themselves and then cram their plates full of more food they can eat, just to make sure they get their money's worth (and at least as much as everybody else)
  • SMRT stations at rush hour, where people insist on attempting to cram themselves into subway trains before passengers have disembarked
  • overnight queues for special events and sales, in order to be sure to get in
Not that kiasuism hasn't had its good moments: McDonald's designed a kiasuburger, whose chicken pattie was larger than the bun, and had extra sesame seeds to boot! The kiasuburger campaign lasted two months, and during that time 1.2 million were gobbled up.

The Alphabet of Kiasu

The essence of kiasu has been distilled into an alphabetic list:
A - Always must win
B - Borrow but never return
C - Cheap is good
D - Don't trust anyone
E - Everything also must grab!
F - Free! Free! Free!
G - Grab first talk later
H - Help yourself to everything
I - I first, I want, I everything
J - Jump queue
K - Keep coming back for more
L - Look for discount
M - Must not lose face
N - Never mind what they think
O - Outdo everyone you know
P - Pay only when necessary
Q - Quit while you are ahead
R - Rushing and pushing wins the race 
S - Sample are always welcome
T - Take but don't give
U - Unless it's free forget it
V - Vow to be number one
W - Winner takes it All! All! All!
X - X'tra = More
Y - Yell if necessary to get what you want
Z - Zebras are kiasu because they want to be black and white at the same time.


But hey -- while the kiasu mentality certainly stands out in the middle of mellow friendly South-East Asia, to your average Westerner it's hardly noticeable. Singapore is a tiny country that has clawed its way to the top by outcompeting everyone else, and like in any other rich, fast-paced, modern city, this has left its marks on the people as well. Despite this, S'pore is still OK-lah!

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