Of all the things I love about London, from the spacious and homely pubs to the abundant museums and galleries, by far the most wonderful thing is briefly falling head over heels for strangers you'll probably never see again. There's something bittersweet about holding the gaze of the handsome stranger across the train car (and that's how you know it's real, because making eye contact on the tube is unacceptable otherwise). Unfortunately, unlike London, Singapore is nearly devoid of such bittersweet connections. Here, the only person staring at you across the train cabin usually has a pedo 'stache, an unreasonably shiny forehead, and one too many shirt buttons undone.
Despite having 5 million people, the city feels very small. Chances are that any man you come across with a half-decent face only has two degrees of separation from you, one of which is probably your workmate whom he went on a date with and never called back. Singapore has many attractions as a city, but abundant romance is definitely not one of them. This is not for lack of trying - Lady Iron Chef and The Smart Local have mastered the art of click-bait romanticism, and every second woman's Instagram is filled with super cute local cafés to drag one's long-suffering bae to.
However, I think what kills the romance - at least amongst the expat community - is a terrible affliction that I like to call Ang Moh Syndrome (Ang Moh being the collective term for white people in Singapore). This is a woeful situation in which 'Yellow Fever' and an inflamed ego combine to create a ghastly condition. With my expert opinion, garnered by at least ten first dates, first-hand interviews and extensive social media stalking, I will attempt to give an introductory understanding as to why dating in Singapore is such an awful mess.
There are several stages of dating for the average male expat in Singapore. I always say that the best time to date a man is within a few weeks of him reaching Singapore, or after many many years of living here. These are the periods before Ang Moh Syndrome settles in, and after the epidemic has (hopefully) passed.
The syndrome itself is very deadly, with a slow onset but strong symptoms. The victim can be any man ranging from below to slightly above average attractiveness (the very attractive are either immune or have already been afflicted by similar conditions, although sometimes existing symptoms can become exacerbated).
Let's call this passably attractive man Jacques, because all the expats here seem to be either French or 'in shipping' (but oddly never both). Back home in Lyon, Jacques is nothing special looks-wise (although I'm sure that somewhere underneath the accent that sounds too strong to be real, he must have a perfectly adequate personality). When Jacques goes out, the Kings of the club are tall, offensively handsome, and suspiciously metro men, and the most attention Jacques gets is from the women wearing leggings as pants who have been day-drinking since 3pm.
His charm (or closest thing to it, considering that his personality is about as appealing as a plastic spoon) lies in meeting women through the office, where the dull pace of their uninspiring jobs makes Jacques seem terribly charming in comparison. Never in his life has Jacques had women fawning over him (except perhaps for that one time he went to Ibiza in which he swears it happened, but it probably didn't). Jacques has never been seen as an object of mass desire. Perhaps a passable companion for the lonely drunk hearts after 3am, or a small office crush, but never a stud in any way.
Then Jacques moved to Singapore.
Despite what a Sunday afternoon at Tanjong Beach Club would have you believe, Singapore has a dearth of foreign men. Genuinely attractive and good-natured ones are like the rarest Pokemon and some lucky ladies (myself included, finally) have already caught 'em all. Now with such a large amount of locals, one would wonder why the demand is so skewed. From my understanding and totally scientific research, the reasons seem to be:
1. Only a small minority of local men want to date foreign girls
2. This is what happens when you ask a local guy out.
3. "Wah, Singaporean guys are so blur, you know?"
4. Foreign men tend to be more confident and direct about approaching women they don't know. Or at least, they tend to have more experience with courting women, so they often make the first move.
5. According to a friend of mine, local guys tend to follow certain moulds, created by a shared background in Junior College or Poly, followed by National Service, which is in turn followed by several other formulaic stages that are expected of young men here. For this reason, the women who fall outside of the norm - either who have had a wealth of international experiences, or who have never really fit in to the 'ideal' mould - tend to look for guys who are similar, the majority of whom are usually foreign.
6. Foreign men, especially white ones, are highly sought after in Singapore. Everyone has a differing opinion as to why - is it a product of the "colonised mind"? Is it because they are perceived as more affluent? Is it because they are perceived to be more, ahem, well-endowed in certain departments? Is it because local men are perceived to take longer to initiate a relationship? Or is it simply because some women here are bored after 2-3 decades of the same thing, and the 'exoticism' of the white man (ha!) offers an alleviation to that boredom?
The reality is that most of these foreign men that are in such high demand here were never particularly sought after in their hometowns. Suddenly, they come to Singapore and they paint the Little Red Dot even more red in clubs and bars, where for some unfathomable reason, several women genuinely want to kiss them.
At first, the unsuspecting Ang Moh will doubt himself. It'll be just a fluke, an effect of too much alcohol. However, after a few weeks, when the phenomenon persists, they begin to realise that they are indeed in demand. Their bodies undergo several changes due to the syndrome - they stand up straighter and command more presence, walking into every club with a certain swagger that exudes Axe deodorant and smug over-confidence. They become lax with their clothing, wearing sneakers and t-shirts into the club rather than dress shoes and crisp button-downs that they once wore. They begin to ignore the women they once would have been too shy to approach, instead casually waiting for the first girl of the night to approach them (whom they will sneakily put aside, only to be given attention if no one hotter comes along). They become more languid in their communication, making a girl wait several days before casually suggesting they 'grab a drink sometime,' or in some extreme cases, openly flirting with other women whilst on a date. As they say, five birds in hand is worth one at home, ain't that right old chap?! *chortle chortle chortle*
Ang Moh Syndrome is the reason why one often sees a decidedly attractive woman, dressed to the nines and sporting flawless makeup, holding onto the hand of some sweaty and slightly unkempt dude who could never dream of being with a woman of her calibre back home.
Ang Moh Syndrome is the reason why so many dudes 'just want to be single' and 'don't want to be tied down right now,' making one wonder if they're the missing cast member from Sex and The City.
Ang Moh Syndrome is the reason why grown men think it entirely appropriate to declare that they have "Yellow Fever" in the presence of another human being.
Ang Moh Syndrome is also the reason why so many foreign women have resigned themselves to either
A. lowering their standards
B. being perpetually single or
C. being endlessly stressed out by 'keeping it casual' with some barely entertaining, jorts- and sneakers-wearing dude.
I mean, if local men don't really want to date us, and foreign men are only interested in dating 'asian chicks,' then we're bang out of luck, aren't we?
Not that I'm bitter or anything.
Seriously, though. It's a struggle out there when there is an excess of gorgeous, talented, ambitious and clever women, both local and foreign, but a deficit of men who are even willing to even make a reservation for dinner once in a while.
Pepper & Söl
P.S.: Do you know someone with AMS? Or do you think it's just a myth? Let me know what you think in the comments!