He's Just Not That Into You (Singapore Edition)

I recently wrote an article about Ang Moh Syndrome. To summarise it here would be to over-simplify it, so I highly recommend that you read it and the comments before reading this article. 

In the comments, I was informed by several people that the notion that Singaporean men generally don't want to date foreign women is false. To all the lovely people who commented, thank you! I would love to reply, but I can't because where got time? (Don't even ask me when was the last time I waxed my legs).

One such comment was from Dalvin Carvalho, a Singaporean man of Portuguese descent. He stated:

Firstly, Dalvin, thank you for your comment. I appreciate that it was well-thought out and not passive aggressive, which these days on the Internet is very rare. I do understand where you're coming from, but I'd like to refer you to my previous article, How to Lose a Singaporean Guy in 10 Days, in which I elaborated upon the dangers of making the first move, and why it doesn't always work (considering the difference in dating styles). 

Secondly, I still choose to stand behind my words, because I think it's more than just intimidation or nerves. As promised in an article from long ago, I am finally elaborating upon why that local guy is just not that into you. 

1. Practicality

The manner in which dating is conducted in Singapore is very slow and deliberate, and involves an astonishingly high amount of mulling over before the two parties decide to commit to each other and enjoy a life of atas bliss.* For a better understanding, I will refer you again to my previous article. The nub and gist of it was that dating here takes so long to initiate because ideally, once you start dating, you never stop until death do you part. Singaporean guys are interested in the long-term just as much as they are in the 'now.' 

"Fertility is a gift with and expiry date." source: www.ilovechildren.org.sg Click the photo, it gets even better :)

"Fertility is a gift with and expiry date." source: www.ilovechildren.org.sg Click the photo, it gets even better :)

There's an admirable sense of practicality in the 'bae quality' considerations - you have to have some sort of 'wifey material,' which obviously differs in specifics from man to man, but is still crucial nonetheless. Most of the men want to eventually settle down and raise a family in Singapore. Why wouldn't you want to, after you'd busted your butt for two years in the National Service, paid your taxes, and lived through every single bizarre MRT advert (my current favourite is the sperm and egg cartoon that's going around the Circle Line). If I'd given my blood, sweat and tears to this country, you can bet your bottom dollar that I'd stick around to reap the benefits. 

Unfortunately, most of us don't intend on staying. Foreign women are like Nelly Furtado circa 2000 - we're like birds and we wanna fly away, you know? That means that we're not a long-term investment. Dating us means that if it gets serious, one of us will have to make the sacrifice of either leaving or staying, which is a huge deal. I mean, who would want to get into a serious relationship knowing that is has a looming time stamp? It's just not practical, you see?

2. Cultural Differences

Yes, I know the whole spiel, we love to share our cultures and experience new things and la-di-dah (*plays the nose flute*). Unfortunately, real life is not a United Colours of Benetton catalogue, and the nuances of culture run deeper than an appropriate use of chopsticks and learning how to pronounce 'gong xi fa cai!' or 'Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri!' The decision between two people to share their culture and their background, in all its manifestations, is no small matter. It also comes with the acceptance that one will never truly understand everything, that there are limitations to how much we can truly know about our partner without a shared history. I could never expect my partner to fully comprehend what it means to be an African, or to be black, or even to be a woman! 

For many people, that lack or familiarity and understanding is a deterrent, as is the weight on your shoulders that something you hold dear could possibly be met with disgust, and that at every step of the way, you might have to explain the relevance of some small gesture, or some type of food, or some way of seeing the world. It may seem like a fun challenge at first, but not everyone can handle it, especially if they haven't had much international experience. For those of us who spent our childhoods - or perhaps even our adult lives - moving from country to country, and having to re-integrate ourselves into an entirely new cultural situation each time, it becomes a little bit easier. However, for some men who have lived in Singapore their entire lives, surrounded by people who just get it, the difference may seem insurmountable.

I always hear about American expats talking about how large and diverse the USA is - New York is so different from Texas, which is so different from California, which is so different from Oregon and so on. Well, you think the USA is varied? Try India. Try China, my friend. If there are men in Singapore who have to consider whether they could really date a girl because she can't speak their language or dialect, be it Hindi or Hokkien, you think everyone's going to be gung-ho about a pretty ang moh who can't pronounce 'Xiè xie nǐ'? Nah. 

3. (no points for guessing) racial attraction 

Now, ask yourself, how many couples do you know (in person or in the media) consisting of an asian man and a black woman? I had to look it up. From my time living in Singapore, I have learnt more about East Asian standards of beauty, which are increasingly influenced by Korean pop-culture. Everywhere, you are saturated by images of petite and dewy women with narrow noses, rosy lips and pale skin. Western standards of beauty are pervasive in the media here as well. Both are very different from Black standards of beauty, in which the ideals are to have Beyoncé-type curves, straight edges, and Zendaya-worthy eyebrows, amongst other things.

As a black woman, I don't fit into Asian standards in any way (except maybe a clear complexion - I gotta tell you, Korean skincare products are ridiculously good). Growing up in Southern Africa, all the magazines and TV screens were filled with pretty, fair-skinned, thigh-gapped women, and I aspired to look like them. My question was not 'am I beautiful,' but 'am I beautiful enough?' and for a long time, I didn't find black features beautiful at all. I had to purposefully seek out pro-black blogs on tumblr and allow myself to be saturated by images of beautiful black women before I could begin to admit that maybe I might be beautiful too, and not just 'pretty for a black girl,' mind you. 

Now for a man who has never become sensitised to black beauty, it is hard to find us attractive. Just as I had to learn to see black women as beautiful, many men (not only Asians) would need to learn too. Race shouldn't be a sexual preference, but it is. The way I see it is like this: one straight man can look at another man and think, 'that's a really handsome guy!' However, it doesn't mean that he's attracted to him. A man can appreciate that another man is good-looking or attractive to others, but it would never occur to that man to date him, or to want him. The same goes for black women. Beyonce herself could come to Singapore, and many men could appreciate that she's literal perfection, but that doesn't mean that they'd want to date her. Don't believe me? Look at this Buzzfeed video and tell me that the numbers lie. 

There are a lot of numbers to keep track of but the main takeaway for the sake of this article is: "An okcupid study found that black women are the least replied-to group. However, they are the most likely to respond - a quarter more often than other women." You might still be thinking, that it's all very well that asian men aren't attracted to black women, but black women aren't attracted to them either. (Neither of these statements are true, of course.) I urge you to read this Vice article, which states:

"In the way that Asian men have been distorted to reflect femininity, so too have black women become masculinized."

Wearing #NN by NICOLAS ANDREAS TARALIS from @marialuisa_paris at #LCM

A photo posted by Edison Fan (@edisonfanye) on

There are many videos and articles currently circulating the Internet that are asking the question, "why aren't Asian men seen as attractive?" I ask the same question all the time, because: 1. Sendhil Ramamurthy, 2. Godfrey Gao, and 3. Edison Fan. I meant, how can you not find them attractive?

 I mean, EDISON FAN?!


No amount of race-as-a-sexual-preference nonsense should prevent you from wanting to touch Sendhil Ramamurthy's face. (I mean I get it that Edison might not be everyone's cup of tea, but how can you not love Sendhil?)

I digress. I know just as many black women who are attracted to Asian men as I know who aren't. I'm not pointing fingers at asian men demanding "why don't you like me, rawr rawr rawr!" but I'm simply acknowledging that it is the way it is. A lot of the asian men that are attracted to us don't actually live in Asia - they live in other places where images of black beauty are more widespread. I can't fault any one Singaporean man for not being attracted to black women, but I can recognise it for what it is, and point it out. If even one guy reading this decides, "hey, my social conditioning has led me to value a certain standard of beauty over others, and I'd really like to open my mind to other types of women," then I'll have done my job. If you are that guy, click here. Or here. Or here. Or here. Or here

So. In summation, I'd say that my main takeaway would be that it's not as though many Singaporean guys don't want to date foreign women at all, but it's more that they don't because they're quite realistic about what they want out of a relationship - something long term and something more familiar. Even if they might want to, more often than not, they don't. The heart wants what the heart wants, and no one can fault any Singaporean guy for that. Perhaps he is into you, but he's just not that into you, you know?


Love always, 

Pepper & Söl


atas: high class, hoity-toity

ang moh: white person, but can be loosely used as 'foreigner'

gong xi fa cai: Happy New Year

Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri: Happy Eid

Xiè xie nǐ: Thank you

P.S.: I considered writing why race might be a hindrance for dating white women, but I don't know if or why it is. I don't think it is, but I could be wrong, so let me know what you think in the comments!