Please, Sir – Can I Have Ang Moh?

Last week, our corner of the Internet combusted in a cyber wreck of wanton projection, sweeping generalizations, asinine stereotypes and outraged reactions, thanks to a certain poorly written article by seasoned shit-stirrer Gilbert Goh.

I must admit that I found his latest bout of virtual diarrhoea more amusing than aggravating, and thoroughly enjoyed the responses it sparked from several bloggers, including Limpeh Is FT and Molly Meek. They’ve done a bang-up job of debunking the fallacies of his pitiable whinging, so I won’t bother going down the same path.

No, this is not another response to GG’s most recent own goal. I’d like to give the less ignorant among us the benefit of the doubt and trust we already know that

  • not all Singaporean men are underachieving, lowly educated men-children incapable of attracting Singaporean women
  • not all women from developing Asian countries are uneducated or “domesticated in nature” (contradiction much?)
  • not all Singaporean women who date and / or marry white male expats are gold-digging SPGs
  • not all white men are cultured, eloquent gentlemen, just as not all Singaporean men are uncivilized, inarticulate buffoons
  • interracial / inter-cultural relationships and marriages will not destroy Singapore’s dating scene
  • GG is little more than a troll who panders to xenophobic Singaporeans; do not feed him or his troll minions.

Still, his inane rambling did remind me of my own experience. The ex, a Singaporean I was with for nearly four years, repeatedly accused me of being a SPG simply because I had dated a couple of white expats before I had even been made aware of his existence. His general view of white male expats and local women who dated them was no less scathing — the labels “white dogs” and “SPGs” were used rather often in his self-righteous assessment of them. Sadly, he is far from the only local man I’ve encountered who harbours such resentment towards the demographic in question.

What’s curious is that such vitriol is seemingly reserved for white male expats, or as we Singaporeans tend to call them, ang mohs. For those unfamiliar with the term, “ang moh“, literally translated as “red-haired”, is of arguably derogatory origin. However, it is now commonly used in Singapore and Malaysia to refer to white people and Western culture in general (for current offensive variations of the phrase, please click here).

Compared to a couple comprised of a white man and a local woman, the combination of a non-white foreign man and a local woman would likely attract far less snark from local men. I do not have an explanation for this, but to be absolutely fair, there are local women — and even men — who seem to have Pinkerton Syndrome. Though the term is apparently “dated”, its symptoms are still evident in many Asians. And it doesn’t happen only in Singapore, but in China, too. As per my observations, the telltale signs include:

  • laughing a little too heartily at jokes told by white people (even if said jokes fall flat)
  • incessant proclamation of Western culture as superior to other cultures
  • excessive polishing of ang moh apples
  • (the most nauseating, in my opinion) a peculiar accent that is neither Asian nor European, often coupled with a less than stellar command of the English language

The aforementioned usually elicits the following reaction from me:

2562173

“I have no idea what you’re saying, but your fake ang moh accent is making my ears fold in horror.”

Perhaps it’s some regressive pro-colonialism mentality that causes such behaviour, but as with all generalizations and stereotypes, the widely held view among many local men that local women who date ang mohs are SPGs should be taken with a handful of salt. Some women are more practical than that: they merely recognize a meal ticket when they see one.

Fine, I jest (somewhat). While it definitely takes a considerable level of insecurity for a man to blame an entire nationality of women or race of men for his lack of luck in love, I suppose this is as good an opportunity as any to disprove — or at least challenge — the ang moh-related myths that may be partially responsible for both the fawning of some local women over white expats, and the indignation such conduct inspires in some local men.

Ang moh men in Asia have yellow fever. To be honest, the first thing that comes to mind whenever I read or hear anything about the colours red and yellow is Ronald McDonald, and could I have a Double McSpicy without mayonnaise, please? In all seriousness, though, it’s a free country (hahahahahahaha) and therefore, white men, as well as men of all other races, should be allowed to have as high a yellow — or brown, or black — fever as they please.

Still, it’s ignorant to think every single ang moh is out to chase every single Asian skirt he manages to lay his eyes on. Sure, many ang mohs in Asia do enjoy carnal pleasures with women who are usually in short supply back home (I’ve personally brought a group of Europeans around Orchard Towers in search of “Asian girls”), but it’s probably no different for Asian men in the West. And while I’ve heard local men jump directly to the conclusion that any white man in the company of a local woman just wants to enter her Asian trousers, I can also attest to the reality of purely platonic relationships between white men and Asian women.

Not pictured: Yellow fever (or Pinkterton Syndrome).

Pictured: One of my best ang moh friends and I.
Not pictured:
Yellow fever (or Pinkterton Syndrome). I cannot, however, account for whatever is going on in the background.

In the interest of research, I asked several male ang moh friends living in Asia if, in comparison with their female compatriots, Asian women were more receptive towards them. To my surprise, they all answered in the negative. One of them even said, “I think most Asian women find me intimidating at first glance or avoid me altogether.” Now, what was I saying about generalizations and stereotypes again?

Ang mohs in Asia are rich. Just like not every male Bangladeshi / Indian / Thai national here is a lowly paid janitor / construction worker, not every white person here is rolling in the Benjamins (or pounds, or Euros, or kroner…you get the idea). I know at least one European who moved to Singapore of his own accord and took on a series of middle-income, executive positions before starting his own business. There are also those who come to Asia for academic or professional programmes and end up settling down here after marrying a local. So you see, it takes all sorts.

Here I am with a not particularly rich ang moh friend who has lived, studied and worked in Asia. I am also ashamed to admit that he can read / write Mandarin better than I can.

Here I am with a not particularly rich ang moh friend who has lived, studied and worked in Asia. Also, he can read / write Mandarin better than I can. I hang my ethnically Chinese head in shame.

Then there are highly qualified ang mohs sent to this part of the world to lend their professional experience and expertise to the Asian branches of whichever corporation employs them. Like foreign PMETs in most countries, they are remunerated according to respective industry rates, as well as given a housing allowance. In Singapore, this usually means a comfortably large pay cheque, and relatively fancy digs in the form of rented condominiums. This contributes to the stereotype of the rich ang moh expat, which undeniably draws its fair share of gold-digging females. Of course, that is not to say every Asian woman who dates / marries a rich white expat is a materialistic manipulator. Again, these are all just generalizations that cannot be accurately applied across the board.

Ang mohs in Asia are 24/7 hardcore party unicorns*. After having witnessed enough drunken white guys harassing women / unsuccessfully attempting complicated dance moves / generally disturbing the peace to last me a lifetime of nightmares, I can understand why some Singaporeans would think white people (especially those in Asia) are all about partying till they hook up / pass out / get arrested.

What those Singaporeans may not know, however, is that a good number of ang mohs in Asia actually prefer a mature gathering at home, which normally entails an evening of canapés, soothing music and adult conversation. Inebriation is still pretty common at these little soirees, but this generally involves sitting around debating the merits of Christopher Hitchens’ work alongside that of Søren Kierkegaard’s writings, all while swirling, nosing and daintily sipping a nice chilled glass of chardonnay, instead of destroying public property while plastered and possibly injuring at least one person in the process.

Also, bizarre ang moh party outfits FTW.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is what an ang moh political party looks like. But don’t just take my word for it — go find out for yourself.

In Europe, it’s not unusual for kids to be allowed to sample Mummy’s and Daddy’s spirit stash from time to time; growing up, I myself was permitted to share my late father’s beer every now and then. Because of this non-restrictive — but not completely laissez-faire — attitude to alcohol consumption, binge drinking and alcoholism are not major problems in most European countries. All this considered, the drunken ang mohs I’ve come across in Singapore are, more often than not, American exchange students taking full advantage of the lower minimum legal drinking age here (18, as opposed to 21 in the US). Needless to say, I don’t think this is the rule, but the cultural differences are apparent.

In my experience, ang mohs are typically a tonne of fun to party with. Some of them can’t dance to save their lives, but their spontaneity more than makes up for it. However, not all of them are party machines trawling the clubs for Asian women to seduce. On the other hand, the biggest drinkers I know — including yours truly — are Asian: we usually just sit around drinking and trading jokes till someone says or does something to top everything else and the rest of us simply collapse in a collective laughing fit.

As far as stereotypes go, they exist for a reason. Are there rich, borderline alcoholic ang mohs in Singapore who suffer from yellow fever? Of course. But do all white males here fit that bill? Of course not.

As for single Singaporean men who conveniently blame Singaporean women and white expats for the dearth of local women on our dating scene, consider this: grumbling about external factors only serves to make you look even more unattractive. Sure, some women can be downright bitches, but why waste time complaining about them when you can direct your energy towards those who can and will appreciate you? And if you think local women are being lost to men more articulate, educated and chivalrous than you, don’t wallow in self-pity or insecurity. Either be confident in who you are, or do something to improve the aspects of yourself you feel insecure about. And if, even then, any woman rejects you for superficial reasons, well…her loss, right?

So relax, guys. A girlfriend or wife isn’t the be-all and end-all of your existence, and you’ll find that life is so much better when you learn to laugh at stereotypes instead of hatefully perpetuating them. And you know what women find sexier than confidence? Confidence and a wicked sense of humour. That right there is a killer combination.

*because the term “party animals” is just too mainstream

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5 thoughts on “Please, Sir – Can I Have Ang Moh?

  1. Thanks for linking to my post, but I have to ask — did you misunderstand what I wrote?

    I’m an American, for one, not Singaporean. And I don’t date white men because they’re white, I date them for a number of other reasons that have nothing to do with color.

    By linking to my post in the context that you did insinuates that you think I am a ‘local woman’ with Pinkerton Syndrome, which is offensive and just plain inaccurate.

    If I laugh at jokes at white people, it’s because I find them funny. Not because they’re white jokes. Because I like jokes (especially anti-jokes, which are actually funnier the flatter they’re told. google them, they’re hilarious.)

    My accent comes from being born and raised in the US, and is quite distinctively American; and I have a stellar command of the English language, thanks.

    I don’t know what ‘polishing of ang moh apples’ even means.

    Anyway, I’m hoping this is a simple misunderstanding. If not, well then thanks for only further proving the point I set out to make in my post. Either way, thanks for the traffic.

    • Hi, Edna. Actually, my reason for linking to your post is that in it, you mentioned the adoration of Western culture that you have witnessed in China. If you read through my post, you’ll see that I talked about the perception of white people not just in Singapore, but Asia in general.

      You are not the target, so none of the behaviours I listed apply or refer to you. In fact, I linked to your post also because I agree with you and some of my experiences are similar to yours, though I’m Singaporean and not American (and therefore do not have any “Western” accent).

      Thanks for commenting, though – I’ve made a slight edit to the linked text just to make clear that it was never my intention to insinuate anything negative about you. I did quite enjoy your post and hope to read more from you; I’d be glad if you continue to peruse my blog as well. Thanks again, and have a great day! 🙂

      • Hey, Nomad Capitalist (love that name, by the way). Thanks for commenting. As with the link to Edna’s post, I linked yours because it corroborated with some of my points. You covered some of the generalizations about whether or not white people are worshiped in Asia, which was relevant to my point about the stereotype that Asians see white people as superior.

        The text to which I linked your post was about a white man telling me that Asian women are not particularly receptive towards him simply on the basis of his skin colour, which contradicts the stereotype that Asian women often prefer white men to Asian men.

        I hope this clears everything up. Thanks again for reading and commenting! I’ve added both you and Edna to my blogroll.

      • Thanks for clarifying! I appreciate the response and the edit to help clear things up. Will be checking out more of your writing 🙂

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