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Saturday, May 28, 2005

Homegrown goodness

Sitting across from me in the train this evening was middle aged businessman reading a 'Wired' magazine. He had a crisp white shirt, a silk tie with tiny silver sheep printed on it, and metallic blue cufflinks, his greying hair razored into a Pepe LePew quiff. Like most commuters, he was plugged into his mp3 player which lay on the table in between us. It was a Creative Zen Micro.

I had a prickle down the back of my neck when I saw it. I looked at his face, feeling slightly more warm towards him than before. A patron of Singapore!

Looking round the train, I suddenly realised that 3 other commuters in my vicinity were also listening to Zen Micros. Only one fellow owned an iPod - a rat-faced highschool boy who was surreptitiously reading 'The Sun' in a corner, eyes glued onto
Page 3.

From converstions with other Singaporeans and from Singaporean blog reviews, I gather that Creative Zen Micro is viewed with rather a jaundiced eye, at least at home. "It's ugly looking," they rant, "it has a stupid name, it's not as 'cool' as the iPod, it's pathetic 'copycat' technology" and so on.

I decided to trawl through the internet to see what other sort of reviews I could find, and realised that the Creative Zen Micro had won
some awards and (in general), is regarded quite highly in the European market.

I wonder why Singaporeans seem to have a dislike for the homegrown Creative Zen Micro. I wondered if the very fact that it was 'homegrown' made it a less popular product than the iPod mini. Never mind that it seems to be cheaper and with roughly similar features. Perhaps Singaporeans don't seem to believe that our tiny little island is capable of producing anything super enough to be a contender in the international market.

Is this normal for a post-colonial society? Do we have inflated views of foreigners and expatriates? Do Singaporeans suffer from nationalistic low self esteem? Or is it because the majority of Singaporeans are Chinese, and are culturally self-deprecating? Or are we just too cynical to believe in homegrown talent?

When MDH was still training as a medical student, he did some work experience in Tan Tock Seng Hospital (partly to ingratiate himself with my parents, partly to recce the Singaporean working environment). Everybody treated him kindly and with respect. The young student nurses blushed whenever he so much as glanced in their direction. The older nurses called his accent 'charming' and were happy to help act as translators for him.

What was particularly interesting was that some of the patients would point at him and say 'No no, I want to wait to see that one'. They would wave off the already qualified young Chinese medical officers and even the Head of Department, an experienced Indian doctor, and demand to see 'The Angmoh doctor', even after being told that he was only a medical student.

Once, an Indian family approached him in the street and asked him to hold their newborn son. They gazed at him reverently, smiling and nodding in gratitude when he willingly obliged. I was standing nearby, and I couldn't believe what I was seeing. I still haven't figured out what they were expecting him to do.

What is this? A sort of reverse racism?

Or maybe it's a the old case of being rejected in one's own hometown.

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