I don’t celebrate Christmas in a religious sense, although over the years I did go to parties and exchange gifts with friends.
My job before this could qualify as multi-national, with the bulk being Singaporeans, and the headquarters in the US did not celebrate religious holidays so days leading up to Christmas were never festive at the office. No decorations. No gingerbread cookies or cakes or panettone or Mariah Carey whistlesinging all she wanted for Christmas was me from the radio. It worked out fine. Nobody cried or bitched or moaned.
At my current workplace (my division at least), there was a Christmas game played on the eve of, and it was something like Secret Santa, but I can’t tell you the actual name in case someone Googled and landed on my blog. I do not wish to be dooced, no matter how much I bitch about my job (the bitching itself is a second job haha).
Each person had to bring a gift of minimum 10 dollar value, and we had to pick a number which let us know the order we could pick out a random gift. And the chosen gift would be unwrapped, and the next person could either steal the previous gift, or pick another unopened gift. Popular gifts would naturally be “stolen”, and each popular gift could only be stolen a maximum of three times.
I am lazy by nature and I didn’t want to think about whether a gift was perfect or useful, or waste a lot of time running to and fro a few stores, so I bought a 20 dollar voucher as a contribution to the game. Ten dollars sounded cheap, anything above 20 would be ass-kissing or telling how badly you wanted to be liked at the workplace, so 20 it was (it was the sweet spot!). The thing about me is while I don’t like any of my colleagues, I am not generally a stingy person, I will die one day and can’t instruct my living relatives to bury my money with me, but my morals also didn’t want anyone feeling like butt when they ended up with my gift.
Like I’ve mentioned more than once here, this job teaches me a lot about people, and I learn a lot about being an average (or ‘quintessentially’) Singaporean employee.
I have worked with a lot of Singaporeans. I have made some good friends from those jobs and I am extremely lucky to beat the odds (in any country!), but I find it hard to get along with most of my colleagues (in all workplaces but one). This is my experience, and I’m not saying this is the ONLY experience that matters or is true or correct, and if I could say so myself, I am still hopeful that I will eventually end up at a job I like and treasure and find rewarding. Working on it!
My experiences were also half my fault because I have this thing called a personality and I somehow appear as if I don’t give a shit about anything. Either that or that I am boring with boring hobbies. Or they think I am aloof and super action (Singaporean slang for show-off)!
Most Singaporeans I meet at a workplace are people I don’t wish to hang out with after 6pm. The following descriptions of people could be universal, I frankly don’t care:
There always is the depressed colleague who likes to bitch and moan without doing anything different to ameliorate their situations, so it gets tough to hold a conversation after a month because you just want them to shut their pie holes, then there’s the dumb person, who is actually not dumb, very careful not to be offensive or draw attention to themselves, he or she does okay not excellent but okay, but seems to know what it takes to rise up the ranks (they’re not brilliant at all, but their ability to get the promotion regularly maybe shows that hey they are brilliant after all!), then you have a bunch of gossips (these people lie on a spectrum; some just like to talk a lot about harmless things such as ‘Mandy is not good at housework but her husband still loves her despite this flaw’, then you have the types who go around telling other people what other people said and just standing back to watch the whole world burn (I don’t like this type or want to be associated with them so I usually pretend I don’t hear what they say) and then anything in between).
Most Singaporeans I work with don’t really read, and they always look lost when there is uncomfortable silence and I offer to talk about current affairs or pop culture and they’re the ones inviting me for lunch. Reading maybe isn’t crucial at work, I don’t know, you just read emails, right? What sort of intelligence do you need beyond that? You just do your work and go home.
Some Singaporeans aren’t able to string a proper sentence. Some don’t understand tone or basic courtesy and always need to be right even though their arguments aren’t cogent at all. Then somehow I am the douchebag because I ask ‘What was that again?’ when they put on that impatient tone and write aggressive-aggressive emails.
Most that I met or still meet weren’t or aren’t open-minded (I don’t mean about life stuff, I mean even at work). Things have always been done this way, so the only times policies or processes are questioned would be during the promotion exercise where everyone suddenly wants to prove that YES THEY CAN THINK. YES THEY CAN IMPROVE. YES THEY DESERVE THIS PROMOTION SO YES NOW THEY ARE QUESTIONING POLICIES WHATCHU GONNA DO ABOUT THAT HUH, CRYSTAL?
In the first place most of the policies were created because of an urgent need (duh, also, some people just wanted to give themselves work sometimes to appear educated and fanschy pantschy or cover their buttholes before they get fucked), and while at that point those policies or processes satisfied that particular need in some form, things evolved, these people and their bosses usually didn’t think about how logical, airtight, or useful the policies were, and due to lack of experience, had no foresight whatsoever, and never realised that oops, these policies couldn’t remain relevant or worse, that they had a lot of holes.
I got carried away.
My gift was apparently popular. It got stolen three times. There were other good gifts too, but other gifts were useless knick knacks such as towels or tea bags or a snow globe or bags. I was inclined to think these were stuff already lying around in their homes and what better way to get rid of these stuff than contribute them to a Christmas game?
I think if I’m still at this job next Christmas I will still purchase a similar gift but will opt out of participating to receive a gift. Not being a snob or pedantic or OMG CHRISTMAS GIFTS MUST BE LIKE THIS AND THAT (with hand gestures and all), but I really don’t like hoarding things I don’t want or need. I actually deposited the Christmas gifts I received from colleagues this year into the trash can at the mall after picking out the okay or cool ones (which I gave away). I kept two.
Nevertheless, Merry Christmas and have a Happy New Year! ❤