5 things you probably didn’t know about hawkers in Singapore

Most of the times, we dine out in hawker centres and food courts and we don’t visit high class restaurants just to settle for a meal. Some hawkers might be very rude, always KPKB, asking for our orders in very harsh and rude tones, giving you a “fed up” look. But come to think about it, we have to try to understand them because the nature of their work is very different from us:

1. They work very long hours – one of my friends is working as a stall assistant. He is working like 12 hours a day, with low basic pays starting from $1,200 and OT claims that doesn’t match. Officially the working hours should not exceed 44 hours a week, and the exceeded hours should be considered as OT. But do most of the employers really pay them as it is?

2. Even if they scalded their hand while preparing your take-away (fishball noodle), they still have to persist on and deliver it. Some told me that they are so used to it that they have become numb to the pain


3. Some customers are very picky “I don’t want clams and bean sprouts but I want more sausages and fish cakes” (for instance chay kway teow) for one packet and “I want more chilli and more clams without bean sprouts and less salty please” (for the next packet). During long queues, when they accidentally missed out of the “requirements”, they get scolded for not being to deliver the food as required. You can see these situations in hawker centres and food courts but they have to just recook another packet for the customers

4. They do not have the luxury of sitting there for an hour to have lunch. Their bosses come down for inspection every now and then, especially during lunch hours. If they are eating and failing to see the customers who are waiting for their orders, they get it from the bosses. No one likes it when their bosses reprimand them during lunch hours, do we?

5. They have a sales target every month which is set by the boss. If the costs exceeded the profits and the sales is not good, that’s it. The boss will reprimand them so harshly as most of the food courts or hawkers are on a profit sharing scheme with the owners of the coffee shops and food courts. As most of them are not that educated, they cannot afford to lose the job as they have to support their families.

So, let’s be more understanding towards them to build a more gracious city.