If you really want a culture that is uniquely Singapore, here’s one: the 1990s Ah Bengs. Stylo-milo with a long comb and long centre parting hair, they were the popular kids in town.
Most of them might have become lawyers or doctors now, but during their heydays, they were so rebellious and cool that everyone wanted to be like them. But what did they do that make them stand out? Well, well, well…
They called their girlfriends “steads” instead
Over here, “stead” can be used as a noun or a verb. “Wanna stead?” = a verb use, and “She my stead leh!” = a noun use. The origin of the word is a shortened version of “steady girlfriend”, but don’t ask me why it became “stead” instead.
They had the same hairstyle: centre parting
Their hair must be parted precisely in the middle of the head—and the parting must be so damn straight that some Ah Bengs even used a ruler to triple-confirm it.
They were always chewing gum
Is chewing gum banned in Singapore? No worries. JB is just a bus away. Smuggling chewing gum in is illegal? When did Ah Beng follow the laws?
Their fashion sense was all about dragon, dragon and dragon
More dragons, lagi better. By the way, not the cute dragons—we’re referring to those fierce and colourful dragons.
They had good results
Weird but true. Many Ah Bengs in the 90s that I know are working as a high-ranking executive because they used to have good results.
Their hobbies were lan, pool and Sparks
Who can ever forget Sparks—the to-go for all teenagers who can’t get in?
They share cigarettes because times were bad
That was how their brotherhood matured into everlasting friendship.
They were brave when with a group of friends but became coward when they were alone
They would talk big when they were with their friends, but became a mouse when they were confronted alone.
They would always go Orchard during the weekends
It’s like they have to be at Orchard Road during the weekends not to shop, but to be seen. Being in town meant you’re an Ah Beng—after all, long ago, suburban malls were still not popular and Orchard was the only place with the crowd.
Their vulgarities are pretty damn cool and long
Nowadays, you’ll just say “CB!”, but last time hor, last time they would say, “KNNBCCB, LJ!” And as a form of respect, the listener would have to let the Ah Beng complete his expletive before replying.
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