Sunday, 31 December 2006

Aunty 8 And Uncle 9

Wisma Atria is a shopping centre with a much vaunted food court on its fourth level. It is one of the many modern versions of the old hawker centres, with a combination of the various ethnic food styles that make up the cuisine of Singapore.

The place is always very crowded with locals and tourists alike, all fighting for eating space. Would be patrons hover like the ever-present mosquitos, ready to pounce on the unsuspecting when the opportunity for a seat presents itself.

This is not a space of quiet repose. It is a full-on eating house in the very distinctive "gobble and go" Singaporean style. No sitting post-meal for quite reflection here.

What is very obvious in such places are the numbers of elderly Uncle and Aunty retainers who are employed to undertake menial tasks such as cleaning and waiting tables.

The honorific of 'uncle' or 'aunty' is given to people older than oneself and is both a mark of respect and a statement of place in society. In the western world such a term would mean a family asscociation but not in Singapore. An entry in the Singlish dictionary describes them thus: "A Singaporean aunty or uncle can be anyone who is from the older generations, like an English old age pensioner and the term is used out of affection and respect"

Not that many years ago the retirement age in this country for women was fifty five and for men sixty. With a poor Singaporean birth rate this level has been raised, but increasingly one can see elderly folks supplementing them income by working well into their seventies.

In our own apartment complex we have Ah Kao (Photo above) who is well into his seventies and resonsible for maintenance and grounds. He is both vigorous and agile and clearly has not been following my sedentary lifestyle!

It is rare to see younger Chinese taking on such roles and as the elderly finally retire, their places are being taken by other races. As there is no social security system as such, senior citizens are expected to have made provision for their own retirement and be supported by their families if need be.

Late morning we visited the Presidential seat - Istana. It was the Governor's residence when Singapore was under British rule, although I note that the statue of Queen Vic has been relegated from the State Room to a leafy section of the gardens since that time.

This is the final blog entry for 2006. When I look back it has been a momentous year; changing jobs and countries, selling all of our chattels and adjusting to life here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


Its quite good to go through your blog. Though its sojourn(or is it title only) its really wonderful !