Life in Singapore

Singlish Conversation of the Day

I don’t often go to McDonalds, but today I was in a hurry and the kids weren’t with me, so I decided to give it a go. In Singapore, the restaurants have a hard time with special orders, but I am a bit like Sally in “When Harry Met Sally” with the way I fuss about how I’ll eat things. Singapore waiters and cashiers are the polar opposites, because they can’t fathom deviating from the menu. It is not within the rules, and people here like their rules. Here is how my conversation went:

J: “I’d like the quarter pounder without cheese, with only mustard, ketchup and pickles.”
Cashier: “You like cheese?”
J: “No cheese, only mustard, ketchup and pickles.”
Cashier: Blank stare. No response. I can tell she is confused.
J: “Well what normally comes on it here?”
Cashier: “It come with cheese, mustard sauce, onions, pickles.”
J:”Ok, so I want it without cheese, onions and add ketchup.”
Cashier: “So you want it plain, lah?”
J: “No, please don’t make it plain. I want mustard, ketchup and pickles only. What is mustard sauce? Is that some special sauce or is it just regular mustard.”
Cashier: “It is mustard sauce.”
J: “But what does that mean, sauce? Is it like a mayonnaise sauce?” Here I am worrying about special sauce.
Cashier: “You want mayonnaise?”
J: “No, I just want mustard, ketchup and pickles. I am just trying to figure out what mustard sauce is.”

Finally a manager comes over. I ask her to explain mustard sauce. She tells me it is the yellow sauce like out of the yellow bottle. I decide to go with it. She says something to the cashier in Chinese, seemingly explaining my question.

Cashier: “Ok, so how you want it?”
J: “I want no cheese, no onions, no mayonnaise. I do want ketchup.”

The manager verifies she did it right, and surprisingly my order turns out just how I wanted it. Singlish speakers don’t seem to get nuances in what you are saying, just a general idea, so they can’t answer specific questions. They also don’t like to disagree or argue so they will say ok even if they have no idea what you said. It gets tiresome, and happens every day. Try explaining an egg allergy here!

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