Be Honest but NOT “honestly stupid”
In this article I hope to at least educate at least some of my fellow Singaporeans. When travelling overseas, you need to be on the alert and not assume that everybody else in the world are behaving like Singaporeans. In Singapore, most of us are very much law-abiding citizens. None of us wants to break the law because we know what will happen to us if we do. However, you need to be aware that when travelling overseas, the rules of the game are very much different. Not everyone obeys the law and not everyone tries to earn an honest living. There are many unscrupulous people nowadays who are out there to outwit you and try to cheat you using every foul means. So when travelling overseas, be alert at all times. Use your own sense of discrimination to assess any situation that you are in. Most importantly do not assume that you are in Singapore. I will just highlight some of the situations that I know did happen to some Singaporeans who were travelling overseas.
The wallet in the shopping centre.
This incident happened in one of the Middle Eastern countries (no names to be mentioned). This Singaporean was there on business and after concluding business matters, he decided that he would visit a very busy shopping centre that was right in the middle of a very busy city. Amidst the hustling and bustling activities, he noticed that there was a wallet right in the middle of the shopping centre. It looks like somebody dropped a wallet in the middle of the shopping centre and it looks like a man’s wallet. The surprising thing is this. It seems that everyone in the shopping centre just walk past this wallet without even noticing its presence. It also appears to him that most people probably knew of its existence but just pretend not to notice it. Why? Why is it that people do not even notice it?
Wow. The people here must be so honest that they will not take this wallet. Or are the people so stupid that they do not want to pick up the wallet. So either out of stupidity or curiosity he decided to pick up the wallet and see what is in the contents of the wallet. That was when he made a mistake that he will regret for the rest of his life. Immediately after he picked up the wallet, 4 men surrounded him in all directions. One of them pulled out his police badge and identify himself as a Police Officer. He then pointed out to a second man and told the Singaporean that this second man had approached him and informed him that he has lost his wallet. The Police Officer then pointed to another 2 men and said that these 2 men had “witnessed” the Singaporean stealing the wallet from the “victim” and so, as good law abiding citizens, they decided to chase the Singaporean to this shopping centre and now they have caught him red-handed (with the wallet in his hand). The Singaporean protested his innocence and said that he did not steal the wallet. In fact he has only just finished his meeting and was walking around the shopping centre when he saw the wallet lying in the middle of the shopping centre.
The Police Officer decided not to believe him and inform him that he will need to arrest him and bring him to court. So the Singaporean started thinking. He now realized that he has been duped. By picking up the wallet, he literally walked into a trap. What are the chances of him getting a guilty verdict if he is brought before a Sharia court? What will the Magistrate or Judge think? Who will the Judge believed? On the one hand, the Judge will probably hear a well-rehearsed testimony by 4 men who appear to be telling the truth (since their stories are consistent with each other in all material facts). On the other hand, he will hear a completely different story from this Singaporean. What are the chances of the Singaporean convincing the Sharia court that he is telling the truth? If the Sharia court decided not to believe him, he will need to face capital punishment. He could face prison sentence or if it is a serious case, he could get his arm amputated for stealing. So it seems that the only way is to negotiate his way out of trouble. So at some point, the Police Officer mentioned that they need to be “compensated” for their “troubles”. So after much discussion and negotiation, the Singaporean finally paid the 4 men a “reasonable” amount of money so that they will not bring up this matter again.
The naked girl in the hotel room.
One day a Singaporean checked into a hotel in China. He was single and was in China for a “free and easy” holiday all by himself. He did not noticed that after he has checked in, one of the hotel receptionist made a phone call and informed the party on the other line that they got another victim. Immediately after he walked into his room, he heard a knock on his door. When he opened the door a girl forced herself into his room. Before he could even say anything, she started to take off all her clothes and lie completely naked on his bed. He did not even know what to do or say. Just then another knock on the door. When he opened the door, another man rushed into the room and on seeing the naked girl in the room, he started assaulting the Singaporean. He accused the Singaporean of raping his wife who is now completely naked on his bed. The Singaporean protested and said that he did not even touch the girl and she just completely undressed herself. The China man refused to believe him and threatened that he will call the hotel security and police immediately.
The Singaporean did not know how to react under such circumstances. By then it was getting very messy and complicated. Finally after some haggling, he decided to pay the China man CNY 10,000 (about SGD 2,000) so that he will not bring up this matter again. Needless to say, the girl put on all her clothes and walk out of the hotel room with her “husband” richer by CNY 10,000. Both of them probably deserve a nomination for the Golden Horse award.
I hope that all your readers learnt something from the above stories. I hope people will exercise their own sense of discrimination and judgement whenever they are travelling overseas.
I know it is easier said than done. Many people have asked me this question. If I were in the same shoes as the Singaporean (in the first story) what would I do if 4 men were to approach me in this manner. My answer is as follows. I will need to think of something really quick. I know it is not easy. Perhaps I will act really stupid. I might just started talking to them in Mandarin knowing that they do not understand me. By pretending that you do not understand what they are saying, you might succeed in creating some kind of frustration in the 4 men that they might just give up their attempt to extort money from you. Another alternative is to start acting crazy like going into a trance or do something unusual like chanting Hare Krishna mantras, Buddhist sutras and so forth.
I know it is not easy for us Singaporeans. We are all trained, since young, to be law abiding citizens that we just simply assumed that the rest of the world is doing the same thing.
The need to be street smart is even more crucial these days. I am sure some of you may have read the article
Having read the above article and having my own share of working experiences overseas, I felt it was necessary for me to share my thoughts and feelings with all my fellow citizens.
I do hope some of you have learnt something from this article of mine.