A foreign netizen wrote on Quora to ask why Singaporeans find it socially acceptable to call Caucasians “Ang Mohs” when he finds it “harsh” and feels uneasy when strangers refer to him by that name.
As a Spanish teacher working for the Ministry of Education in Singapore, he was initially unaware of the significance of the term, but gradually came to know about its meaning.
He writes: “I ask this because, as an ‘Ang Mo’ who has lived in Singapore now approaching a year and a half, I still find it hard to hear the term when I’m within earshot of somebody who is using it to refer to me. I don’t find Singapore remotely racist, but equally to be referred to as the ‘foreigner’ can be a bit harsh at times, as happened at my local wine shop last night, when the cashier, who was being visited by family at the time, muttered something to them in Chinese, ending with the term Ang Mo, an obvious reference to me.
“To draw parallels, if I referred to a local Singaporean as ‘that Chinese’, ‘that Malay’ or ‘that Indian’, it would not be considered socially acceptable so I don’t understand why the same applies when refering to citizens/visitors of Western origin? Working for the government here, I cannot dream of my Singaporean colleagues ever refering to me this way, nor have they ever. In general society, though, it seens ingrained as acceptable.”