Why Malaysians Hate Singapore

Mar 08, 2010

Mostly, it’s because citizens of the city-state are fond of claiming superiority over their neighbour.

Malaysia has a longstanding relationship filled with grudging tolerance and mutual animosity for its neighbouring country, Singapore. For the uninitiated, Singapore used to be a part of Malaysia a very long time ago. Some people still think it should be. But these are the same people who think divorce by SMS is perfectly legitimate.

But I digress. To help you understand, here’s an analogy: the relationship Malaysia and Singapore have is much like the relationship between the United States and Canada. Both countries are virtually the same save for one or two distinguishing factors. If you guessed which country Malaysia is in that comparison, give yourself a pat on the back.


Inferiority complex: Singaporeans claim superiority over Malaysians despite being infinitesimally smaller geographically, and poorer in natural resource.

Inferiority complex: Singaporeans claim superiority over Malaysians despite being infinitesimally smaller geographically, and poorer in natural resource.

Photo credit: Debby Ng

Malaysian people hate Singapore for various reasons. One of them is that Singaporeans are fond of claiming that they are superior to Malaysia as a country. Their basis for this postulation is their efficient public transport, totalitarian government, stringent pursuit of education and superior exchange rate. Some of these are things that Malaysians could debate but it would cause more bad than good through comparison. The usual retort of a Malaysian person is: “Your country is a pirated version of ours”.

Malaysians will support the fact that they are better by pointing to the Malaysian origins of hawker food, which Singaporeans falsely acknowledges as theirs; the fact that theirs is a country much larger and richer with natural resources; and the absence of Malaysian laws on chewing gum. That’s it, really. Of course, one could make the argument that a Malaysian may be kiasu but would never stoop to the depths that a Singaporean will. This age-old question of who is more kiasu will one day be answered when both countries organize a free-food eating competition to the death.

However, there are a significant number of Malaysians who are constantly caught in this crossfire. They are the Malaysians plying their trade in Singapore and more often than not, are Permanent Residents. These Malaysians feel an obvious loyalty to their country of origin but are equally compelled to serve their own cause. If you should ever question the loyalty of a Malaysian living in Singapore, be prepared for a long, drawn-out answer which they have prepared and perfected over time to deal with irritants like you.

This conflicted Malaysian will state that they are actually doing Malaysia a service. Although they may work in Singapore, they spend all of their hard-earned money in Malaysia whenever possible. Because the exchange rate is 2:1, they are able to contribute more to the economy than the average Malaysian can. While doing this, they are also plundering Singapore’s resources and using up what natural energy that they have on a long-term basis. So you see, the Malaysian living in Singapore is actually performing a national duty that is most ingenious but requires a great amount of personal sacrifice. Naturally, this is something you must acknowledge.

Take this Malaysian aside and say to them “Hey, thanks. Sincerely, Malaysia”. Then grin and give them two thumbs up. This Malaysian will then return to Singapore with a smile on their face that stretches further than a Singaporean’s waistband after a buffet meal.


Nigel Lim also blogs at Malaysianisms.