The picture comes from an MRT PSA, check out his right pinkie finger, though. See how he grew out his fingernail? In the States, I've only ever seen that on coke fiends. So, let's just say I had a new question for the day.

Happily, MRT is not unknowingly sponsoring cocaine use in SG (at least not in this instance ;). Talking with some locals, maintaining a long pinkie nail indicates that you don't do manual labor (or type for that matter) despite the wikipedia entry. This easily qualifies as the most deleterious idea I've come across in SG. Imagine a bunch of adults who view work as something to be avoided.

After a fire alarm incident at my hostel (someone smoking in their room), I was talking with a Vietnamese girl about the alarm, and she segued from talking about the current alarm to commenting on Singaporean men and how it seems that so few can do anything. When anything goes wrong, nobody knows what to do, other than escalate the problem. She was not impressed.

Granted, small sample size. Just not very encouraging....

Well, given the job search deal, it might actually be somewhat encouraging... just show up with a leatherman in hand. --Rich

FYI, I'm working on a short-term contract with the Overseas Family School here in SG, redesigning their network (breaking big ethernet into little ethernets) and writing a bunch of perl to automate and monitor it. -- Patrick

The long pinkie-nail thing is amazing. I'm not sure it says they are avoiding work of any kind (though maybe) as much as it says I'm smart/educated/rich enough that I don't have to perform manual labor. It also tells the ladies (or guys depending on orientation) that hooking up with this guy gives you a path to the easy life. Kinda like if he was in a picture driving a corvette. --Andy

Should have read the rest of the post regarding the Vietamese girl before posting. I wonder if the native girls feel the same way. --Andy

I was talking with a mixed group of locals and non-locals, the slightly-drunk French guy accused Singaporean men of being bad lovers. The local females started to protest, but two non-straight local guys chimed in, declaiming. In that instant, the protests of the girls died on their lips... Maybe related, maybe not. ;) -- Patrick

Lots of cultures value indications that you don't have to work. How's that tan coming? --Rehana

Overgeneralization... Tans don't preclude work. Of the credible signals, we have self-hobbling (peacock's tail and long pinkie nails) and resource consumption (time for tanning, fancy cars, art). Self-hobbling means you can't do something, resource consumption means you retain the option of alternate use (read a book/mow lawn in the sun, sell the car or art). Resource wasting (non-fungible purchases like fancy weddings) however works like self-hobbling. -- Patrick

I just updated comment postings to redirect back to the main url... --Patrikc

caffeine + usability = typing fail ;)

Ok then, how about Chinese foot-binding and the Indian preference for light skin? There's been lots of clothing that worked as temporary self-hobbling too, like hoop skirts and Russia's extremely long sleeves.

I think the credible self-hobbling (Look at me: I haven't fixed any physical problems recently) of the pinkie nail hobbles the culture as fewer people are willing to work to improve the world around them if that work means getting their hands dirty. While many cultures share the same display behavior tactics of hobbling, waste, and consumption, SG has its own peculiar issues: 1] people here wonder what they can do to foster creativity and innovation, and 2] I've not yet seen a conference or presentation go off without a hitch (except for linux and ruby meetings). I think it's all related and a big part of it might be that guy's pinkie nail. ;) -- Patrick.

I know I'm a little late to the game here, but tans used to be an indicator of work (in the fields). I'm guilty of the self-hobbling non-fungible fancy wedding purchase...well, fancy for us. It sure seems somewhat crippling in retrospect but don't tell my wife I said that.

er.. --Andy

Weird, right? It seems like weddings used to be cash-flow positive events for couples. Basically, you borrowed your local church for an afternoon, people donated a bunch of food, and gave you a bunch of the things you needed to start your own "respectable" household: china, silver, etc. Of course, the cynic in me says that girls' parents nurture these big wedding fantasies as that's the dominant strategy in this negotiation game (hold out for someone who can afford the fancy waste) to get the girl off your family balance sheet. -- Patrick