This is an article I wrote for a Singaporean newspaper called The New Paper (yes, I know…) 11 years ago, shortly after I arrived in London. In light of my 11th anniversary blogpost, I’m rehashing this article, published on 14 January 2001.
The few of you who are asking where the Triple Nine-cum-Speak Mandarin Campaign girl has been this last year. I’m back. All right, maybe not physically, but in literary spirit I am back to enliven my fellow countrymen of my discoveries in Europe. Mainly, the self discovery of the Singaporean bimbo.
Rumours that Chong Chia Suan had gone to London after her filming in Prague to ‘discover new showbiz opportunities’ were floating around. Fact is, upon realising the tip of my bimbo-quotient iceberg, I decided to stay on in Europe to uncover the rest of it.
It began in Prague when I mistook one of the assistant directors to be American when he clearly had a British accent. The truth was, no matter how I had pretended to be Ms-Know-All in the past, I really couldn’t distinguish accents very well. After all, this is the same girl who had to read the subtitles to Trainspotting to understand what the movie was all about.
A stuntman who saw that I did not know anything about Europe at all suggested that I go to London, it being the centre of the arts and everything, to learn a few things. My lesson began almost immediately as I crossed the channel from France to London by rail. My mind was instantly fogged with bimbo-ish ideas of france being on the other side of Europe from London. Voila! They were actually right next to each other. But, hang on a second, weren’t they supposed to be two big and different countries with separate cultures and languages, united by the one similar desire to beat each other at everything? So, how could they be neighbours?
Bimbotic revelations continued as I walked the streets of London, ecstatic that the places on my Monopoly board REALLY did exist. There I was, all by myself, in the middle of a busy street, jumping up and down, giggling uncontrollably and yelling to anyone who would listen, “Hey! Trafalgar Square! Piccadilly Circus! Bond Street and cheapo Old Kent Road!”
And I started to sob at the sight of those red toy buses and postboxes I used to play with, here, blown-up life-size, and moving for real.
At first, I thought I could get away with the excuse that being Singaporean, I lived a sheltered life and did not know quite as much about the rest of the world. My new Finnish flatmates soon caught on to the fact that my ill-knowledge of the world was incurable when I actually believed them when they told me that penguins were kept in residential backyards, and that polar bears were sold in pet shops in Finland. They found my stupidity quite funny at first, and repeatedly tried to convince me of ridiculous trivia which sounded perfectly plausible to me, starting with the high rates of deaths in Finland caused by men peeing out in the minus 50 cold to the number of Finnish people who lived in igloos.
I stood uncontested as the very personification of ‘bimbo’. For a while. They soon tired of insistence that the capital of Switzerland was Stockholm, Holland was just another name for Denmark, Budapest was a Middle-Eastern city, and Netherlands used to be part of Russia.
Thankfully, the people of England seemed to not only forgive, but are deliriously obsessed with stupidity. Top television programmes readily feature cerebrally-challenged people. Think Harry Enfield, the Monty Python Series, The Fast Show, and those of you not familiar with any of the above, you force me to mention – Mr Bean.
Compare this to the highly-rated programmes in Singapore which tend to feature more intelligent people like Mulder and Scully, Phua Chu Kang, the cast of Friends…er…well…never mind…
I must admit that following through with my bimbocity was rather fun and attention-grabbing at first, until it became really life-threatening. I openly told a Scotsman, who worked as a baked beans taster for a major supermarket chain (this is true!) that Scotland was part of England! Along with my lucky stars, the man had a great sense of humour, probably owing to his job, and I was let off the hook. My fellow actors in class, upon hearing about the incident, marvelled at how I survived it without landing in hospital.
Now you know why I cannot return to Singapore until I succeed in becoming remotely intelligent, or my trip would have been for nothing. Meanwhile, I am still trying to figure out if my flatmates were teasing when they said that salami was made from horsemeat.