Fri. Mar 22nd, 2024

TL;DR – Don’t know true or not…

Recently, there was this post on the forum NUS Whispers. It talks about the 5 types of high SES students in NUS. The descriptions are pretty interesting.

1. The out-of-this-world

These are the kids of some of the most established Singaporean tycoon families that control the major trading houses of retail or finance or raw materials. They know they are privileged and don’t see the need to talk about their luxurious lives. The post wrote:

“They know they are privileged, and leaves one to only suspect and wonder when the occasional “yes, I saw Marion Cotillard carry that exact same bag when I was in London a couple of days ago” slip out. They have probably been to Seletar Airport more often than Changi…”

For us low SES people, Seletar Airport is where private planes land and fly off from.

2. The purist

More accessible and less rare than #1. These are sons and daughters of the captains of industry. They speak English with an upper-class twang. If they went to school in Singapore, they would already have a reputation from their junior college days. They usually arrive seated at the back of a chauffeured S class or 7 series. The post wrote:

“But other than that, they dress terribly plainly for the casual observer, yet their appearance is dissonant with the mannerism/values, although on closer inspection they are wearing Lemtosh Moscot glasses. More likely to be found on the New Course at the Singapore Island Country Club than in your lecture theatres.”

For those uncultured oafs like me, this pair of glasses is an example of Lemtosh Moscot glasses:

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Lemtosh Moscat glasses… via

3. The outlandishly loud

Also known as the sibei haolian. These are the scions of wealthy parents who lament that they should have just gone overseas for university. They complain about the “boring” food on campus and ask classmates and hall mates to “just grab lunch at Dempsey instead”. The post highlighted:

“you just cannot stand the overtly conspicuous consumption that have you shaking your head but slightly envious at the same time. They are the party hards, and you know you dream to be their friend, but secretly loathe their attitude during group work. Probably won’t talk to you after graduation.”

So… ya… sibei haolian.

4. The dreamies

These people speak well, are incredibly good at sports, excel in their studies, and have a solid 10-year plan from management associate to director of a multinational company. They drive good cars. Though rich, they want to give back. They spend their term breaks volunteering in less developed countries and are stridently passionate about the social inequality in Singapore. Any Singaporean mother would approve of them. The post pointed out:

“Will make great friends for life, and expect to be invited to their housewarming at their “just a simple” terrace house when they are age 30.”

If you know them, grab hold and hang on to them.

5. The established middle class

This group makes up more than half the student population in certain faculties. They sometimes forget that not all families own cars, or that having to go on exchange is a financial burden to some households. They get curious when someone mentions about not having taken an airplane, but are polite enough to stay quiet. The post reminded us:

” If you never had to worry about shouldering the family finances after graduation, you probably are one of them too.”

Unfortunately, that doesn’t sound like me…

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Post sparked discussion on Reddit

Someone made this comment about the post on Reddit:

“I’m from NUS business school and I haven’t seen #1, but for the rest, yes. I haven’t met anyone who stays in a HDB like me yet.”

For those who are shocked that NUS business school appears to be exclusively for those who only stay in private housing, do not panic. There were a number of Redittors who commented that they are in NUS business school and hail from more humble family backgrounds:

“HDB dweller here. It’s actually very common. Know a few low income there, but you wouldn’t know they are really that poor if no one tells you. Know an accounting or biz admin girl. Her dad is a 70-plus retired cleaner and her mom is a dishwasher.”


“I am a NUS accounting and finance student that recently graduated, my family is low income, live in HDB flat and doesn’t own a car. We have had our electricity cut off because we couldn’t pay the bills. All my uni fees and daily expenses are paid for by a scholarship, my parents have no money for me. I contributed back to my family while studying to help pay bills, with my scholarship allowance. Poor folks are rare but definitely we exist :p”

It’s heartening to know that there is social mobility is still somewhat alive in Singapore, that it is possible for people from low income families to make it and graduate from university. Phew. Looks like there’s still hope for my kids (if I have them…).

By Joey Wee

I am nice, most of the time!