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TMA 5

A Comparative Study on the Socio-cultural Behaviors of Singaporeans and


the Filipinos

DEVC 204
Cruz, Maria Victoria
Table of Contents

Introduction 3

Purpose & Importance of the Study 4

Review of Related Literature 6

Theoretical Framework 9

Design of the Study 10

Findings 11

Discussion 13

Definition 13

Trigger Factors & Influences 14

Repercussions 15

The Government & Its Impact 16

Conclusion 19

Recommendation 20

Annex A 22

Bibliography 24

 
Maria Victoria A. Cruz

Introduction

Behavior is defined as the manner of conducting oneself. It refers to actions, reactions

and responses of a person or system to stimulation. The field of psychology agrees that

it can be changed or measured.

“Kiasuism” is a behavior that is common among Singaporeans. It refers to a competitive

mindset that it is one’s major loss to miss out on good deals or trends that are already

happening in society. To put it descriptively, it is an impulsive willingness and desire to

pull ahead of or gain an advantage over others. This “kiasu” attitude developed a strong

atmosphere of competitiveness in Singapore society. It is strongly manifested in their

attitude towards education, work and other aspects of their lives. The society is fixated

on academic achievement and standing, resulting in children feeling pressured in school

and always being compared to their peers. On a positive note, this mentality has driven

many Singaporeans to be more diligent and hard working, in order to secure for

themselves good position in society.

“Crab mentality,” on the other hand, is prevalent among Filipinos. It is an attitude likened

to the behavior of crabs in a bucket: when a crab starts to climb its way up, the others

try to pull it back down. It is said that crab mentality is shortsighted thinking that runs

along the lines of “If I can’t have it, neither can you.” It usually conjures negative images

of backbiting, trampling each other down and even jolting. However, some critics say

there is positive side on this type of mentality. It goes to say that Filipinos have a

collective aspiration and goal for equality and justice. We frown on inequality and prefer

everyone to be of equal rights and status. Critics also say that many of those who had

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been subjected to crab mentality of others developed virtues of humility and resilience.

It may be an uphill battle for most Filipinos as they climb their way up to wealth and

success, but in the end, they survive and become more resilient. They become

generous in expressing care and concern for those who are still struggling to move their

way up.

The two mentalities are both not endearing traits. They are both derived or cut from the

same vein, envy or “inggit.” They also exhibit positive and negative outcomes in each

country’s social and political environment. I believe that each country’s respective

government and its and approach play an important role on the development and

prevalence of such mentalities. However, what is the degree of impact or effect of each

mentality on its nation?

Purpose & Importance of the Study

This study seeks to explore possible repercussions of these socio–cultural mentalities in

the economic development of both Singapore and the Philippines.

Singapore has surprisingly become one of the progressive countries in the world, and

its economy continues to grow rapidly. This is in spite of its small size and lack of

natural resources. This study hopes to address the question: In what way does

“kiasuism” help the nation progress rapidly?

The Philippines, on the other hand, is a country with vast resources. However, its slow

development remains a formidable challenge to its political leaders and economic

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experts. Studies have shown that poverty, unstable political leadership and uncontrolled

population growth remain not only strong factors contributing to this debacle, even the

Filipinos’ unique behavior of crab mentality also play a role. How does “crab mentality”

of Filipinos play a part in our country’s stunted economic growth? On the other hand,

how can such Filipino mentality exhibit a more optimistic change and help our nation

become stronger?

In the 1970’s, the Singapore government strongly encouraged (for a period) the

Singaporeans to embrace the kiasuism approach because of perceived benefits it has

for the country’s economy. Even up to now, senior government ministers would, from

time to time, remind their citizens of the challenges their country went through in the

past and stress the importance of staying ahead of others. They believe that they had to

start from young, so they created a kiasu environment especially in schools. For them,

the only alternative to winning is losing which obviously is not desirable. Thus,

competitiveness is prevalent in Singapore society.

This research does not suggest that we embrace the very same behavior as that of

Singaporeans. However, we might be able to learn something beneficial from such

mentality. Through this study, we may be able to identify how these social behaviors

affect the development of a nation. From there, we can formulate suggestions as to how

the Philippine government can instill a more positive and progressive attitude among its

citizens, in order to promote a better environment for Filipinos.

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Review of Related Literature

This paper reviews several research studies on the issues of crab mentality and

kiasuism. Hopefully, the researcher will be able to draw some possible analysis and

concerns relevant for this research.

Hwang, Ang and Francesco (2002) in their article, came up with a definition of kiasuism,

a behavior that refers to obsessive concern with getting the most out of every

transaction and a desire to get ahead of others. This prevalent behavior among

Singaporeans has negative and positive outcomes that were concluded in a study

conducted by Leo (1995). Some of negative outcomes are greed, being inconsiderate

and obnoxious. A significant positive outcome from kiasu behavior is that many

Singaporeans became high achievers. This mentality has also been observed in other

strongly developed nations such as Hong Kong, Australia and the United States.

Ortman (2009) stated in his article that Singapore, being a country with no long history

and inhabited by multitude of different races, had to come up with a strategy geared to

succeed as independent economy. One of the principles incorporated in their

governance is the concept of meritocracy, meaning “the best and brightest would

succeed.” Kiasuism is touted as the possible reason for the meritocratic rise of

Singapore, as cited by Robert Kiyosaki, the author of best-selling book “Rich Dad, Poor

Dad,” when he spoke in the National Achiever’s Congress in 2012. Like Hwang, Ang

and Francesco concluded in their article, kiasuism is a tactic rather than a maladaptive

behavior. It is an approach to life that manifests a specific tactic for the purpose of

achieving goals and gain competitive advantage over others. Since Singapore was a

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young nation, it needed to come up with social and economic strategies that will bring

its country to a new level and one of it indirectly points out to kiasuism. It began when

the Singapore government had to constantly remind its citizens of what their country

had to go through and how it survived crisis. This refers to a “crisis motive” strategy as

further stated by Ortman. This imparted the value of optimism on its people. Its citizens

learned to be determined and driven in whatever they do, hence, it created a healthy

and disciplined competitive environment that compels them to work harder and stay

ahead of others

Crab mentality, on the other hand, is similar to Australia’s “Tall Poppy Syndrome” (TPS)

as described in the research made by Mancl (2006). It basically refers to a social

phenomenon in which people cut down, resent, attack and criticize successful people

because their achievements elevate them above the rest. If TPS is also evident among

the people of a progressive nation like Australia, one can say that this cultural trait is not

a roadblock to its nation’s economic progress. Mancl did a survey among Australian

students and found that individuals with low global self-esteem and perceived self-

competence were more likely to favor the fall of these “tall poppies” than those with high

global self-esteem and perceived self-competence. To relate this with the Filipinos, its

colonization by the Spaniards for more than three centuries and by the Americans for

nearly fifty years had deeply influenced them and left an overpowering cognitive

behavioral concept that determines their sense of inferiority, low self-esteem and crab

mentality (Mclellands 1961). In the beginning, the Filipinos had to rely heavily on their

colonizers in order to survive in spite of the fact that the country is rich in natural

resources. From the time when Filipinos basically lost rights to everything, they learned

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to be dependent on the Spaniards and Americans to carry through life. This can further

be related to Mclellands hypothesis: that economic development comes about when

children are brought up to be independent and self-reliant. He cited that children who

grow up with these two traits develop a need to achieve more and this provides impetus

for the development of a society. Similarly, the Philippines should have began and

focused to learn sense of independence to be able to achieve more.

Crab mentality describes a way of thinking best described by the phrase, “If I can't have

it, neither can you.” A person tries to pull somebody down if the latter is getting ahead of

him. There are critics who also look at it in a positive perspective and refer to it as a

collective desire of Filipinos for equality and justice. No one must be given special and

unequal treatment. Seen from a glass half-full perspective, some of those who had been

subjected to crab mentality actually became more resilient and humble in the pursuit of

their dreams and goals. In a recent survey by British organization Charities Aid

Foundation, the Philippines is rated 17th most generous country out of 146 countries

included in the study. Resilience, compassion and generosity are growing virtues

among the Filipinos. These values or morals were believed to have commenced from

the Filipinos’ collective desire of justice and equality that in a way described in crab

mentality. What emerges is a spirit of volunteerism also refers to as “bayanihan” that

Filipinos exhibit especially during times of calamities like typhoons, floods, and

earthquakes and even in non-emergency situations that call for a sense of community—

such as elections, school enrolments, and festivities and other town activities. Different

tragedies have hit the country yet these virtues become more and more evident.

Filipinos continue to fight, struggle and survive in the midst of all challenges and these

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are important factors if people desire to see their nation grow.

Theoretical Framework

This research is based on a major theory within psychology, which holds that all

behaviors are learned through positive and negative reinforcements. This theory is

known as “behavioral psychology” or “behaviorism,” developed and coined by John B.

Watson (1912). This is a theory of learning based upon the idea that all behaviors are

acquired through conditioning. Conditioning occurs through interaction with the

environment. Behaviorists believe that our responses to environment stimuli shape our

behavior.

Applying this theory to the study at hand, the behaviors in this case are the cultural traits

being studied, specifically kiasuism and crab mentality. These behaviors are acquired

through conditioning, in this case by each country’s history as well as their respective

government’s practices or approach. In turn, these behaviors have an effect on each

country’s degree of economic development.

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Design of the Study

A qualitative research approach is applied in this study using Focus Group Interview;

two sets of group with only three participants in each group. Small sampling is due to

time constraint faced by the researcher. One group is composed of Singaporean

nationals (group # 1) while another group is composed of Filipinos (group # 2). A

structured set of open-ended or probe questions (Annex A) are used for the informal

face-to-face interviews.

The researcher conducted the interview in a conversational manner so that the

respondents, especially under a group setting, would be more willing to express freely

their opinions on the subject being studied. Responses from Interviews were recorded

and transcribed for better analysis. The data from interview transcripts used “open

coding”, wherein each response was labeled or coded according to themes and ideas

that the researcher finds significant and important to the study.

Respondents were called over the phone for schedule of interviews. Respondents are

both men and women, aged between 30 and 45 years. Interviews were all held in the

Central Christian Church building in Singapore in two consecutive weekends. The

interview for each group lasted more than an hour.

Two of the respondents from group 1 are teachers from a renowned primary school in

Singapore. Their exposure to a competitive school environment in Singapore will

provide insight into the extent of kiasuism in their society and its effect on their nation.

The other participant is a housewife who works part-time as an insurance agent in one

of the top financial companies in Singapore. She spoke freely of what she sees with the

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nation’s government and its extent of kiausism. Group 2 consists of one participant who

is a former social worker from the Philippines and is presently engaged in various

developmental agencies’ projects in the Philippines. Having been an advocate of

Philippine development, the interviewee will provide understanding on factors affecting

the country’s development and his beliefs on the impact of cultural behaviors among

Filipinos. The other participant is a Programming Manager in IT development projects

for Citibank Singapore. His wide understanding of both cultures in the Philippines and

Singapore helped the researcher generate more ideas about the subject. The other

participant is an engineer whose construction firm he is working with is also based in

Singapore. The respondent strongly displays aversion of crab mentality among

Filipinos.

Other than interviews and observations, the researcher gathered data from various

opinions among other Singaporeans and Filipinos as the researcher interacted with

them daily. Information in both print and online media and articles and from extensive

books search and literature reviews were rigorously analyzed. It also entails complex

reasoning and focus on the context for the data to be meaningfully interpreted.

Findings

The questions and responses from the interviews are directly geared toward the

researcher’s objectives to identify the degree of effect of kiasuism and crab mentality in

Singapore and the Philippines, respectively, and to find out if each nation’s respective

government plays a role in the development and prevalence of such cultural mentalities.

The table below shows the key significant responses from the focus group interviews.

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Category Kiasuism Crab Mentality

(Focus Group 1) (Focus Group 2)

Definition Stated • Unrelenting high • A desire to bring


expectations other people down
• Going beyond what is • Envy or “inggit”
expected • Sickness among
• Not wanting to be left Filipino society
behind • Not wanting others to
• Wanting excellence or be ahead of him/her
being always on top
Origin/Causes of • Chinese culture • Historical
Behavior • Fear among people that background
they may lose something beginning 1800
or they may be left • Influenced by
behind Chinese (high
• Government policy & achievers)
agenda • Perceived unequal
• Government messages & opportunities
propaganda
Negative Effects • Led to sense of • Nothing good comes
entitlement among out from it
Singaporeans • Promotes envy
• Causes unnecessary in various settings
pressure especially like politics,
among children entertainment
• Causes stressful industry, business
environment and schools
• Losing joy of learning
among children
Positive Effects • Pushes people to excel • Can promote healthy
• No complacency in life competitive
• Promotes healthy environment
pressure to help achieve • May spur people to
greater results excel and be at their
• Result and success best
oriented people • Should inspire
• Promotes self- people to succeed
improvement • Have attitude of “if
they can do it, I can
also do it”

Government Roles • Wants citizens to be • Lacks addressing the


and Practices in fearful of losing attitude

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Terms of such something good • Corruption in


Cultural Mentality • Looks on long-term goals government
and plans • Bickering among
• Prevalence of kiasuism in political leaders
education system • Strong political
• Incites citizens to rivalries
compete and improve • Dirty elections
• Sets very high standards • Consistent negative
• One sole political party news updates
• State control of the local
media
• Focus is on developing
“sense of identity” and
national development

Effects on People & • Strong competitive • Promotes distrust of


Environment environment own government
• Academically inclined • Formation of rebel
society ideological groups
• Excellence in the nation such as NPA, CPP,
and as a nation MILF
• Regimented society • Lack of sense of
patriotism
• Lack of confidence
on leaders
• Crab mentality is
prevalent
• Disheartened people
that swings them to
“survival mode”

Discussions

Definition

Singaporean respondents (group 1) defined kiasuism as unrelenting high expectations,

an attitude of not wanting to be left behind. Kiasu people go beyond what is expected of

them to achieve excellence and be always on top. A large number of people in

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Singapore possess this attitude. There are newspaper and magazine articles that

describe it as uniquely Singapore.

How Filipino respondents (group 2) defined crab mentality is similar to how kiasuism is

described above: it is an attitude of people not wanting others to be ahead of them.

However, respondents also described it as an attitude of a person wanting to bring other

people down and this is usually brought by feelings of envy. It is described as a

common sickness among Filipinos.

The two attitudes are similar but differ on how one reacts to feelings of envy. On one

hand, Singaporeans not wanting to be left behind push themselves to work harder in

order to achieve greater results. On the other hand, the crab mentality attitude of

Filipinos, not wanting anyone to be ahead of all the others, tend to pull them back down,

resulting in a sense of mediocrity.

Trigger Factors & Influences

The above statements lead us to the question: “What drives these people to behave the

way they do?” Group 1 discussed the fear of missing out on something good, or falling

behind others. A strong example of this is evident in the country’s school environment,

where academic rankings and examination results are highly valued in society.

Academic tuition centers and private tuition services are common. It also shows in the

huge quantity of study materials, such as assessment and practice books, available in

bookstores and shops found in malls, sidewalks and even in bus and train stations. In

general, they believe that kiasuism is incorporated in their government’s policies and

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agenda. News and feature articles from state-controlled media directly or indirectly

espouse this attitude.

The same group of respondents also mentioned how the behavior could possibly be

common for a Chinese society. An example is the case of the “tiger mom,” an ethnic

Chinese American who stirred controversy by saying that Chinese parents raise

children better than western parents. Her beliefs are very similar to the kiasu mentality.

The second group believes that crab mentality must have been derived from the

Chinese people. In the early 1900s, there were 1.5 million people of Chinese ethnicity,

which was almost 25% of the Philippine population then. Chinese people are perceived

to be hard working and always determined to achieve success. One respondent from

the group mentioned how that particular characteristic of Chinese has influenced the

growth of crab mentality in the Philippines.

Repercussions

Both behaviors have negative and positive effects in their environment and in the

attitude of people. The main negative effects of kiasuism as observed in many

Singaporeans include development of a “sense of entitlement” and high level of

depression and anxiety due to academic pressure. This has contributed to a fast-paced

stressful environment that may cause other people to lose joy in learning and even in

life. The positive effects, however, are more strongly felt within the society. Many

Singaporeans become result and success-oriented; many of them are high achievers

and abhor complacency in life while desiring continuous growth and improvement.

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On the other hand, envy and belittling as factors discussed among group 2 turn out to

be one of the main negative effects of crab mentality. Most of the respondents insisted

that they could not see anything good resulting from it. The situations in Philippine

politics, the entertainment industry and schools are the most obvious examples. Political

rivalries, endless bickering and intrigues are commonplace in the Philippine political

environment and are clear indications of crab mentality. The same is true in show

business. Even in schools, rivalries and sometimes violent clashes can happen between

known universities and colleges. Constant coverage of Philippine media of these

situations causes the public to get used to these. This results in an osmosis effect,

wherein constant exposure to such things leads people to adopt them as normal and

accepted in society.

One respondent in the second group was able to identify a positive effect of crab

mentality. He said that it actually could promote a healthy competitive environment

similar to that of Singapore. This may spur Filipinos to do their best and to excel. It

should help inspire people to succeed in life.

The Government and Its Impact

When asked about the role their respective governments play in the prevalence of such

mentality in their nation, both groups of respondents had a lot to say.

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It is commonly perceived that the Singapore government wants its citizens to always be

on their toes and not be complacent, therefore pushing its citizens to excel and reach

goals. An excerpt from the recent message of the Prime Minister, “foreigners are better

than locals…” is a very inciting statement for many Singaporeans. For the respondents,

it spells the need to compete and improve all the more. Aside from the strong evidence

of kiasuism in education, the government continues to set higher standards in a lot of

areas. This can be seen in the soaring cost of living in the country, very high registration

costs of vehicles, continued increase in the prices of real estate property and more. All

these speak of how high the government wants to set its bar. From the time the country

became an independent nation in 1965 until the 1980s, there had only been one

government political party that runs it. Respondents consider it as strong implication of

unity among their government leaders and their serious collective goal of national

development. To have a full state control of the entire local media in the country is

thought of as another right step or decision from the government. The local media is

controlled and allowed to cover only information on what will build the nation.

Singaporeans are exposed to successful agenda and projects and promising future

plans and developments of the government. This way, the citizens learn to be in one

with their political leaders in achieving national goals. Citizens only see and hear what

their government has to say and that probably led them to be reputed as a “regimented”

society. “Radical long-term goals and plans have always been in the minds of our

government people,” as quoted from one respondent. Amazingly, the government has

effectively delivered well all the development projects making the nation one of the

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fastest growing around the world. These factors give evidence to the perception that

Singapore’s government leaders are themselves kiasu.

We notice how many Singaporeans acquire the sense of nationalism in effect to how

they see their government rule and manage. It could be the power of positive

reinforcement and positive examples that began among the country’s government

leaders. As discussed and stated by group 1 respondents, further effect from their

government’s kiasu approach is their drive for excellence. Strong display of kiasuism in

their country may have created a competitive environment and academically inclined

and regimented society; however, these factors are believed to be what brought them to

where the nation is now.

As to the role and approach of the Philippine government, group 2 respondents remain

negative by saying that corruption, blickering, rivalries and dirty elections are just a few

factors that are most evident among the Philippine government leaders. One

respondent even emphasized that in the past, print and radio media coverage was

mostly about disclosing the filth from the government. This basically results in lack of

trust and confidence on the government, and lack of patriotism among many Filipinos.

Many people may have felt disheartened as to the situation and practices among their

nation’s leadership, resulting to many Filipinos to practice survival mode of crab

mentality.

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Conclusion

Crab mentality and kiasuism are similar in many ways. All respondents look at both as

negative traits rather than positive. However, in a developed country such as Singapore,

kiasuism appears to play a role in a healthy competitive environment. This has led to an

excellence-oriented environment that is key to the nation’s further progress and

success. This is attributed to how the country’s government leaders practice and apply

positive perspectives of kiasuism. The government continues to allow healthy pressures

among its citizens to do and achieve well and this is more evident in the country’s

politics, education and workplace. Singapore government leaders became effective in

positively reinforcing kiasuism in its people. The inspiring success stories in the country

powered by a solely united political party serves as a powerful tool in winning the

people’s trust and confidence in their government.

The Philippines being a neighboring country to Singapore and believed to possess a

degree of Chinese influence that is similar to kiauism, seems unfortunately stunted.

Truly a lot of factors have contributed to that effect and one of it is believed to be the

unaddressed prevalence of crab mentality in its society. Strong negative perspectives of

crab mentality are heavily displayed in the different settings in the Philippines

particularly in the country’s politics, show business and schools. Worse is that these

particular industries being main influences in the country are also given the largest

coverage and attention from the media. The Filipinos witness and experience the most

unwanted in the supposed to be most protected and well-managed environment such

as the country’s government. In the past, strong factors of rivalries that results to dirty

elections, unending impeachments, disagreements and arguments over laws, formation

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of various rebel groups and not to mention the strong issue of graft and corruption pose

a big distrust and lost of confidence in many Filipinos. These are all obviously derived

from the issue of crab mentality that is strongly displayed among the country’s

government leaders. Moreover, the lack of trust and confidence brought about by a lot

of chaos in the government leadership is believed to be one factor affecting the

development of the country.

Recommendation

From this research study, the researcher is able to draw some ideas and suggestions

with regard to each respective government and cultural behavior.

Singapore has done a tremendous job in reaching development and success. Kiasuism

plays a role in the country’s economic development; however, maintaining balance in

the extent of kiasuism in the society should be the next step. The open-door policy of

government resulting in continued influx of foreigners in the country threatens citizens

with fear of losing their identity, culture and even jobs. Thus, competition is so strong

consequently, resulting to xenophobic reactions of some Singaporeans.

The Philippines today is picking up economically and has been gaining positive

reactions among the business and tourism sectors. Kudos to what has the President

been doing to eradicate corruptions and unwanted leaders in the Philippine government.

The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) was recently able to generate a sound tax

collectibles which is about 46% higher collection than the previous year. That could be

attributed from the gaining confidence and trust of people with its government.

Furthermore, the researcher suggests for the government to come up with a more

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hardline approach that sets standard to excel and focus on just building and developing

the nation. Continue to address the issue of display of crab mentality among Filipinos

specifically the people in politics and entertainment mass media. There is a call for the

government leaders to highly set the pace in practicing excellent leadership. Lastly,

emphasize and promote on the positive sides of crab mentality. It goes to say that

Filipinos must continue to highlight the values of generosity, resilience and hospitality in

the country. Integrate and emphasize learning and adapting these things through

Values Education subject in schools. This will boost security and confidence among the

citizens. This way, the real character of Filipinos will be revived and that will help the

nation revive too.

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Annex A (Interview Guide Questions)

Group 1 (Singaporean Respondents on kiasuism)

1) Define Kiauism

2) Where and how do you think it started?

3) Is it a positive or negative trait? In what way?

4) Please give examples of kiasuism seen in positive perspective

5) What about examples seen in negative perspective? Please give examples

6) Is it a unique trait that is only among Singaporeans?

7) Why do you think many Singaporeans practice or adhere to such behavior?

Please name factors.

8) Do you think the Singapore government plays a role in the emergence or

prevalence of kiasuism? In what way? Please cite examples.

9) Do you see a similar practice of kiasuism in the approach of your government?

10) Why did you say so? Kindly give examples.

11) In what way does kiasuism behavior affects a development of nation?

12) Recommendation as to the approach of Singapore government leaders in terms

of addressing their cultural behavior?

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Group 2 (Filipino Respondents on crab mentality)

1) Define crab mentality.

2) Where and how do you think it started?

3) Give examples

4) Is it only among Filipinos? Why?

5) Is it a positive or negative trait?

6) What positive side you see in Kiasuism? Negative?

7) Why do you think many Filipinos practice crab mentality? Please name important

factors.

8) Do you think the Philippine government plays a role in the emergence or

prevalence of crab mentality? In what way? Please cite examples.

9) You think Philippine government leaders practice the same behavior

themselves?

10) Why did you say so? Kindly give examples.

11) In what way does crab mentality behavior affects a development of nation?

12) Recommendation as to the approach of Philippine government leaders in terms

of addressing their cultural behavior?

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