A Post That Needs A Fish Pun (but I can’t think of one)

After all the preparation, then the race, then reliving the whole thing to write the race report (Part 1 and Part 2), I’m ready to talk about something besides “The 50K“.  [Cue all my readers breathing a sigh of relief.]

Since The New Blog Plan has designated Wednesdays as “Singapore Stories” day (or some other recurring feature), let’s try a short story for today yesterday (I actually wrote most of this on Wednesday, I swear).  And I promise, this post will be less than 600 words.

I should preface this story by noting that the standard for customer service in Singapore sometimes feels….somewhat low to someone who was born and raised in the United States.  This is not to say that I haven’t had any good customer service experiences here, because I certainly have.  [Although admittedly, unlike in the US, the fastest and most polite service often comes from government agencies, as opposed to private businesses.  But I digress.]  Regardless, a number of my “Singapore Stories” will be rooted in customer service experiences, as they are often the ones that leave me scratching my head.  So without further ado, let’s go to the supermarket.

Scene: The fish counter at the local supermarket.  This is similar to the fish counter at a US supermarket, except that instead of fillets, whole fish are sitting on ice: head, scales, guts, etc.  You choose the fish you want, then ask one of the staff behind the counter to gut it and remove the scales.  [Incidentally, you do still get the whole fish: head, fins, etc.]

I select a small pomfret (it only needs to feed KMN and I) and hand it to the auntie behind the counter.  A small bit of some organ is protruding through the kill-cut (I think), but I don’t think twice about that, since I’m going to ask for it to be gutted anyway.

[Don’t mind the approximate Singlish.]

Me: *hands fish over counter* Can clean for me, please?
Fish Auntie: Don’t want this one.  *points to protruding innards*
Me: Ahh…it’s OK.  Will clean anyway, yah?
Fish Auntie: *shaking head* No, no – don’t want. *takes fish from me, buries back in display ice*
Me (assuming she knows something about fresh fish selection that I don’t): Ooook.
Fish Auntie: *digging around for another pomfret*
Me: Small one, please.  Small.  Just for two people.
Fish Auntie: *holds up somewhat larger pomfret*
Me: Errrr…smaller one can?  That one a bit big.
Fish Auntie: *puts fish on scale* 400 (grams).
Me: *shakes head* Mmmm…a bit big.  Smaller one can?
Fish Auntie: *nods, prints pricing label, takes fish back to cleaning counter*
Me: Sigh….

I have no idea.

Language barrier?  Possibly, but her English seemed pretty good to me.
Upselling?  Perhaps, but it’s not like she’s working on commission.
Overall misunderstanding?  Maybe.
An Auntie just being an Auntie?  Most likely…
[KMN’s Peranakan family has taught me to respect the matriarchy!]

There was a time (not too long ago) when this would have left me huffing and puffing and peevish.  Instead, I just laughed.  A few more grams of fish wasn’t going to break the bank.  So I came home that day with some extra fish, and a story.  And when I recounted the story to KMN, he didn’t seem the least bit surprised.

The only major disadvantage of the extra fish?  Microwaving fishy leftovers the next day really did stink up the apartment…

*Fish Commission = Fishmission?  Fission?

Would you laugh it off or try to insist on the smaller fish?

Ever cooked a whole fish?
[We usually poach ours, but I’m open to other suggestions!]

9 thoughts on “A Post That Needs A Fish Pun (but I can’t think of one)

  1. Grace

    Aiyah, 400g is not much of a fish anyway! And pomfret are good poached Teochew-style. Or pan-fried. I’m not fond of dealing with fish bits (I know, good for stock…when do I ever make stock) and we usually get chunks of the frozen stuff from the supermarket.

    I’m guessing there were no smaller ones?

    Reply
    1. Holly @ Run With Holly Post author

      We poach in water with garlic, onions, and ginger. That doesn’t sound spicy enough to be Teochew, but it’s Irene Koh’s suggested method.

      And it’s funny you should mention stock – I stockify every chicken carcass we generate, but never actually thought to do it with the fish. Hmmm…..

      There were smaller ones – there was a big display section full of ’em – definitely a few were smaller than the one she pulled. Although you are correct – and I did try to make clear – the difference was <100 grams. It's just funny to me, because in the US, it wouldn't matter if it was 10 grams, if the customer wanted a smaller fish, the employee would pick up a smaller fish - or at least, pick up OTHER fish until the customer was happy. Maybe American are spoiled, but I often have to remember that, in Singapore, the customer isn't always right! 🙂

      Reply
  2. Jess

    Having travelled through Asia (including Singapore) I can totally imagine this! I would laugh it off now, at the start of my adventures I would have been really frustrated!

    Reply
    1. Holly @ Run With Holly Post author

      Precisely! When we first moved, I would have been rolling my eyes all over the place. Now? *shrug*

      I’m also glad this connected for at least one person. After I published it, I suddenly wondered if I was trying to invent a story out of nothing, or if it wasn’t as humorous as I thought. 🙂

      Reply
  3. Allison

    Are they really called fish aunties? That’s so cute.
    It’s really is a different world over there isn’t it? I can’t even imagine! Can’t wait to hear more stories!

    Reply
    1. Holly @ Run With Holly Post author

      Hahahah! I wish they were. But sadly….no. I’d call any of the older women who work at the supermarket “Auntie”, but I just made up the name “Fish Auntie”, as an appropriate descriptive. But they would make a great pairing with the “Meat Uncles” that staff the next counter over! 🙂

      Reply
  4. Meagan

    Haha I loved this story! I think I would have felt a bit exasperated, but I would have just laughed it off and accepted the larger-than-necessary fish. I would love to come visit you in Singapore, just to walk around and observe the culture and interactions like buying a fish at the counter in the supermarket. I guess we could run some too, if you’re into that kind of stuff…

    I also think it’s really cute how you refer to the lady as “an Auntie.” I’ve noticed it in the past, like when you posted about people talking about you in Mandarin in front of you. What’s up with that? I think it’s cute 🙂

    Reply
    1. Holly @ Run With Holly Post author

      You’d be welcome to come visit ANY time – it’s really very fascinating – especially since sometimes, you have to look a little bit harder to see the differences. On the surface, it can feel very much like a big city in the US; but look a little deeper, and you see how cultural differences permeate lots of small interactions – things you wouldn’t see unless you’re really paying attention.

      We could totally run. Or you could come spin with me. Or both! 🙂

      Good question on the “Aunties” – I’ll be posting about that this week, so stay tuned!

      Reply

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