Why the names 'Ah Beng' and 'AhLians' were chosen to represent this category of Singaporeans has never been very clear-except that AhBengs and AhLians are very common names for Singapore Chinese. The people speak of them in a generally derisive tone and make jokes about the way AhBengs and AhLians dress, their 'weird' English(usually a mixture of Hokkien and Chinese and English), and the types of entertainment they go for.
Ahbengs like to use phrases like "Wat lah!" , "Ha Nah!" , "Oi!" ,"Happi Lah!" , "On ah!" , "Fight lah!" and "Not happy ah!". If you had noticed, almost every phrase had to end with a "lah!" or a "Nah!" In other words, the English that he only bothered to know were theDIRECTTRANSLATION of the these phrases from Hokkien !!! Furthermore, AhBengs and AhLians like to swear a lot. Phases like "Chee-bye", "Nah Beh" ,"Ka Ni Na" and "Wa Lan A" are very commonly heard.
Many Ah Bengs are successful businessmen, and
are just as versatile and competitive as their English-educated brethren.
There are Ah Bengs who are owners of chains of coffee-shops, food-courts,karoake
lounges with branches in Malaysia, small property development companies
, budget hotels in the outlying parts of the city, heavy equipment leasing
companies, foreign labour supply companies. Recently, a more dangerous
kind of Techno-Ah Beng has emerged, the Ah Beng who can rig up a computerised
race-horse betting system complete with voice telecommunications.
The dressing of a Typical AhBeng
Suzuki GTI/Honda Civic V-Tec, Honda CRX/Nissan 200 FX, outfitted with
sound system that allows everyone in a 2-m vicinity to feel the thump of every single
bass beat in your favourite dance remix album. Must be kitted with spoilers and
extra body parts, the favourite being The Last Supper attachment at the back of the
car, so called because the shape of the whale tail-type attachment looks like the
table in the Last Supper painting. And to make it the ultimate Beng mobile - disco
lights that light up when you hit the brakes.
Where do Ah Bengs and Ah Lians hang out, and what do they do there?
NGEE ANN CITY
LIAN totters on her white platform shoes
around the open space outside Ngee Ann City.
It is Saturday afternoon. She is sweltering
under the hot sun, but her Versace sunglasses
are perched on her head, holding back her
yellow-brown hair, instead of shielding her
eyes from the UV rays.
She takes a quick look around at the groups
gathered on the steps and in various corners of
the plaza. Spotting her best friend, she sashays
over. As she passes the groups of girls in tube
tops and low-waist pants, she turns up her
"Yeee...wear so sexy in the day. Chow ah
lian,'' she says to her best friend.
Suddenly, her Prada-look-alike bag emits an
electronic ringing sound. "Arlo,'' she yells into
her mobile phone. It is her boyfriend, Ah Beng.
"Meet at Sparks Disco tonight,'' he tells her.
She says: "OK.''
When the conversation ends, she does not put
her phone back into her bag. As she always
tells her friends: "Got, must show off, mah.''
She gets money to buy the phone from
working in a karaoke lounge.
And what does she do there? "Sing song only,
what. One night, if good tips, can earn a lot
But ultimately, Ah Lian wants to become a
model. So does her best friend, and the two
have gone to Cover Looks to get their
makeovers and portfolios done.
They get bored with hanging around and
watching the other groups of Ahbengs pretend
to punch one another, and hordes of other Ah
lians puffing away on their cigarettes. So they
decide to go shopping inside.
Just then, a meek-looking reporter approaches
them. "Excuse me, I am from The Straits
Times. Can I interview you for a while?''
"For what?'' Ah Lian asks, suspiciously.
"Just want to know if you think those girls over
there are ah lians?''
"Of course lah, wear until so sexy. And you got
hear them talk or not? So vulgar!''
"Eh,'' the reporter hesitates. "Do you wear sexy
"Do you use swear words?''
"Eh...has anyone called you an ah lian before?''
"Got! But I not one, OK! I tell them back.''
At this point, she gets a little agitated, and
raises her voice. The reporter says a hasty
"thank you'' and beats her retreat.
of walking around, the girls head for the
atrium in the basement, towards the huge video
screen there. Hundreds of other lians and
bengs are hanging around, mostly squatting or
sprawling on the floor, watching the music videos, which alternate between Hongkong
and Taiwanese singers, and Spice Girls and Boyzone.
Before they know it, night casts a shadow over
the buildings outside. Inside the mall,
the clothes get shinier, the make-up thicker and the platform shoes higher.
Ah Lian is now outside Sparks disco on the seventh
floor, under the neon
green-and-yellow sign. She has been paging Ah Beng for the last half hour.
Just as she is ready to storm off, a lime-green
Honda Civic pulls up next to her, its
engine revving powerfully. Ah Beng winds down the window and the thumping bass of
techno music is heard.
"Why so late?'' she pouts.
How can she not forgive him? Dressed in a tight
bright yellow shirt with front zip and
white Valentino jeans, the silver bolts on his black Versace belt standing out, he looks
With the streaks of green in the fringe of his
hair, some people say that he looks like
one of the Grasshopper guys, or a Chinese version of Nick from the Backstreet Boys.
She once stood up in front of a bar in a pub and announced proudly: "My boyfriend is
Soon all their friends arrive, mostly on their
Piaggio motorbikes. There are about 15 of
them, the usual crowd for a Saturday night outing. Inside, the dance floor is already
packed with bodies shaking and grooving to the latest Euro-dance tunes. At the bar,
bourbon cokes and vodka limes are being gulped down.
But those drinks are out-dated. The "in'' things
these days is alcoholic soda, e Thirty
Three especially. Ah Lian orders a long island tea, an all-time favourite with the Lians.
Ah Beng is a beer drinker. But he will not be caught dead with Tiger or Anchor. It is
Corona, from a bottle, with a slice of lime, for him.
The hapless journalist who had approached Ah Lian
earlier slips quietly next to Ah
Beng and asks him: "Excuse me, are you an Ah Beng?'' He gives her a look she will
never forget - not threatening or leering, but a look that only a Beng can give.
"That day I went to watch movie, someone call
out: "Ah Beng!' I thought call me. Turn
out it's that Ah Beng fellow from Army Daze. He also watching movie. So you say I
Ah Beng or not?''
and feeling out-of-place, the reporter merges into the crowd, and Ah Beng
tells his friend: "These ang moh types keep calling us Ah Beng. They think their England
good then so what?''
He looks around for Ah Lian. But she has gone
to the toilet. Inside the ladies, it is
smoky and crowded, and at least 10 ah lians are elbowing for space in front of the sink
for a look in the mirror. Ah Lian is wearing shiny eye-shadow, dark lipstick and nail
polish. Out of the corner of her eye, she notices an ah lian staring at her. Wah, looking
for fight is it?
Fights are common. Just last week, some ah beng
had insulted her, and her Ah Beng
stood up for her, confronting the guy with his friends. "He not gang type what. He just
protecting me,'' she told her best friend after the incident.
Ah Beng drives off into the night, with Ah Lian
in the front seat. Aqua's Barbie Girl is
blasting from the car's audio system. Thus ends another episode of Ah Lian and Ah
Beng in their fantasy Barbie and Ken party world.
But there is always next Saturday.
ON A typical Friday night, Michael
and his group of four "brothers'' hang out at the
Marina South food centre. For $10 each, they get to savour a two-in-one buffet under
At about 10pm or so, after three
rounds of the buffet and a lot of idle chatter
punctuated with some off-the-wall Hokkien exclamations and profanities, they hit the
windy corridor of a nearby arcade.
Squatting there, cigarettes in hand,
the secondary school boys continue with the latest
gossip, stealing glances occasionally at the many girls in gaudy fake designer wear, who
click-clack in their heels around them, arms linked with each other as a sign of sisterly
Theirs is a common fashion code.
His friends are dressed in identical shirts and brands.
The girls, all ready to flaunt their flat tummies and porcelain flesh, opt generally for
skin-baring outfits in blacks and whites - colours for a night out at the disco.
From time to time, to attract the
boys' attention, the girls talk in loud, shrill voices, or
slap each other's backs in a show of excitement. In return, the boys swear and imagine
themselves to be the macho men in Hongkong triad movies .
A little later, groups of them start
to throng Canto Pub, where they boogie with
abandon to America's Top 40 hits and Cantonese and Mandarin pop until after
midnight. On some nights, there are hot acts, like the immensely-popular Cantopop
trio, Grasshopper, or Taiwanese pop singer Zhang Huimei. This is when the pub is
packed to the gills, with some half-drunk carousers taking liberties, like prancing on
There are occasions when the dancing,
drinking, and girl-watching at Marina South
turn ugly. Vulgarities are shouted, fights are picked. But most teenagers is just looking for good,
"The party ends at 3am, with kids
dialling for taxis on their mobile phones. But not
everyone goes home. Some sprawl over sidewalks or on the stairs of bowling alleys,
and chat till dawn.
PARCO BUGIS JUNCTION
From cinemas to boutiques, Parco Bugis Junction has everything
for Bengs and Lians.
PARCO BUGIS JUNCTION is where Ah Lians and Ah Bengs go
to unwind on
Sunday, after a hard night's partying at Canto Pub and Sparks.
Ah Beng usually dresses down for the occasion in baggy
jeans or shorts, with T-shirts
and Converse slippers to match. The more image-conscious Ah Lian, however, still
prefers tight jeans, tiny tops and strappy platforms.
Both hang on to the ubiquitous mobile phone, which they
use to get in touch with
friends and set up meetings at their favourite spots - the fountain area and the cinema
Whether they are shopping, or just hanging out,
Bugis Junction offers everything they need.
When Ah Beng wants to catch the latest
movie, but Ah Lian insists on going shopping,
they can do both here.
There is V8 Movies on level 3, which offers
cheap VCDs, LDs and CDs, as well as the
United Artists cineplex. And while Ah Beng is
there, he can gawk at the Sony home theatre
53-inch television screen and dream about the
day he can afford to buy the complete home
entertainment unit, with video, VCD and sound
Ah Lian, on the other hand, loves the trendy
boutiques, with names like Fickle Fashion,
because of their wide variety of clothes,
handbags and shoes at bazaar prices. There
are also the plentiful cart vendors selling
everything from cute stuffed toys to colourful
jewellery to tempt her.
This is where you can see the mature mother with her teenage
daughter, dressed in
matching outfits, shopping for necessities at Seiyu, or a group of friends, bringing their
children along for an ice-cream break at McDonald's.
While the kids play in the fountain, their Mums, dressed
in bright shorts and
neon-coloured sandals, take a well-deserved break on the benches.
Right in the heart of yuppie city, Bugis Junction provides
a natural habitat for Ah Lian
and Ah Beng on their days off.
to hear a Hokkien song
to hear a Hokkien song
to hear a Hokkien song