WHATEVEREST from Kristoffer Borgli on Vimeo.

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Race is an everyday topic here

Where I live now everyone talks about race. Always. I have never lived in a country that wasn’t racist. Never. Race is an everyday topic here and people have all kinds of opinions. Talking about race or ethnicity often borderlines with straight out racism. People from there are like this. People from here are like that. The Malay-Singaporean intellectual is tiered of race as a topic everywhere he goes. The Indian PhD-students are ignored by the waitress in the restaurant when I am at the table. I am supposed to order for all of us. The PhD-students gave up and are indifferent. Used to it. The French female expat complains about white guys dating just Asian girls. With Asian she means Chinese-Singaporean. The Lebanese girl just dates Arab Muslim guys with a non-Arab passport. The Paranakan-Singaporean dates an Italian who has a preference for black guys. The world for Caucasian in Singlish is Ang Moh, redhead.

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On being in Europe, on being in Berlin

I went back to Europe for two weeks and it looks different coming from Singapore. First and foremost I blend right in. That means physically, I am no longer alien and ideologically, I am no longer on the far left but rather in the center.

My trip started in Belgrade where I attended a wedding that stretched over four days. Friends from all over came and celebrated the love of my two dear friends Dragana and Alex. It was truly international. The groom from the US, the bride from Serbia, and the guests from every corner of the world. There was a lot of dancing and drinking involved, a gypsy band played in addition to the other wedding band. I reunited with my friends from Oslo who came over to celebrate with the loving couple. All in all it was an amazing event. On one of the mornings, I even had the chance to see an exhibition on invisible violence with Lars. Coincidentally the curator was present and gave us a tour. To my surprise, I was completely taken in by the exhibition and being in a censored space for a year, it made me very happy to get all these uncensored impressions about rules, governments and other forms of authority.

From Belgrade, I took the plane to Berlin where I met up with my favorite people from the motherland. In Berlin, I also went to a couple of art exhibition and again was inspired by the freedom of speech that the art spaces offered.

Since the world cup was going on, there were lots of discussions on national symbols. These discussions appear for every major sports event. Since Berlin identifies as leftist, many bars had a ban on flags. That means all kinds of flags not just the German flag. During my last night in town the German team was playing. Ironically, my non-German friends were the only people in the group whom I went out with who dressed up in German national colors. We entered a bar with two Norwegians in full German fan gear and the waiter told us to take the national symbols off because this was a flag-free venue. I pointed out that my friends were foreigners and he replied that he is a foreigner too. Never mind, flag is flag. Later an American friend in German fan costume appeared at the same venue. Non of the Germans wore anything with national colors. The Norwegians gave an example of Sweden reclaiming their national colors after the neo-Nazi’s made them their own. Suggesting that Germany should reclaim their colors, as it is a democratic state now. If the national colors are not worn by everyone, the symbol would just be abused by the far right. Kreuzberg, however, is a place that is so far on the left that the attitude towards national symbols is more connected to post-nationalism. Thinking, nation states and borders are not needed and contribute to exploitation and an increase of hegemonic and imperial power. An artificial divide is not helping the international solidarisation. Some years ago there was also a discussion turning into a post-gender society. A society in which gender does not matter and does not need to be identified. In a post-gender society there would not be any discrimination based on gender or sexuality. A post-national and post-gender society would also in my view be a better place and striving for it is definitely worth it. However, it is sometimes difficult to explain when visitors from outside Kreuzberg are in town.

What always makes me happy when I am in Berlin is the very low presence of heteronormativitity. It is not that there is not sexism or bias at all but comparatively this place is so much less bro-ish than any other place I have been to. I miss that a lot.


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I will be turning 33 in less than two weeks. I never have problems to get older and celebrate my birthday because I am OK with where I stand. So far, everything went alright.
Yesterday, I talked to one of my new friends who said that it might be a good idea to set yourself a goal for the next year of life. For some reason I always thought setting goals for the future is something you do in therapy- in order to hold on to something in the future. In order not to get lost. For some reason I never really set myself goals except of maybe these short term things like ‘I should finish this’ or let’s try not to eat sugar for three days. Once I even managed not to watch YouTube videos for two days. Or the completion of the Bikram yoga challenge. But a goal for a whole year?

In Singapore people are very competitive and my new friend is part of the Dragon Boat team that I joined. Dragon Boating is something like rowing but different. I am not a team player which is why I thought it would be a good idea to work on that. Turns out, in sports teams everyone is competitive. Supernele is probably one of the least competitive people when it comes to competitions with others. As not being part of a team, I really like to compete with myself.

Now, I wonder if setting myself a goal is just suggested in order to compete with something. What kind of goal should that be? Related to self improvement? Sports? Stamina? Patience? Being nicer to people? Not destroying the environment so much? Being less self-centered? I still have some time left to think about that…

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The ennui is gone

I am not sure if they put something in the tap water here or if it is the sun but since I moved, things are going pretty good. Some days happiness explodes in my head and I demand high fives of my friends because I am so excited about what is going on. Other times, I wonder when it will stop and go back to miserable me again.  There were just two occasions in the last eight-month where I have been joining a group of people and felt the ennui coming back. That is sooo much less than before. Yes the ennui is almost gone and I never thought that would happen. Work wise it seems that people throw pieces of (work) candy at me as soon as I look like I need some sugar. It is amazing, that I found something that I really enjoy doing and that is just in addition to the work atmosphere that I really like. There is enough going on at the weekends to keep me entertained, it is always warm, and every once in a while there is time for art, traveling, and a movie.

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Kiasu is the opposite of Janteloven

(Yes, I could write about my recent trips and visitors but I have something else on my mind)

I am not an anthropologist and as most of you know, I am not planning to be one, but terminologies for ‘mindsets’ are still interesting to me. Of course it can be argued if such a thing as culture exists and if it influences mindsets. And we can agree and disagree, and we can come up with personal stories and statistics but today I just want to mention two words that I have learned which describe a ‘cultural mindset’ or as I call it a ‘mindset’:

Kiasu and Janteloven

You can find these different mindsets all over the world but in the places that I experienced you can find these terms that are used to describe a local specialty in seeing the world and dealing with people. In both cases people who grew up in the places of origin of these terms criticize their importance.

A Scandinavian term that impacts a lot in society is Janteloven (the law of Jante). Wikipedia says, rules of this law are the following:

You’re not to think you are anything special.
You’re not to think you are as good as we are.
You’re not to think you are smarter than we are.
You’re not to convince yourself that you are better than we are.
You’re not to think you know more than we do.
You’re not to think you are more important than we are.
You’re not to think you are good at anything.
You’re not to laugh at us.
You’re not to think anyone cares about you.
You’re not to think you can teach us anything.

Transferred to every day life this means you should not brag about something and be humble. It means you should be conformist and engage in collectivity. It means you should not feel superior.

For someone growing up in Germany this is very difficult to understand because we have to brag about achievements and learn not to be humble. A common saying is ‘do good deeds and talk about them’. As if you just do good deeds in order to talk about them. I am not sure if this gives you Karma-points but it sure gives you credit in society.

When I moved to Oslo, I was really happy to see that academic processes were designed to be transparent and bragging was not a thing. At least during work hours people seem to be supportive and rather humble. Norway is an extremely wealthy country and being humble is maybe less about material things and more about personal achievements.

Moving to Singapore I was introduced to a new concept of collective living or ‘mindset’. The technical term for this way of life is called Kiasu. My Singlish dictionary describes it as

Hokkien adjective literally meaning, “afraid of losing”. A highly pejorative description beloved of Singaporeans. Possibly our defining national characteristic. The nearest English equivalent is “dog in a manger”, though even that is pretty mild.
“You went to get a handicapped sticker just to chope a parking space? How kiasu can you get?”

Wikipedia says the following

It is often used to refer to anxious, selfish behaviour characterised by a fear of missing out.
Kiasu is similar in etymology to Kiasi (literally, fear of death), and both terms are used to describe similar behaviour. Kiasu or Kiasu-ism means to take extreme measures to achieve success, whereas Kiasi or Kiasi-ism means to take extreme measures to avoid risk.

Transferred into everyday life this means that kids get a lot of tutoring and it is important to go to the right Kindergarten’s and schools. It is also important to get into the bus first or follow general rules more strictly than they actually are.
Here is a comedy video about it.

It just means that you should be better and strive for more and that you have to make an effort to be the first.

It is the complete opposite of Janteloven.

In both societies I heard and hear people complaining about the attitude connected to the terms. Complaining that people are over doing it or people are not being collaborative enough.

I cannot think about a similar term in my language but I would like to get your opinion on that.

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Annual Report

This year I learned that if I am patient things turn out just fine. Actually I learned this before. This year I learned to be nicer to people and tried to talk to strangers. This year I tried to be nice to people even if I am not sure if I like them. Turns out, if you give it a try, most people are more loveable than expected.

This year went super fast. I had a very nice farewell party in Oslo that made me very sad because I had to leave all the beautiful people I have met during the last years. Luckily this planet is much smaller than you think and it is possible to meet people in different places.
From Oslo I went to see Erica and Shaun in Munich
From there to Malaysia to visit my Malaysian family for the first time. During this trip I also went to Borneo and Brunei.
Later meeting up with one of the Stefan’s in Singapore.
From Singapore back to Munich where I was too tiered to communicate and then to my step-father’s house, to my mother’s house and to Berlin.
For Easter I went to Poland with Marcin, Lixian, Jeff, and Sarah and if I am not mistaken it was snowing.
I experienced a super cold spring in Berlin that was just starting to get better in the end of May. But my friends and family made it a wonderful experience to be home for so long.
My farewell BBQ in Berlin was fabulous.
In July I moved to Singapore and started a new job.
Øystein and Casey already came for a visit in my second week of being here which I loved. See! The planet is really much smaller than you think.
For Hari Raya I went to Kuala Lumpur.
In September I went to see Raluca in Hong Kong.
In October I went to New Orleans for a conference and met up with the Norwegian bunch of former office friends.
Later that month I went to Los Angeles to meet up with Marissa who I missed since our ways parted in summer after Heather’s and Dieter’s wedding. I also hung out with Mauricio who I hadn’t seen since a decade.
In November I went to Indonesia and again Malaysia.
Soon Lars is coming and we will spend Christmas at the beach.

All in all I am so happy that I moved to the warm country and have the chance to get to know some more wonderful people and beautiful places. Or beautiful people and wonderful places.
I finally like to go to work again and I am enjoying my free time to the fullest. I feel my life is now three times as fast as it was in the cold country which is good and bad. Good because I haven’t had a dull moment since I arrived in Singapore. Bad because there is not much time to breath and reflect.
I just wish they would finally invent this Star Track transporter so I could see all of you more often.
Now, I would like all of you to think of when would be the best time to meet up again or come visit me.
See you soon

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The best of everything

Living in different places with a variety of traditions makes me aware of the kind of events that can be celebrated. It also makes me aware of how events can be celebrated. While the German Reunification Day in Germany is just celebrated institutionally – but people don’t really seem to care which holiday encourages them to drink beer and listen to live music at Brandenburger Tor – the Norwegian National Day is celebrated with ice cream, hot dogs, and Champagne. While my Turkish friends in Singapore tell me about the great reception they attended at their embassy for national day, the German embassy invites business partners but not fellow country-women to their Reunification Day event. I can pick and choose what to celebrate and so I had Bastille day with a bunch of French people at a beach party, I celebrated Hare Raya with my Malaysian family, and Diwali with my Indian roommate and American friends. But you can take it a step further and introduce new traditions to new people and make it your own tradition.
A tradition of Norwegian work culture is fredags pils. That means that you drink beer on a Friday with your work buddies. Since I can pick and choose between cultures and even export holidays, I introduced fredags pils to my Singaporean work environment but moved it to a Thursday. My colleagues are delighted and I hope for more cross cultural traditions.

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Festival time

The great thing about Singapore is that a lot of bands are stopping by.
I went to a music festival last week and it was pretty pretty



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