mr kiasu

Kiasu [kee-ah-soo] (lit: ‘fear of losing’) is a Chinese word describing behavior such as accumulating too much food on one’s plate during a buffet lunch (for fear of there not being enough) or joining a queue many days in advance just to ensure that one successfully gets hold of the limited free tickets to events. This word is so widely used by Singaporeans and Malaysians that it is incorporated into their English vocabulary (in the form of Singlish and Manglish).

It is often used in describing the social attitudes of people, especially about South East Asian society and its values and competitiveness. Kiasu is commonly compared to Kiasi (lit: ‘fear of death’) and both are commonly used to describe optimization behavior. Kiasu-ism means to take extreme measures to achieve success, and Kiasi-ism is doing the same to avoid risk.

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