On Day 2 in Singapore, Amando asked our host (and his old college roommate) Chris….”what’s the word you once told me for someone who is at a buffet and keeps piling food on their plate so that they don’t miss out on anything?”  Chris answered, “kiasu”.  “YES!”, yelled Amando.  Then quickly turned to me in the backseat and said “that’s the word I’ve been wanting to call you ever since I heard it 10 years ago!”  Insert eye roll from the back seat and laughter from the front of the car.  Chris went onto explain that we should all have a little bit of Kiasu in us, for it also means “fear of missing out on life”.  Wikipedia describes Kiasu as a Hokkien (a Chinese spoken variant) word that literally means ‘fear of losing’.  Many of you that know me well are either at this point shaking your head “yes” in agreement or laughing at how spot on this description is of me.  So I will indulge you… 


When I heard Chris’ first explanation, I admit, I had a pit in my stomach because I didn’t want to admit that “Kiasuism” applied to me.  However upon further discussion, I realized that I am very Kiasu.  And my “Kiasuism” manifests itself in many different ways.  For example:

  • I admit, at a buffet, I pile my plate with enough good stuff in case they run out of something I wanted to try.  See above photo at a friends wedding….notice my plate has more food on it.
  • It occurs when I look at a restaurant menu and I literally see 10 items I would love to eat (hence my propensity to steal food from other people’s plates, aka pulling a “Murdock”).
  • Make Amando (or whoever else I’m eating with) order something different from me (that was #2 on my “wish I had ordered list”) so that we can split our meals.
  • It happens when traveling.  Currently we are in a country that contains 17,000 islands.  I feel that because we have only traveled to 3 of them I am greatly missing out on what all the rest of them have to offer.
  • It happens when I meet someone new when I am traveling.  “Oh, you’re doing a meditation retreat for 2 weeks?” I think…I should be doing a meditation retreat, I’m not centering myself enough, but no wait, there are some sights to see and places to visit….well no I should try surfing instead.
  • I am literally paralyzed by choice at times.  Going right means we miss out on whats left, but I really want to see what is right.  Oh, but left looks so interesting.  But its getting dark.  Oh, but Amando is now on the motorbike almost at the intersection and asking me to “just pick a freakin’ direction!”

I’m sure many of you are saying, jeez, this girl just needs to live in the moment and be ok with the choices she makes.  As much as it sounds like I don’t with the examples above, I do, more so each and every day.  Being on a trip like this means we will miss out on things.  The world is vast, and so is Southeast Asia.  I will never be able to eat at every incredible restaurant, visit every beautiful temple, and see the other 16,997 islands in Indonesia.  And I am ok with that….I think. 🙂  For now I have resigned myself to the fact that I am, indeed, as the Singaporeans say, Kiasu.  Amando is thrilled that he has a diagnosis for my condition of indecision and I must say it I find it hilarious, and a great way to remind myself that what matters is what I am doing right now, at this moment.


13 thoughts on “Kiasu

  1. Love this. So Erika, and so fantastic.

    Glad you are having such a great time, and REALLY glad you are keeping us updated! Miss/love!

  2. Love it!!!! I saw every moment of that story as if I was right there with you. In many ways I was, and have now been to 3 of the 16,997 islands with you both. Thanks for taking us on your journey and making the right turn (there are rarely wrong ones when following your gut) … Huge hugs to the globe trotting Amandski and to our recovering Kiasu!

  3. Erika & Amando:
    I read your blog for the first time this morning and absolutely loved it. Just wanted to let you know that what your doing is awesome! I admire you for taking life by its horns. “Kiasu” hits the point home: Stay hungry! You both look really happy and relaxed in the pictures…. Hope you continue to be safe on your travels!
    All the best… Florian

  4. Remember when you ordered the 40 piece chix mcnugget from the Bethlehem drive-thru at 1 am Soph yr?! lol….

  5. Hilarious!

    You make Singaporeans proud!

    You know it’s always good to have someone who is Kiasu around. They are the ones who would enter the cinema first and reserve the good seats. They are always first in line and would queue in line for the launch of any Apple product. They are the ones who would bargain hunt and get you the best deals. They are not wasteful but sometimes they can be dangerously competitive. Example Black Friday sales stampede. hahah.

  6. Your kiasu-ism is come by honestly – I never knew it had a name. Writing out all the names I can think of would overwhelm this space, suffice it to say it is alive and well with the Murdocks and the Berners…..

  7. Erika,

    Funny I always thought you were just voracious so I like this new word much better. Love the stories. It’s almost as good as being there.


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