Hard At Work is a collection of different accounts from sixty people about their life and work in Singapore.
The book, edited by Gerard Sasges and Ng Shi Wen, examines their experiences of their jobs, as well as their reflections on their lives and society.
Here, we reproduce an excerpt from the book touching on the perspective of a Thai disco singer working in Singapore.
Hard At Work is published by NUS Press and you can get a copy of it here.
My first time in Singapore
Sawadeeka! I am Oil. I am from Bangkok, Thailand. I am 20 this year. I can speak English but not good. I am work in Club V3 Thai Disco now as singer.
I come here to Singapore 30 days only because I come as tourist. A lot of girls here same-same. All tourist. I like Singapore. Very clean, very safe and everything very nice. But very expensive. That one I no like.
I stay condo here with other girls also from Thailand. But I no tell my family I come here. They no like. I tell them I come Singapore holiday with my friends. I first time come here. Five days liao (Hokkien: already). I never take aeroplane before. Also my first time.
I very lucky can come here work. Can holiday and work together very good. Because I work in V3, got free aeroplane and free home for us in Singapore. No need money, everything free and no boyfriend.
Because before I come here I break up him, he call me every day. I very angry at him so I break up him. After we break up he follow me home and always wait for me downstairs when I in Thailand.
Now no more because I in Singapore. I won’t see him anymore. He no good. Very “chao chu” (Thai: flirtatious).
You know what’s that? Thai men like “butterfly” (having several girlfriends at once). My boyfriend too. But Singapore men good. No “chao chu”. They bring me go eat after I work finish here. At Geylang or somewhere. I meet them in V3. They my customers. Very nice.
I work night time because V3 open 9 pm. Close at 4am. but if no people, can close early. Last time I work morning in Thailand in office. So I feel tired very easily now but work here very fun and easy.
Came here to work because of my friend's recommendation
A lot of people come on Friday see us. Today (Sunday) not so many people. We need go V3 early prepare, and clean the place after work finish if no customers bring us go out eat.
But I very lucky. I always go out eat after work so no need to clean up V3. My good friend ask me come here work V3 because I can sing.
She say can come Singapore, free holiday and can earn a lot money, go back. I don’t know how much I will earn but she say very easy money and a lot so I want. She ask me send her photo and she show her agent then he ask me come work here. She not in Singapore now. Go home to Thailand.
We same agent, Peter his name. I can sing a lot of songs. English, Chinese, Thai songs. Chinese song I learn for this job. Yesterday I learnt 她说 (Chinese song). Very difficult to remember but I love to sing. I cannot speak Chinese but I want to learn Chinese song.
I hear other girl sing 海阔天空 (Cantonese song), first day I come here work. Peter say that song, a lot customers like. It’s very nice, I want to learn too. Last time I working office in Thailand, only speak Thai. I come here can learn Chinese songs and speak English. Singapore speak English.
I need plenty of clothes for my work here
Before I come here to work I need buy clothes for working here.
I buy at Pratunam. You got go Pratunam? Shopping very cheap. So a lot people go. Singapore people also go. I go there buy. I spent around 5,000 baht (approx. $215) buy clothes and high shoe. A lot of money but I need to buy because I don’t have working clothes for work here.
I won’t wear them when I go back Bangkok because I want work back in office. But lucky I buy, need change new clothes after I sing a song. I sing a lot so one night I can change three or four clothing. Sometimes V3 people give us clothes but I always bring mine.
My job very easy. Every day just sing, dance and play games with customers. But I need to drink a lot. Need go around and ask customers buy tequila from me. I need learn four games.
I don't like small boys because they have no money
The games can help me get customers buy drink from me. Now I only know two games – “5, 10” and “1, 2, 3”.
I play with customers. They very nice, will buy drinks when I say I thirsty. But I no like small boy. They come here no money buy tequila. My friend also say young boys buy very little. I don’t find guys buy tequila from me when they bring girlfriends.
Girls don’t like us talk to their boyfriends. We all know that. A lot of guys and girls then I go ask them buy. One tequila S$15. [laughs] Three hundred baht, one tequila! But guys will still buy. Peter says I need sell 15 tequila every day. If not I can also get flower.
When I sing got customers give me flower. Peter say the flower can change for money. Different flower, different price. Some $50 some $10,000. That’s a lot. I got some flowers from customers.
After we take flowers from customers we need go and say thank you to them and talk-talk with them. Talking is good. They will buy tequila from me. But I don’t know how much I earn already.
Peter say can earn a lot money, go back. But I don’t know is how much. Must see how many tequila I sell and how many flower money customers give me.
I like flower because I don’t need to drink and can earn more. Don’t need sell so many tequila. I want to know how much I earn already but Peter say count next time. Ask me sell a lot tequila. Sometimes easy. Sometimes difficult. I still learning how to sell. A lot girls here customers can buy from.
Anyway I don’t like drink a lot. When customer buy a lot I need drink many-many with them. Wake up head pain. Lazy to work. But still must come, like yesterday, if not Peter not happy. I want them buy flower.
Yesterday I saw one customer give $500 flower money to a girl but I only got $50. I want to get more flower money … but a lot girls in V3 very pretty. I don’t feel pretty here. The breast big one, guys like to buy tequila and flower for them.
That day got one girl she go out with customer, never go home. We all know where she go. [laughs] But I never because I don’t like. I go home every time after eat with customers.
I don't have much time outside of work
I don’t go a lot place in Singapore. No time. I want go walk-walk around here. Go see the Merlion and Orchard Road but I no time. Only can work and sleep.
After work I eat with customers and friends then go home sleep till 3 or 4 p.m. Then we wake up and eat “mama” (Maggi noodles) and prepare go work. Peter fetch us once. But I always take cab go work with the other girls in our house. I don’t know them before I come.
But we all friend now. We talk, laugh-laugh then now good friend. We stay together also. Downstairs condo got swimming pool but we haven’t use yet. No time.
It's a good job nevertheless
I want come back Singapore work again. Very easy money.
But I miss my family. I call them and talk to them when I reach Singapore. I got Facebook and Instagram. But I don’t like put pictures up there when I come Singapore. They will know. A lot of girls do this in Thailand. But I don’t want my parents sad.
But this job very good. I can run away from my ex-boyfriend and holiday here free. Who don’t want? A lot of girls here also like me. They don’t need money because they okay. But they still come here sing and play then go back Thailand and come again.
If can I also want come here work again.
Top photo from NUS Press
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