In my previous post on the amazing food found in the hawker centre’s in Singapore I gave a short survival guide on chopeing, the practice of reserving a seat with (often) a packet of tissues while you queue for your food. When we were first researching our trip to Singapore we had come across travel guides that had dealt with chopeing in a matter of fact way- it was what you do in Singapore. No worries. Live like a local. When we actually experienced it for ourselves, we were actually quite amazed how it all worked. People didn’t just reserve their place with a pack of tissues they used laptops, phones, wallets – basically any small item they could leave on their seat. In Australia, sadly, if you left your laptop or phone on a seat in a busy food hall it may not be there when you returned. The best you could hope for was that a good Samaritan had taken it to the information desk in the hopes that you might find it there, otherwise you might never see that phone again. So there was much respect from us that in Singapore people would be confident in the goodness of their fellows that they would leave their stuff behind.
On further investigation, after our return to Australia, it seems that even in Singapore chopeing is a contentious issue. In an article written by Melissa Lin for The Strait Times (read article here) it says:
The practice, they said, has led to quarrels and created scenarios where elderly patrons carrying trays of food are deprived of a seat.
Others argued that tourists who have been brushed away by locals defending their reserved seats come away with a tarnished image of Singaporeans…
I must admit to having a joke with Floyd, when we couldn’t find a seat at Maxwell’s, that perhaps the person sitting at the table with five choped seats next to them just wanted to eat alone, however, it was in good humour and we just kept looking. I also waved over an elderly man looking for a seat one day who looked a bit worried about sitting with the foreign tourists. All in all though we just took it in our stride and thought it was one of those cultural quirks that you embrace when you travel.
What are your thoughts? Should you chope or is chopeing off the table?