When I was in my primary school in the 70s, I had the impression that hawkers work 7 days a week with no rest days one – especially those that I frequent in the coffee shop near my place.

The only rest days are the 15 days during Chinese New Year.

Now after returning 2 years ago, I noticed quite a few hawkers in Queenstown close for 3 days of the week – work 4 days only!?

The stall selling “pao” (Chinese buns) at Alexandra Village Food Centre, the stall selling chicken feet hor hun at Mei Ling Street Food Centre, the fried fritters (you zhar guey) stall at Tanglin Halt Food Centre, for eg.

Most of the other hawkers work a 5 day work week – even better than the full-time sales colleagues I work with currently; we have a 6 day retail work week schedule (and we wonder why most  Singaporeans shun retail and service work).

For those living in Queenstown, did you notice during the school holidays, more and more hawkers close their stalls for 1- 2 weeks too? Not just June and December, but during March and September months too!

Before some of you may lament that hawkers today are not as resilient or hard working as the old days, let me point out the hawkers I mentioned are those from the old days.

They are the first generation hawkers who are mostly in their 70s and 80s now. And those helping them are the second generation who themselves are in their 50s. They have been working at their stalls for the past 30-40 years!!!

These hawkers were here ever since our Queenstown estate was built.

Initially, I find it quite irritating. Mom would ask for certain food for breakfast or dinner, and its not fun going out and finding the stall is closed. After 2 years, it’s not a problem.

“Lor mee closed today mom.”

“Nasir lemark OK? No?”

“You want chicken rice. The one at Mei Ling street not open, the one at Alexandra can?”

And so it goes in our daily routine back and forth.

These elderly hawkers have paid their dues. Children are all grown up with their own families.

It’s a grass-root microcosm of the Singapore dream.

Work hard; raise your children well.

Evidently, these hawkers who can afford to take 2-3 days off a week and frequent holidays (with grand children abroad?) throughout the year are working not because they HAVE TO; but because they WANT TO.

Their children and grand children are probably the ones who are constantly coaxing and nagging them to retire!
I am not sure whether anyone have pointed out to these hawkers that their CPF are inadequate for their old age, they are not sufficiently covered by medical insurance, and horror upon horror! They have not even started on their retirement planning at all!!!

No passive income? No investments to hedge against inflation? No emergency fund? What were these hawkers thinking!? No make my first million goal? No aim in life? Content to be a hawker all their lives?
I’ll stop right here.

You decide who is envying whom. Over planning and worrying too much can distract us from what’s really important. Especially if it’s always me first perspective…

This post is an expansion to a previous remark I’ve made about emergency fund does not have to funded with money…

Sometimes it’s good to pause and ask:

“Where is the love?”


Singapore Man of Leisure (welcome to my blog; just google it!)