Prawn Noodles Stall Prawn Village Is Run By Two University Graduates

When it comes to working after obtaining your degree, is there really a fixed path that one should follow? Would you judge if they chose unconventional jobs such as a running a hawker store after graduation? Is it wrong of them to do so?

Unfortunately, it seems that Singapore as a whole is still largely divided on this issue.

Especially given the reaction some gave when they found out that a couple of university graduates were selling prawn mee as part of their “hawker” internship.

Internship at a hawker centre

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You’d be forgiven if you thought this was a picture of a father and his daughters running a hawker store.

Instead, Chan Kheng Yee (above left) – an SUSS psychology graduate – and Joanne Heng (above right) – an NUS sociology graduate – were interns under owner-mentor Anson Loo at prawn noodle stall Prawn Village.

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Slogging out 12-hour shifts six days a week, the university graduates initially had to wake at 5.30am everyday – a challenge for even the mightiest of men – to prep for the store’s 9am opening. At this point, most interns would’ve probably noped themselves as far away as possible.

But clearly, they aren’t like most interns.

When the stall shifted to Ghim Moh in December, the girls had to be up at the insane wee hours of 1.30am to accompany Mr Loo to obtain the seafood and begin preparations at 3am. Not to mention thoroughly cleaning the store at the end of each day and doing the dishes as well.

Explaining her and Ms Chan’s decision to enter the hawker industry to Channel NewsAsia, Ms Heng said the following:

We used do part-time jobs at events or pasar malams, and after all these jobs, we realised the joy and satisfaction of serving people food we created ourselves. We always preferred it to admin or office jobs.

Their sacrifice would eventually pay off when Mr Loo promoted them to full-fledged partners just two months into their internship.

Uni graduates “too good” to be hawkers?

However, the unorthodox choice of job didn’t sit well with certain people who felt that working as a hawker was “beneath” university graduates.

Take a look at what they had to say.

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When accused of looking down on such jobs, this was their rebuttal.

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Which sadly, isn’t completely wrong when it comes to the expectations of some.

Some cited the harsh reality that hawkers are still perceived simply as a means of one to meet their needs.

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One even claimed that the girls were in this simply for the “fun and games”, and did not truly “understand” the how tough it actually is to work as a hawker.

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Which brings us to the “traditional” mindset that some Singaporeans still carry where one has to obtain a “good job” once they obtain a degree.

Are Singaporeans still too traditional in their thinking?

Singapore’s traditional mindset

After all, the times are definitely changing.

People of the new generation are beginning to choose what they’re passionate in – such as Ms Chan and Ms Heng – as opposed to following standard tried and tested professions such as a doctor or lawyer, for example. Instead of criticising their decision, we should be appreciating the job and respect them for following their passion.

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In fact, some hawkers actually make more money than the average Singaporean.

Does it mean then, that the negative stereotype about being a hawker actually boils down to the long hours under hot and dirty working conditions? Could it be that there’s nothing unattractive about the pay, but rather more on the unattractive nature of the job?

Being more open minded

The world is ever changing. Other than simply having a good degree, Singaporeans should be more open minded to do what is feasible and more importantly, sustainable in the long term planning for the future.

Just look at Ms Chan and Ms Heng as an example. When they started, Mr Loo was taking 50% of the profits — with the two splitting the remainder amongst themselves. Now as full-fledged partners, they get to keep a whopping 90%.

Seems like they’re doing pretty well for a bunch of “hawkers”.

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Ask yourself this — if your children were to be passionate about working as a hawker or grab driver, would you be upset about their choice of work? Or would you be proud that they’ve found something to be passionate about?

After all, what’s more important? Money or happiness?

Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Featured image from Eatbook.