When Kiasu Gives Us A Ride

Updated: Jul 6

By Zenia Pang



We’re many things, us Singaporeans. We are creatures of comfort, consummate foodies, and above all, deal hunters. Just think about the snaking queues each time Starbucks announces a one-for-one. Or during the Black Friday sales, where a massive crowd waited patiently overnight outside the Heeren. Or even that time in 2017 when Gong Cha announced 99 free cups of bubble tea, and it felt like half the nation showed up.


Some slap the label of kiasu on us, like it’s a bad thing. Directly translated from Hokkien, it means the fear of missing out - usually served with a side of selfishness, and garnished with a sliver of crassness. But we think kiasu also means savvy, and if there’s one thing Singaporeans should be proud to own, it’s our economic savviness. Being able a sniff out a deal a mile away is a skill we should relish. After all, when our bank accounts are churning gleefully with saved-up cash, the joke’s definitely not on us.


Our initiation into the world of carpooling took some time. Ride hitching wasn’t really popular in Singapore in the beginning (pre-2014). Mentions of ‘hitchhiking’ inevitably brought to mind some tired-looking person in the middle of a dusty highway, sticking out their arm in the universal hand signal to hail a rattling old truck. In other words, we saw these practices through the lens of an American film.

And with prices of cars in Singapore designed to break the bank, not many owned one. Yet, people weren’t much fussed. With our efficient and wallet-friendly public transport system, getting from Point A to B wasn’t impossible, neither was it mind-numbingly long. If you wanted to be lazy on a particular day, you could hail a cab and pay a one-off purse-biting fee, and then slip back into your old routine to assuage your guilt.


Then on-demand carpooling exploded into the scene, waving impossible prices and stealing our interests even before we can think about cost. We’re no stranger to ride-hailing services like Grab and Uber (no longer available), but these ‘dynamic ridesharing’ platforms have branched out into initiatives that are a whole new ballgame. For a much lower price, they match you up with users going in the same direction and put all of you in the same car: you pay less, and can even get a chance to make new friends. To pander to the routine-stickler ingrained into our very souls (we’re looking at you, 7:30am assembly period), ride-hitching services started popping up too, allowing shared rides to be scheduled. These were even cheaper, and they were roaringly popular. But they came with a caveat - these hitch requests were contingent upon a driver accepting them. No driver, no ride.


Waiting for your hitch request to be accepted can be a real nail biting experience - once you’ve scheduled your ride, the waiting game starts. For some, hitches are part of their morning routines. But if you woke up late, chances are that you should pull out the EZ-link card and head to your nearest bus stop or MRT station, because we all know getting a driver last minute during peak hour is a lost cause. Yet this isn’t to say there aren’t people who are more prepared. These angels do exist. They plan ahead, scheduling their booking the night before - yes Perfect Penny, we know you reached the office 15 minutes to 9am. But not everyone has their lives in quite such order, so for all you regular Joes and Jennys out there, we’ve got your back.


With RushTrail, we give you all the benefits of a scheduled shared ride, without the hassle and the uncertainty. Instead of a car, we put you in a bus - more people to split the ride with, more friends you can make. Our service works on a weekly subscription basis. In the RushTrail app, you set your pick up and drop off locations and timings to form a fixed route. And to be honest, that’s really all the work you need to do. We usually advise passengers to be at the waiting point 5 minutes before pick up, but if you’re rushing to grab that morning kopi-O for the road, we feel you - just be at the stop by the scheduled time, and you’re good!


Due to COVID-19, we’ve been taking some precautions. Carpooling chucks 4 people into close proximity, and though we’re well into Phase 2 now, we understand that some just aren’t comfortable with that. To ensure each passenger keeps in their personal bubble, we’ve implemented a staggered seating plan that spaces you out from the other passengers. With a guaranteed social-distanced seat every morning and evening, ease back into routine with a peace of mind.

Subscriptions renew automatically on a weekly basis, so you can happily wave goodbye to those scrambling late mornings and daily “Book Hitch For Tmr” reminders. In fact, no one’s stopping you from being Perfect Penny, so why not usurp her throne? Nothing like a healthy dose of competition to start the week :)


Check out RushTrail here, or just download the app to get moving.


Zenia Pang is a fan of books, food, and happy endings. She is a writer for WiseOwl, and spends much of her time with coffee and The New York Times Crosswords. She loves laughing, and is very capable of talking the ears off a wall.

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RushOwl is Singapore's leading smart bus enabler -  a dynamic and on-demand buspool service for buses. Join us in building Singapore's next-gen smart bus ecosystem!

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