Ah Beng (Chinese: 阿明; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: a-bêng or a-bîng) is a stereotype applied to a certain group of young Chinese men in Southeast Asia, particularly Singapore and Malaysia, especially in the broader Klang area, roughly equivalent to the British chav. The stereotypical view of an Ah Beng is a young Chinese man or teenager who lacks cultural refinement or indulges in criminal activity or is involved in brawls or arguments out of disagreements with other people. In Singapore and Malaysia, the term Ah Beng usually refers to males who have unusual styles and tastes, and the term lala-zai refers to males involved in stereotypical gangster activity or fashion such as the dyeing of hair. They commonly speak in Mandarin or Hokkien. The female equivalent of an Ah Beng is an Ah Lian.
Ah Beng comes from the romanization of the Hokkien pronunciation of 阿明 (Pe̍h-ōe-jī: a-bêng). 明 is a word commonly used in the names of Chinese males in the region; it means 'bright' in the sense of intelligence. In Malaysia, Ah Beng is also known as lala zai. 'Lala' has no actual meaning in itself, while 'zai' (pronounced 'chai') means 'boy'. 'Lala zai' refers to individuals who speak Manglish and possess a strong preference for gaudy fashions or hairstyles.
Ah Bengs are stereotypically Chinese men in their early teens to late 20s, seen hanging out in groups and typically speaking in local slang, which is Hokkien or Cantonese mixed with English and Malay, such as Manglish or Singlish. Their command of English is often limited. Ah Bengs have a predilection for frequent swearing in daily speech. Most Ah Bengs are assumed to be associated with street gangs or secret societies.
In popular culture
Ah Bengs have been featured in several Singaporean films, including:
- Army Daze (1996) — A play, later made into a film, depicting the melting pot of National Service in Singapore. One of the characters is named after the term.
- Money No Enough (1998) — a film exploring the trials and tribulations of the Chinese-speaking people of Singapore (who make up the majority of the island's population).
- 15: The Movie (2003) — "The adventure of five fifteen-year-old boys in Singapore: estranged to every social reference, except for that of appearance and close friendships, they live their lives distant from their families and school, passing their days in a complete state of indolence in the search of experiences, at times even physically painful (tattoos, piercing, wounds)."
- S11 (2006) — another film.
- Taxi! Taxi! (2013) — a 2013 Singaporean comedy film based on the 2010 work Diary Of A Taxi Driver by Cai Mingjie, said to be "Singapore's most well-educated taxi-driver".
The stereotypical Ah Beng was the title character in the television series Phua Chu Kang, played by Gurmit Singh. The fact that Gurmit Singh has a mixed ancestry including Indian, Japanese, and Chinese blood makes his convincing portrayal of an uneducated Chinese man even more notable. In the show, Chu Kang's brother, Phua Chu Beng, is humorously nicknamed Ah Beng, despite being an articulate, educated architect, the complete antithesis of an Ah Beng.
- Arsim (Israel)
- Bogan, Westie (Australia and NZ) and Dero
- Chav, (England)
- Dres (Poland)
- Essex Girl (Essex, England)
- Flaite (South America)
- Gangster (United States)
- Gopnik (Russia)
- Guido (East Coast, United States)
- Naco (Mexico)
- Ned (Scotland)
- scanger (Republic of Ireland)
- Scallie (Liverpool, Manchester)
- Skeet (Newfoundland)
- Spide (Belfast, Northern Ireland)
- White Trash (United States)
- Wigger (United States)
- Tapori (India)
- Yankī and DQN (Japan)
- Alay (Indonesia)
- mrbrown, "Browncast: Zhng My Car" (10 October 2005, accessed 4 September 2006).
- Qian Bu Gou Yong at the Internet Movie Database
- Official website at Zhao Wei Films
- Tan Dawn Wei, "Ah Beng Rulz Liao", The Straits Times (2 August 2006).
- Mak Mun San, "I'm a Paid Extrovert", The Straits Times (28 August 2006).
- Wong Kim Hoh, "Who Says Ah Bengs Cannot Make It?", The Straits Times (2 April 2006).
- Samuel Lee, "Hitting the Right Notes", The Straits Times (21 April 2006).
- from the Coxford Singlish Dictionary
- from A Dictionary of Singlish and Singapore English