SINGAPORE - The son of a British father and Chinese mother, local TV host Paul Foster was initially misunderstood when he enrolled in the army in 1999.
The 32-year-old Singaporean said: "During my basic military training days, people looked at me and thought, 'What is this ang moh doing here?', and they asked if I was a permanent resident or Singaporean."
Foster had an army mate who is Chinese but grew up in the US, spoke with a strong American accent and was not familiar with the local culture. He did not fit in as well as Foster.
The Beam Artiste added: "It was an irony. I only look ang moh in appearance, but I am born and bred here, I speak Singlish and I have many local friends. I didn't have any difficulty getting along well with my army mates."
Foster, who was subsequently posted to Changi Air Base and is a lance corporal (NS) in the Republic of Singapore Air Force, feels that the most important lesson he learnt while doing his national service was knowing how far one's limits can be pushed.
He recalled a training exercise where he did not sleep for two days and had to carry out a patrol in the jungle. He was so tired that he fell asleep while walking.
"I hit the ground and woke up in a ditch. My mate helped me up and we had a good laugh about it," he said.
"After that incident, I realised that I can literally fall asleep anywhere when I am really exhausted."
The actor has just wrapped filming of Channel 5 drama series Mata Mata, which will premiere on National Day. In the show, he sports a moustache for his role as a colonial British police officer who is the head of the anti-narcotics division.
As the filming schedule of the show overlaps with some of his reservist days, Foster went back to camp last week with his moustache intact and had some amusing stories to tell.
He laughed and said: "It was quite funny because I was standing guard at the gantry and people would wind down their car windows to take a double look at me."
He added: "Some made comments like: 'Why is there an ang moh here? Why does he have a moustache?' and others would recognise that I am that guy from TV.