Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Life in S'pore: Not so black and white

Aug 11, 2009

By Philip Merry

I AM British. I have lived in Singapore for 20 years and I think Singapore is one of the best places on earth to live.

Yet, when in conversation with Singaporean friends about what can be improved here, I am often told: 'Well, if you don't like it you can leave!'

I usually retort: 'I love Singapore. I have lived longer here than I have lived anywhere in my 59 years. But that doesn't mean I have to forget my critical faculty.'

This is similar to the reaction of Singaporeans to the recent praise from Canadian Eric Brooks, telling him : 'Well, if you like it so much why don't you become a citizen.'

What is it about Singaporeans that causes such black and white thinking? To me the sign of a great nation - and a great citizen - is pride in the country coupled with the ability to recognise what needs to be improved.

I am proud to be a British citizen but that does not blind me to my country's many faults. Both go hand in hand - it's not an 'either/or' matter.

Too often the debate in Singapore forces people into 'hate it' or 'love it' camps. That gets us nowhere. In fact, I would argue that my love of Singapore (or Britain) requires that I be critical of aspects of the country that I find difficult.

Having spent the last 20 years here teaching cross-cultural understanding to Singaporeans as they strive to work with other cultures, I feel I have a certain licence to speak - as a permanent resident and a friend, if not as a citizen.

My key message to Singaporeans is this: Look at what you love about Singapore and more often than not you will find that there is a shadow side to each one of its strengths. Above is my list of Singapore's pros and cons. What is yours?

Is Singapore a wonderful place to live? Yes, no doubt. Has it one of the best physical, social and cultural environments in the world? Yes, certainly.

But please Singaporeans, for the sake of the future of your great nation, don't lose the critical factor.

It is never 'either/or'.

The writer is CEO of the Global Leadership Academy.

[So true. Most Singaporeans learn to debate from their mothers.

"But Ah Seng say can do what."

"Then Ah Seng tell you go jump into the sea, you jump lah?"


"Come boy, I bought yew char kway for you."

"I'm not hungry."

"Aiyah! You ungrateful boy! Next time I don't buy, lah!"

All or nothing.]

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