Singapore: Cool and Uncool

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By Augustine Low
SinglishEveryone has an idea of what’s cool about Singapore and what isn’t.

I’ll have a go at making my top two picks of each.

Cool

Singlish: Love it or hate it, Singlish is here to stay so we might as well embrace it as cool and colourful.

To some, Singlish proudly displays the multi-cultural character of our society; to others, it is a colloquialism that makes them squirm

How not to like Singlish? It is fun, quirky and energetic. It is cobbled together from various influences including English, Malay, Tamil and dialects such as Hokkien, Teochew and Cantonese.

Our government may sometimes frown on Singlish, but Singaporeans have quietly grown accustomed to it. There is no evidence that Singlish has led to the decline of English in Singapore. And besides, we have the annual Speak Good English Movement as a reality check.

Come what may, we do it our way: Ban chewing gum and be the butt of jokes and ridicule? No problem. Tired of neighbour’s threats on water? Try and try until we convert wastewater into NEWater.

Think also of all manner of schemes – from car use and car ownership to housing, health, wage credit and baby bonus.

Where there’s a will there’s a way – the Singapore way.

It’s a curious mix of resilience, resourcefulness and inventiveness. Sounds simple, but hard to replicate.

On that  chewing gum ban again – there’s now available in the market the non-stick kind which disperses easily (Google “biodegradable chewing gum”).

Maybe Singapore could consider lifting the ban – and having the last laugh. That would be cool.

Not Cool

Casino for an Icon: Other cities may have an opera house, a giant clock and a statue, but Singapore has Marina Bay Sands as its iconic landmark.

I have a photographer friend who has amassed an extensive collection of images of the Singapore buildings and landmarks. He tells me that – hands-down – the MBS shots are his bestsellers. They are purchased by local and foreign publications, news agencies, travel agencies and Singapore Tourism Board.

I knew the fate of MBS was sealed when real estate agents started jumping on the bandwagon. The clincher that’s calculated to woo any prospective buyer: “You can see MBS from here!”

Unless something more spectacular comes along, the money is on the casino to remain Singapore’s most distinctive icon.

Chope-chope: Chope-ing (Singlish for ‘reserving’) at food courts and hawker centres always puts me in a dilemma.

Here I am, food tray in hand, and I spy so many seats around, but each is choped by a tissue pack. Every so often, I’ve thought of removing the offending pack and taking the seat. Only to pull back, at the thought I could be accused of being ungracious, ungentlemanly.

I’ve also thought of joining in the act, but that would be so uncool. Besides, I don’t carry tissue packs, I use old-school handkerchiefs.

If I may chope with the Chief of National Campaigns: Should there be another new campaign, let it be the Anti-Chope-ing Campaign.

Augustine Low is a communications strategist. He is always cool about coming home to Changi Airport.

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