I was thrilled to find that Huffington Post journalist Dana Kennedy visited Singapore and seemed to think the 18 hour flight from New York was worth it. She even hinted she might return.
It never fails to excite me when Singapore is featured in the international press, because I secretly feel that not many people know we exist. To be called the most surprising place on earth is just plain cool!
At his last job with a US multinational corporation, my friend was asked how his country China is doing? Most of the older executives believed that Singapore was one of the states in China, like Beijing or Shanghai. I actually don’t blame them, as we are so tiny. In fact, just a dot on the map (we might be even smaller, but it’s a dot for visibility). At the moment there are Facebook groups called ‘Singapore is not China’ and ‘Singapore is not part of China’. I am not too upset about this, as it sort of makes me feel that I live in an exotic place. So exotic that not everyone is geographically aware of us. I am sure there are countries out there that I am ignorant of myself. Those are the very places I would love to visit. The lure of the unexplored.
I have to admit, once in a while it’s great to be noticed. Just for the record, we are sandwiched in between Malaysia and Indonesia in South East Asia and we’re just a four hour plane ride away from Perth, Australia. In today’s papers it was reported that most of our tourists come from Indonesia. We also have the biggest growth in tourist arrivals from Thailand, Malaysia and India. I can attest to that because at my recent trip to Fullerton Bay across the waters from the new Marina Bay Sands, I did spot several Indian tourists posing with our water spouting Merlion.
I learnt quite a few things from this Huffington Post article. I didn’t realize we had 42 percent of foreigners living here, not counting tourists. Although these days, on the subway trains, I spot more people from other countries than Singaporeans. Dana also diplomatically adds that we’re Americanized having grown up exposed to American TV, but not so, in terms of politics.
She mentions that English is the dominant language here and compares us to Japan, saying that when she travelled there she had to gesture and point. I think she was being rather generous, because sometimes I feel our English can be quite unintelligible. When we’re in informal situations we all tend to speak in Singlish which can sound like a foreign language and teenagers here tend to slur their speech to the point that even I can’t make out what they are saying. I am often embarrassed by my poor ability to articulate. When I speak I struggle for the right word at times. This comes from an education system where we were told to just sit down and shut up. We had a lot of drills in mental sums, but didn’t have show and tell. Recently the Ministry of Education is trying to rectify this problem by introducing graded presentations in primary school. A bit too much I think – why not just show and tell, without the stress of grading.
Another thing that’s mentioned is that Singapore is clean. I think cleanliness is a very relative thing. I think it’s clean in the town area but in the heartlands there can be quite a bit of filth. But then again tourists hardly visit the middle class districts where most of us live. It’s not downright filthy, but sort of grimy. Don’t get me started on the toilets in certain places. I’d rather hold it sometimes. (Too much information and again with the toilets you say?)
At the beginning of her article, Dana confessed to not knowing exactly where Singapore is. By the end of her trip she seemed to favour our Chicken Rice, surprised that she could safely chew gum, and mentioned a return to try the Singapore sling (some people think it’s like alcoholic cough syrup, but i like it). I think our tiny island will be looking forward to that next visit.