Singapore: Are we a ‘jack of all trades and master of none’?

Organized. Safe. Rigid.

Those were the first three words that popped up in my mind when I thought about our national identity – that is, *cough cough*, if we actually have one. I like how our airport and roads have clear signs that do not confuse people, unlike Malaysia or Thailand. I take heart in being able to stroll along the streets of Singapore at 12am without fearing that I would be raped or kidnapped. But, however appreciative I am of our systematic way of handling things, I am also aware that we may have become rigid as a result of it.

Well, I was keen to find out what my friends thought about it so I went to do a quick poll among 12 of them. Surprisingly, although their responses were different, a few of them agreed that Singapore is “boring”, “clean” and “hot”! The hottest description, however, seemed to point to the issue on overcrowding. Four of them commented that Singapore is “crowded”, “claustrophobic”, “cramped” and “small”.

But, when I asked them about Japan, most of them were actually able to put an “activity” or “interest” to it. “Sushi” and “Sakura” surfaced the most number of times while other adjectives include “robots”, “gadgets”, “singers”, “Tokyo” and “Hokkaido”.

So the million dollar question is: Why does Japan own such unique propositions in the minds of people but Singapore just falls short of it? Could it be true that we are jack of all trades and master of none? That we aspire to be a medical hub, sports hub, arts and cultural hub, educational hub, research and development hub, tourist hub and so on and so forth? It just feels like we want to be good at everything but just not good enough at something that people can remember us for, doesn’t it?

According to brand guru, Jackie Tai, a successful brand is one that owns a unique idea in the minds of its target public. For example, when we think soft drinks, we think coke. When we think Volvo, we think safety. When we think portable music player, we think iPod. So now, do we want to think “rojak” when we think Singapore?

I want to know what you think. If you have a chance to be really good at something, what will it be? I will start the ball rolling so I will choose to be an advocate for vegetarianism.

About the author

Benjamin Chiang

Benjamin Chiang is an enthusiast of good advertising, deep thinking, labour issues and chocolate. He writes also at www.rangosteen.com and occasionally on Yahoo!

The views expressed are his own.

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