Fact: Singapore is the only country in the world, not dominated by Caucasians, that has English as its main working language. Not only that, it also has no actual language of its own.
That’s got to have some effect on the culture. And it really shows.
How exactly do you expect this combination to NOT result in people looking to other cultures that seem superior, to NOT look to other cultures to seek a cultural footing, to NOT end up as bananas.
At the layman’s level, a society’s culture lies heavily in its language. Italy has Italian, Russia has Russian, Malaysia has Malay, India has multiple languages, and anyone from the US, UK, and Australia, have their universally embraced English accents, what Singaporeans consider as ‘wah he speak english very well!’
Meanwhile, we Singaporeans are essentially just a bunch of people from China, India, other islands around the region, tied to these countries through our cultural roots, and then all expected to come together and sing ‘Kumbaya’. In English.
We’re expected to speak perfect, non average Singaporean sounding English, in our oral examinations, when singing songs, when giving speeches, on television. Just take a listen to the way many of our homegrown Channel 5 actors speak.
But when the common people speak anything that sounds the slightest bit misaligned from your typical Singaporean accent, you get called out for having an accent, insinuating that you are a pretentious, white-worshipping snob who thinks you’re better than everyone else.
Look at the cast of Crazy rich Asians. do you respect them more or our local actors? They’re Asian too.
Not every culture is equal and that’s okay. What is so wrong about acknowledging a certain country is clearly superior to another? While a Toyota may be perfect for some people, a Rolls Royce is clearly better.
Once again it’s not a race thing, Korean culture is obviously superior to many others because they have built a culture that they can be proud of, a culture that can be seen as almost universally cool, and not every country is able to do that and that’s perfectly fine.
Some boys want to carry themselves as a fine English Gentleman. Some boys want to act like a hip Korean fashionista. And what is wrong with that? You can’t expect them to want to carry themselves as a Singaporean man, because our country is simply too young to have a universal image of what a ‘Singaporean Man’ should be. The idea of behaving ‘like a Singaporean’ simply does not sell, even to ourselves, hence we lose the Singlish when we go for Job interviews, on television, and all the above mentioned.
Will Singapore ever be able to truly embrace its identity?
Not until I hear the newscasters on Channel News Asia adding ‘La’s and ‘Lor’s at the end of their sentences.
Not until the Channel 5 actors drop the uncomfortably forced perfect English with wrongly placed emphasis on syllables.
Not until they stop getting kids to put on a sing-song ‘speech and drama voice’ for TV commercials.
Not until Singtel stops using a man with a swanky American accent to advertise their LTE900 network.
If that’s not going to happen, then we should all just embrace the fact that we Singaporeans are like water, and we adapt to the market.
If one day Chinese culture were to have the same monopoly over the culture as the west currently does, you bet we Singaporeans will be ching-chong-long-longing our way to Confucianism and Beijing accents.