10 things that would make me Proud(er) to be Singaporean

Dear fellow Singaporeans,

I love my country.

But some things about Singapore trouble me. We have achieved so much economically, but socially we leave so much to be desired. If you love your country, you will always desire to make it a better place.

Having seen the negativity generated by the video ‘Why I Am Not Proud to Be a Singaporean’, I decided to re-frame the issue in a more positive, constructive way. So here are 10 things we can do to make this country a place to be proud(er) of:

1. Don’t litter. Littering does not only include tossing rubbish on the ground. It also includes “conveniently” leaving an empty bottle on the footpath or used tissue paper on the bus seat. If we want a First World Parliament, we the people should also have First World behaviour.

I would be proud if Singapore could be a truly clean city, not a cleaned city.

Several pieces of waste paper littered on a grass patchA used plastic cup conveniently left behind on a metal structureA plastic bag and empty can of beer left behind on a bench
A can of coffee left on the pavement
(Even better, help to pick up litter if it’s not too dirty. I took care of that can of Nescafe.)

2. Treat public toilets well. Aim properly. Guys, if you somehow misfire, wipe the rim of the toilet bowl. You may not see the next user of the cubicle, but he will appreciate it. What you do behind the closed door of a toilet cubicle reveals who you truly are as a person. How we behave behind closed doors of toilet cubicles reveals what we truly are as a country.

Oh, your country needs you to keep the floor dry, too.

I would be proud if our public toilets could become even 70 percent as clean as Japan’s and Taiwan’s.

3. Clear your tray at the food court/ hawker centre. Let’s have a little humility and serve ourselves once in a while. Let’s not expect people to clean up after us everywhere, forcing the country to hire an army of foreign cleaners, and then complain that there are too many foreigners in Singapore.

Trays left behind on the table at a hawker centre

4. Treat service staff with respect. This is 2014, not 1814. They are not your slaves. If not for them, you would have to clear the restaurant table, stack the shelves and make watermelon-flavoured soya milk yourself. When they say “thank you”, thank them in return. Don’t respond with a stony face and a sense of entitlement.

5. Don’t be so emotionless (I’m afraid there was more than a grain of truth in that Gallup poll, however defensive we may be about it.) Emotion may not necessarily produce a higher income or better grades. But it is essential to a meaningful life and meaningful relationships. So, the next time someone asks you how school or work is, don’t answer with the emotionless “Like that, lor” or “Can, lah“. Express how you truly feel, and engage the other person. When the bus driver smiles at you, smile back and wish him good morning.

6. Don’t always be in too much of a hurry to stop and help out a less fortunate person. Don’t just give money – talk to them, too. It’s not just financially tough being a blind man. It’s lonely, too.

7. Stop being so absorbed in your smartphone or tablet, and look at the real world once in a while to see if anyone needs a little assistance, for instance to give up your seat on the train or bus. And don’t give up your seat only if it’s “reserved”.

I would be proud if my country didn’t even need to mark seats as ‘reserved’.

8. Over 90 percent of us live in high-rise housing. So don’t run or walk with heavy steps, drag furniture along the floor or drop things on the floor unnecessarily – or you will disturb the peace of your neighbour downstairs. Peace and quiet are precious things, especially in a densely populated island – and even more so at night.

9. When another driver signals his intention to filter into your lane, slow down and give way instead of speeding up to cut him off in a display of extreme kiasu-ism (“I refuse to cede one inch to my rivals on the road!”). Yes, the car or bus is a machine but there is a human being driving it. You can make his day or spoil it. It’s your choice.

I would be proud if people told me, “Singaporeans are really thoughtful drivers. I love driving in Singapore!”

10. Most of all, do these things not because there is a fine for not doing them or an NEA officer lurking. Do them because they are the decent thing to do. Do them because they build a better society.

Without a good society, we can never be happy. That is the simple truth. And what is the point of having the highest per-capita GDP, the best airport or the swankiest shopping malls if we are not happy?

Do these things because you love your country and you want it to be a home, not just an economy.

A Korean once told me that he would rather have people tell him how kind his daughter is than how smart. While I am undeniably proud of our airport, our public housing programme and our stunning Marina Bay, I would be even prouder if people were to tell me, “Singaporeans are the most gracious, kindest, most civilised people in the world.”

If you believe in what I am saying, please share this with your friends and family. Let’s start a movement.

Your fellow Singaporean,

Steven Ooi


About gptuitionsg

A dedicated English and GP tutor with First Class Honours from the National University of Singapore, Steven Ooi retired from the profession after a 14-year career during which he was one of the most sought-after private tutors in Singapore. He is the recipient of the Minerva Prize from NUS, which is awarded to the top English Language honours student of each cohort. This website, which has consistently ranked among the top 10 on Google and has received over 530,000 hits, has now been converted into a GP resource site cum listing of recommended tutors. If you are a GP or English tutor who wishes to be listed here, please email Steven Ooi at stevenooi18 @ yahoo.com (remove the spaces). Interested parties will be assessed and interviewed by him, and qualifications will be checked. These procedures are necessary to uphold quality standards. DISCLAIMER: While every reasonable effort has been made to assess the competence and verify the qualifications of recommended tutors here, no guarantees are made and you engage them at your own risk. By using this website, you agree that you will not hold the webmaster Steven Ooi responsible for any consequences — direct or otherwise — that occur in relation with your use of this website.
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10 Responses to 10 things that would make me Proud(er) to be Singaporean

  1. Brian Teo says:

    I absolutely agree with every point made by writer Steven Ooi. Our first generation leaders tried as hard as they could via various campaign and it seems we are nowhere near there today. We need to keep at it via various channels eg. Schools, institution, public campaign etc…

    We should not give up trying. Make good example of those who embody and practices such good social habits and highlight the shame on those who are practice otherwise.

    • gptuitionsg says:

      Many, many thanks for your support, Brian. We the people should take ownership of our society and shape it into what we want it to be. Perhaps in the early years when we were not well-educated, we needed our government to take the lead in social behaviour. But now we are ready to drive change from the ground.

      We should speak up for what we hope to see in our fellow Singaporeans. And in this day and age, one very important channel is of course the new media, including social media. I remember Ms Elim Chew of 77th Street saying that with the Internet and social media, anyone can be a change agent today.

      So don’t be shy to tell your friends and family on Facebook or Twitter what change you hope to see, even if it’s just one little thing. Every positive change makes a difference.

  2. Tracy says:

    It’s nice to be important but more important to be nice.

  3. Mr Seah says:

    The bonus you get when you do this: better service. –>

    4. Treat service staff with respect. This is 2014, not 1814. They are not your slaves. If not for them, you would have to clear the restaurant table, stack the shelves and make watermelon-flavoured soya milk yourself. When they say “thank you”, thank them in return. Don’t respond with a stony face and a sense of entitlement.

    • gptuitionsg says:

      Absolutely. I think it would be good to have a mild tipping culture in Singapore too. Not a strong one like in the US where service staff expect a 20 percent tip, but maybe a totally obligation-free $5 and above when you’re delighted with the service.

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