In a recent dinner meet with some new friends who have just arrived from overseas and settling in Singapore for a stint, I discovered that we actually have a National Integration Council and they have this little guidebook about Settling in Singapore. The foreigners who received their EPs or other immigration documents allowing them to settle in Singapore would receive a hardcopy of this guide.
Besides the attractive graphics and the nice type-setting, I thought it was really nice how they put together some of the norms and conveyed recommendations on how people can adapt to the culture in Singapore. I liked how carefully worded various different practices were in Singapore (including ‘chope-ing’ seats in the hawker centres) in ways that would be neutral. In some sense, the ‘codification’ of all these cultural norms here in such a document from the government already reflected a positive sense of pride.
I’m certainly proud that we have such an organised system to help non-Singaporeans integrate better. For me, I always realise that ultimately, there’s no single Singaporean identity and it would always be full of paradoxes, tension between the Asian values with some of the westernised thinking, struggle between putting self or society first and so on. Over the years, our government have most certainly stepped away from that nannying role and try to take on a more nurturing role towards the culture and the economy. As citizens and Singaporeans, we too will have to step up and mature into a new future that we are going to create and not just passively receive.