Younger Singaporeans have grown up without experiencing the tumultuous nation building days of the past, but does this make them any less proud to be Singaporean?
As Singapore approaches National Day on Aug 9, we caught up with four youths to ask them what makes them proud to be Singaporean and how they think Singapore can improve:
Singapore is held in high esteem overseas
"I'm doing my undergraduate studies in New York and being a Singaporean there does have its perks. It's also kind of a flex to say that you're from Singapore.
"Everyone overseas has a good impression of Singaporeans, so I have definitely benefited from that impression. When people there hear you're Singaporean, they are very open and welcoming to you and I've managed to make many friends that way.
"Even though I've lived overseas, I always look forward to coming back. It's home where all my friends and family are.
"I think feeling proud to be Singaporean struck me most when I was serving my National Service (NS). It exposed me to people from different backgrounds and races. It was great having that experience knowing that regardless of background, Singaporeans can still work so closely together.
Serving NS made some youths realise how Singaporeans from all walks of life can work together.
"However, I do think that our education system can afford to be more relaxed. Studying in Singapore when I was younger got pretty stressful and it often felt like I was always competing with my peers. There's also that pressure of wanting to get into a certain secondary school or junior college.
"As a result, I think students might be too preoccupied with this competition as they are afraid of trying out things they really want to do, or their mindset is narrowed to a few cookie-cutter careers that may end up being something they do not truly enjoy." - Matthew Liou, 24, Student
More meaningful racial integration in Singapore
"I've been studying in the United Kingdom for the past five years and I've travelled around Europe quite a bit, but Singapore is still my favourite city in the world.
"It makes me really proud because everyone I meet knows where Singapore is. People often cite Singapore as being a positive example of development and globalisation. I get people telling me that 'Singapore is super clean!' and 'I would love to go to Singapore one day!'.
"I love how I never get bored in Singapore. There's always so much to do. I love the food, the public transportation system, and how everything is so convenient.
"I've also come to really appreciate the steps taken to try to promote racial harmony in Singapore. Growing up, I was allowed to learn my own mother tongue, Hindi, in school. I'm not sure if there are other countries that allow that. I also like that we have public holidays set aside for the different races' festivals.
Youths appreciate Singapore's respect for different cultures and traditions.
"But I think Singapore still has some ways to go in terms of racial harmony. As a minority, I still feel like I'm not included at times and I still face racism on a daily basis. For example, when I go out, service staff may give me an attitude or be reluctant to serve me. This definitely happens more when I'm out with my family.
"I think there has to be more meaningful integration of the races. I was the only minority in my class for many years, and I think more can be done to ensure that there is a fairer mix of races in school so that Singaporeans growing up can really understand the other races, and not just on Racial Harmony Day." - Sumona Chaudhury, 22, Student
Appreciates Singapore's safety and convenience
"Singapore has come so far as a nation. It's amazing to see how such a small country developed into such an attractive place that so many people would want to visit and migrate here.
"Even as I get older, I would want to continue staying in Singapore. I have come to appreciate the convenience of living in a small country. Travelling from East to West never takes me more than one or two hours and there's hawker centres everywhere so there's always good food available.
"Singapore is also such a safe country that as a woman, I can go out in the middle of the night and not have much to fear, which is rare for other countries.
One thing youths are proud of is Singapore's convenient public transport system.
"Singapore has done a great job in getting to where it is now. But at this stage in Singapore's development, we should take the time to listen more to other voices in the country.
"Especially in recent months, social media has brought a lot of issues into light and it has given a voice to perspectives that were always muted or in the background. More can be done to include these voices and to take what they say into account.
"I also think it is important that people in power use their platform to talk about social issues. From my experience, it's usually younger Singaporeans who are voicing their opinions on these matters, but I don't often see people in power being very vocal about these issues.
"I hope that the recent issues like sexual assault on university campuses don't get swept under the rug, and that more officeholders will take up these issues and make real policy changes." - Kristal Wong, 22, Student.
More unity among Singaporeans despite our differences
"I am proud to be Singaporean because there is truly no place like this!
"To me, being Singaporean is to be able to have my distinct racial identity while belonging to a larger Singaporean family; it is to be born in another country while bursting with pride and joy every time I step foot into the arrival hall of Changi Airport; it is the feeling of togetherness when I sing the National Day songs with everyone else as a collective whole.
Youths share that arriving in Changi Airport after travelling fills them with a sense of pride.
"I see so much more potential in Singapore and I hope our people can improve on focusing on our similarities rather than our differences - political alignments, religious beliefs and whatnot.
"I hope everyone can display greater empathy and consideration towards our fellow Singaporeans in day-to-day situations and make a conscious effort to look out for the weak and the vulnerable in our society, in whatever little means that we can afford." - Yamin Soe, 23, Student
BANNER AND TEASER PHOTO CREDIT: ROGAN YEOH VIA UNSPLASH
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