Singapore may well be minuscule, but it’s also modern, multi-cultural and motivated. This island-nation of under 6 million has among its inhabitants primarily those of Chinese, Malay and Indian origin who all share the same can do attitude. This outlook has helped the country move from having an uncertain future, when it was forced out of Malaysia who governed for a spell after WWII, to one of financial prosperity gained from its continued successful international commerce today. Next to Luxembourg, Singapore has the highest GDP per capita in the world.

Singapore and its can do philosophy

So where does this can do attitude come from? It’s an immigrant nation for a start. All those that arrived onto the island did so looking for a better way of life, so naturally there was a propensity to succeed, which was in part enabled thanks to its status as a British trading colony from the early 19th Century. This mentality continued when Lee Kuan Yew became the first prime minister of an independent Singapore in 1965, and he believed passionately in equal opportunity for any Singaporean regardless of ethnic origin. Although there were hitches, the prevailing tolerance meant there was little distraction from progress.

Singapore’s energetic can do culture has resulted in its citizens suffering from FOMO, which they call kiasu, from the Hokkein word meaning ‘to miss out’ or ‘fear of losing’. On the one hand it encourages progress, on the other it means there’s a big pressure to get the results you want. This can range from getting the best grades in school to buying the latest electronic gadget. But because of their wealth and excellent education system it can be easy to keep up with Joneses, or indeed the Tan’s, Chan’s, or Singh’s.

My favourite quote from a Singaporean

‘A nation is great not by its size alone. It is the will, the cohesion, the stamina, the discipline of its people and the quality of their leaders which ensure it an honourable place in history.’ 

Lee Kuan Yew