How Singapore culture has made us disrespect people in uniform

Last Updated on 2017-11-19 , 3:15 pm

I once heard that in the US and Taiwan, soldiers are very respected by the civilians. I don’t know how true that is, though.

Nevertheless, should that be true, people should be welcoming them everywhere—be it the public transport, restaurants or whatnot.

In Singapore, try wearing your uniform and walking in a shopping centre. You’ll be frowned upon should you stink as you take the MRT. You’ll be stomped should you sit on an empty seat in a train. You’ll be punished should your uniform be dirty or untidy to the public.

If you’re an NSF, people would pity you, and hope that you’ll finish your NS soon so that you’ll “have a life”. If you’re a regular, some people would think that you couldn’t have earned millions of dollars per year.

In other words, I’ve seldom come across people respecting soldiers in Singapore. Once they do so, like the recent case of the stallholder giving free food to a soldier, they’ll become a big viral story, for it’s almost “abnormal” to do so.

And to add fuel to the fire, I’ve never come across a person saying this to a soldier: “Thank you for your sacrifices.” While the army is constantly trying to change our perspectives, it has yet to change since the day I’ve enlisted into the army, up till today when I still have to service my annual ICT (annual reservist training).

It’s sad because I know people who joined the army solely for the fact that they want to defend the country. Their eyes light up when they talk about guns, and their favourite movies have always been war movies. They sacrifice for that honour.

However, another of my friend, who is also a regular, told me this: “In Singapore, it’s about the money.” And the unfortunate fact is that many of us might agree with this friend of mine. I know I can’t change much about this, for this is part of Singapore culture.

To be frank, whenever I think of ICT, I always think of it as a chalet and catching up with old friends, and never about defending the country. My friends and I would laugh and decide what to bring to camp.

To some extent, have we, the people in the army, contributed to this as well? That we ourselves don’t think we wear green for a noble purpose?

There’s an army song called “Training to be Soldier”, and part of the song is this: “Have you ever wondered? Why must we serve?” If you’ve worn green before, you’ll know there are two answers to this.

Now, would you answer this: “Because we love our land, and we want it to be free, to be free, yeah!” or the other answer?

I’ll try to sing the original lyrics. How about you?

Since you’re here, why not watch a video about an NTU student who went all out to impress his crush, only to end up in…tragedy? Here, watch it and do remember to share it (and also subscribe to Goody Feed YouTube channel)!

This article was first published on in 2014 and revised on 18 November 2017.