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Singapore — the Country Globetrotters Can Fit In and Still Stand Out

Jörg Dietzel, an advertising and branding veteran and an adjunct lecturer of the same at the Singapore Management University, has travelled, worked, and lived far and wide around the world, but he found a home when he arrived in Singapore in 2001. He finds Singapore beautiful and unique in how diverse cultures coexist so beautifully.

“I’ve lived in a few places around the world and I can tell you that nowhere else in the world will you find a more diverse array of different cultures and traditions living side-by-side so beautifully,” he says.

Dietzel was the General Manager of global creative agency DDB and was in charge of China Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou offices when he first flew to Singapore for work in the late 1990s.

One of the best things about Singapore that impressed him was the richness of the cultural diversity and the acceptance of the differences within a multiracial and multireligious society. He says that made his experience more beautiful in the cosmopolitan city.

Dietzel had faced many difficulties trying to fit into the other countries, which was never a problem in Singapore. So, when he received the offer for the position of Chief Development Officer at the acclaimed Batey Ads in Singapore in 2001, he grabbed it as the perfect opportunity to move to the country.

“In countries where I have lived in before, I either stand out too much or find it difficult to fit in. Singapore gives me the opportunity to both stand out and fit in at the same time. I can really belong here,” he adds.

If the diversity of the country impressed Dietzel, the local arts scene got him hooked. Local television dramas, especially, interested him quite a lot. So much so that he can quickly name quite a few if asked.

Some of his favourites are Growing Up – an English-language drama about the trials and tribulations of a Singaporean family, Stepping Out – a Mandarin period drama showing the lives of early Fujian immigrants in Singapore, and more recently, Tanglin – a drama series on the lives of Singaporean families. He is absolutely in awe of the storytelling and the honesty of the narrators in addressing taboo topics and depicting public discourse.

However, the biggest benefit of watching local drama series, he says, is that he has also learnt fluent Singlish skills, which helped him to connect better with the local people there and endeared him to Singaporeans.

“There’s just something about using Singlish in day-to-day conversations that helps you resonate with the rest of Singapore. No matter where I might be in the country, the moment I use Singlish, people immediately know that I’m one of them,” says Dietzel.

He was also an enthusiastic admirer of Singapore’s rich theatre culture, from musicals to plays. One of the first plays he attended was a theatre production by local theatre company W!LD RICE in the early 2000s. And he remains an ardent fan of the boundary-pushing works of Ivan Heng, the founding artistic director of the company.

Dietzel is very well acquainted with the local writers as well, such as Suchen Christine Lim and Ovidia Yu, and is awed with how they craft their work.

He is always keen to learn and explore more about the country where he has seamlessly fitted in a while still keeping his identity intact.

“Singapore has always been able to maintain a good balance, so we are in a position where we have the agility to absorb world events and also respond through our art accordingly,” Dietzel says.

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