I am just back from Singapore. Curtis and I stopped off on our way home to Jakarta from the states to visit our doctors. Singapore, this tiny, progressive country clinging to the southern tip of Malaysia rivals any other—Germany, Switzerland, France—when it comes to being clean and well-organized. Their medical care is phenomenal. In the morning I stop in at the lab to give blood and urine for analysis, zip over to radiology for my mammogram and bone density, grab a snack, and by the afternoon my doctor has the results and is ready to take charge of my health management. More often than not, I leave the doctor’s office with several months’ worth of maintenance meds and an appointment for my next visit—having spent about a third less money and countless weeks less time than I would have in the United States! (Health Care reorganizers: take note!)
And to think that Singapore has only been an independent nation since 1965!
Singapore hasn’t always been so well-organized or clean. When independence was declared, it was self-admittedly (so the tour guides proclaim) a smelly, festering, disease-riddled, tropical eyesore. Then, in the mid-70’s Singapore began a mega clean-up campaign. And now, a mere 30 years later, even the reclaimed gray water is pure enough to drink. Why has Singapore been able to accomplish so much in such a short time? What do they have that others do not? I think it’s attitude.
Westerners use “sure,” “fine,” “all right,” “Okay,” “that’s a plan" and various other seemingly positive but not definitive phrases to say “yes.”
Indonesians (and native of some other Asian countries) say “yes” or “hai” to everything, whether they mean it or not, because to do otherwise is to lose face.
To give an affirmative response, Singaporeans answer “can” at least three times, quickly, strung together in affirmation: “can-can-can,” while vigorously nodding their heads.
When I informed my doctor's receptionist that another doctor's appointment was running late and could she squeeze me in later she said, "can-can-can" followed by a 7 pm call later that night saying Dr. Nair was just finishing up for the day and if I could rush over he would stay to see me.
Our cab driver answered the phone, listened and muttered before finishing with "can-can-can, okay, bye."
Waiters asked to substitute this for that, add this, do that answers, "can-can-can." There is no hesitation. There is no beating around the bush. It’s can-can-can and they do-do-do and keep on doing until a thing is well-done.
I am going to adopt this Singaporean Can-do attitude—maybe you should, too. Who knows what we can accomplish by deciding we CAN—not just once, either, or twice while we dance around the subject, but at least 3 times! Toulouse Lautrec watch what I can do when I CAN-CAN-CAN!