From Düsseldorf to London, and Beijing to Hong Kong, advertising and branding veteran Jörg Dietzel has lived and worked in major cities across the world.
But it was only when the German arrived in Singapore in 2001 that he felt he had truly found home.
“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,” says the founder of Jörg Dietzel Brand Consultants which has offices in Singapore, Jakarta, Hong Kong, and China.
As the General Manager of global creative agency DDB China, Dietzel was in charge of the firm’s Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou offices in the late 1990s when he made his first few trips to Singapore for work.
And one of the first things he noticed was the rich cultural diversity, with a multiracial and multireligious society. That made it easy for him to fit into the cosmopolitan city, he says.
“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,” says Dietzel, who is also an adjunct lecturer at the Singapore Management University where he teaches branding and advertising.
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So when he was offered the role of Chief Development Officer at the acclaimed Batey Ads in Singapore in mid-2001, he grabbed the opportunity to move to the bustling city state.
Singapore’s flourishing arts scene
If Singapore’s cultural diversity got him keen, it was the Republic’s arts scene that got him hooked.
In particular, local television drama shows. Asked about which he has watched and he quickly rattles off a number of local shows that he has watched.
One is Growing Up, an English-language drama about the trials and tribulations of a Singaporean family set in the sixties and seventies. It aired between 1996 to 2002.
Another favourite of his was Stepping Out, a Mandarin period-drama depicting the lives of early Fujian immigrants in Singapore.
And more recently, Tanglin, a drama series about the lives of Singaporean families.
Aside from being able to understand the cultural nuances and mannerisms of local Singaporeans, he was also drawn to the honesty of the storytelling involved and the shows’ ability to accurately reflect public discourse and address taboo topics.
Most importantly, local television helped him hone his Singlish skills — a key trait which has helped endear him to local 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 has also enjoyed the rich theatre experience that Singapore provides, from plays to musicals.
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.
He is also equally acquainted with local writers from Suchen Christine Lim to Ovidia Yu, citing them for their intricate and compelling stories that depict what it means to be Singaporean.
But what he loves most is the country’s openness to new ideas. This allows local artists to constantly craft new works that bear a distinctly Singaporean mark.
“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.”
Article by Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) on August 16, 2019.