From ‘New tourism ad tells Aussies to get lost’, 10 March 2012, article in insing.com
A new ad campaign by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) has got some Singaporeans questioning whether it is offensive. The 30-second ad is part of a new campaign launched by the STB on 8 March to promote Singapore to Australia, and will be shown in Australian cities including Sydney, Melbourne and Perth.
Themed “Get Lost and Find the Real Singapore”, the ad depicts a number of Singaporeans showing off different aspects of Singapore and telling Australians to “Get Lost”. It begins with a Peranakan woman saying, “Hey you Aussie, you think Singapore’s got no tradition? Get lost.”
This is followed by two young women saying, “You think Singapore’s all shopping centres? Get lost!”
Then a Malay satay seller appears and says, “You think Singapore’s just chilli crab? Get lost lah!”, followed by man holding a glass of wine, saying, “You think you know Singapore? Get lost!” The ad ends with the tagline, “Get lost and find the real Singapore, your Singapore.” The ad has already caused some controversy as some think it is inappropriate for the ad to tell people to “get lost”.
Some Singaporean netizens who have seen the ad comment that they found it “really awkward”, “silly” and even “offensive”. A netizen, “wong5505″ exclaimed that he did not understand the phrase “get lost”, and had found the ad meaningless. However, the STB has clarified with Shin Min Daily News that the phrase “get lost” is in fact not offensive to Australians.
I couldn’t find an official definition of ‘get lost’ as Aussie slang, but other than its more common usage in the context of ‘scram’ or ‘go away’, it could also mean a dizzying, mildly confusing, perhaps even addictive immersion in a strange and fascinating culture to the point of forgetting time and space, hence being ‘lost’, like how one would get ‘lost’ in a lover’s eyes or embrace. In short, it’s a pun. In the video, you also see a rather scrappy, extreme example of ‘lo-hei’, where groups of revellers are seen flinging yusheng with the same orgiastic abandon as one blowing suds at a foam party. The Malaysian Tourism board, with their own claim to yusheng, may be watching this with keen interest.
Any Singaporean hearing ‘get lost LAH’ for the first time, without having any idea of what the ad was about, would think this ad is doing the exact opposite of what it’s designed for, shooing away rather than wooing tourists. ‘Get lost’ itself is already sending mixed signals, but the addition of the suffix ‘lah’ implies exasperation and impatience, as in ‘Go away LAH’ or ‘Please, LAH’. Here we have a campaign supposedly telling tourists to bugger off on one hand, and convincing them that Singapore is all ‘Yours’ on the other. They should have a Mandarin-subtitled version, which would translate ‘Get lost’ to “滚开吧” and show it to PRCs instead: ‘You think Singapore has more dogs than humans? Get lost.’
Maybe Australian humour needs some getting used to, for the wit of the ad was indeed ‘lost’ on me other than recognising the play on words. Or that’s just because the message was relayed by local actors unaccustomed to ‘get lost’ as anything other than telling someone to ‘go fly kite’, hence coming across as unnatural and forced. But let’s look at some awkward tourism ads The Land Down Under itself has produced: In the eighties, the man who would be Crocodile Dundee told viewers to ‘put a shrimp on the barbie‘. Like us, Australians usually call the same creature a PRAWN, but ‘shrimp’ panders to an American audience, just like how ‘Get Lost’ supposedly makes sense to an Aussie. More recently in 2006, a promo was actually BANNED in some countries (and censored in Singapore) because the viewer was asked ‘so where the bloody hell are you?‘ (bloody hell was removed in Singapore) which makes the swear-phrase ‘bloody hell’ sound as cordial as ‘G’day’. Nevermind that it was spouted by a comely bikini model to soften the vulgarity of it. If you thought ‘get lost’ was rude, wait till you see a parody of the ‘bloody hell’ campaign by Australian comedians ‘Chasers War on Everything’ , where tourists are cordially invited to ‘get their fucking arse over here’.