From the ChannelnewsAsia website: "Despite its many technological and scientific accomplishments, Singapore still suffers from a major image problem, said Mr Peter Schwartz, co-founder and chairman of the Global Business Network. "People in the industrialized world don't know very much about Singapore other than the trivial and the silly stuff like the banning of chewing gum and your homosexual laws," said Mr Schwartz, 61, a key adviser to businesses and governments around the world. And yet, this detracted from the profound achievements of Singapore over the last 40 years, he said. Singaporeans were, he observed, more tolerant of gays than what the law allows and the reputation of the country would be hugely enhanced if there was, for example, more room for dissent."
I find this to be very true. Most people I know here believe that Singapore is a boring police state with silly laws where you will be caned and probably hanged when you chew gum or cross the road at a red light. If there is news about Singapore in the newspapers or on TV here (rarely), they report stuff like "homosexuals still are not allowed to suck each other off", or "so-and-so will be hanged for possessing 0.000001 mg of a certain drug." (for instance most Dutch people will still know who is Johannes van Damme)