I have flown into Singapore from New York for a short break and have lived here for 2 and half weeks now. Within this short period, I have experienced so many acts of rude and callous behaviors among our fellow men and women. I am a proud Singaporean and just can't stand by on the sidelines and watch our basic sense of civility eroding in our society...
Let me walk you through my experiences step by step...
My first experience was in a public bus when the bus driver who was obviously not a Singaporean but a mainland Chinese. He was quite impatient when I had asked him how much fare do I have to pay to go to a certain destination. The situation was further worsened by the fact that his Math wasn't too strong and he couldn't add the fare for 2 adults and 2 school going children quickly.., he was always looking at the roads to check if he could start moving. Probably he had a schedule to meet and we were slowing him down...but shouldn't those in the service cum transport industry display a basic sense of courtesy?
2nd experience - at a taxi stand in front of Paya Lebar Square. We were standing in queue - my husband Anand and I - like dutiful Singaporeans. A cab came along that said Bedok in its rooftop sign. In Singapore - cab drivers share cabs and work shifts. During the shift change, they prominently display where they are heading to, enroute to pass the cab to the next driver - thus the sign on their rooftop. Bedok is a housing estate in Eastern Singapore close to where we live.
Upon noticing that sign, we jumped and immediately asked the driver if he could drive us to Upper East Coast Rd. The fact that there are others in the queue ahead of us had completely evaded us. The cab driver asked us ' Are you in the queue?' I looked up and I saw an old man shaking his head and complaining about us to two school girls and a young man - that we had jumped the queue and had snatched the cab from them.
Upon realizing that I had made a mistake, I asked them ' Sorry but does anyone want to take this cab? Is anyone heading in Bedok direction?' All I got was blank accusing stares. Couldn't the situation have been dealt better if one them had advised us politely that there are others in the queue and that we should give them a chance first?
3rd Experience - this just happened yesterday. I was at a popular grocery store in Marine Parade - another housing estate in eastern Singapore. A packet of prune powder ( used to sprinkle over cut guava slices to give sourness to the fruit) caught my eye. I parked my trolley for a few secs ( prob only 2) along the main way to bend down to pick up that packet when I heard a middle aged Chinese lady shouting at me ' Hello Hello - please ah!' I stood up and looked at her angrily and said ' I AM moving !!' Couldn't she have waited for that 2 secs??!! ( Someone pointed out in the comments that it's rude to block the way and that I contributed to the situation - I agree I did contribute to the situation but couldn't the lady have exercised a little bit more patience? Shouldn't we treat people the way we would like to be treated?)
I got kind of pissed off at her very rude behavior and just couldn't believe how uncivil how our society has become. I asked myself and my friends these questions ... Have we become so short of time, so rushed and thus so stressed out to lose our basic manners? Should our manners be dictated by our moods? What has happened to being polite, forgiving and being a little bit more patient? My sister pointed out it is the stress of city living while a friend said it is an Asian mentality to always be ahead of others and to ensure you get the carrot first even at the expense of others. Apparently the situation is a lot more worse in other Asian cities like Mumbai and Beijing (Another reader pointed out that Paris and London has its share of rude and impatient people too).
Yet another friend said too much of wrong is happening everywhere all around the world and we can't do much about it. I pointed out to her if everyone thought like that, what would our children and their children face in 50 years time? We shouldn't give up and think that one person can't make any difference but we must make a honest attempt to make that difference...
I just can't fathom our Singapore getting more and more ill mannered and lacking basic manners. For overseas Singaporeans, it would never make returning to this beautiful island worthwhile. A country is marked by its government and its people. Not by the number of tall buildings we have built or the number of luxury cars we own.
I was comparing where I had just come from - Bluebell, Pennsylvania. There, people are so so polite. They give way to us when crossing the roads and no honking when changing lanes at a traffic light even when the light is green! One particular incident is etched in my mind - my husband was driving while I sat next to him on the passenger seat when we saw a goose attempting to cross the road following its partner (?) which had successfully made its way across. Upon seeing this, all traffic stopped to let that one goose cross successfully. While it waddled across the road, I was very pleased to notice that all drivers waited patiently without honking. Probably it is the suburban living that brings about such patience and understanding.
Anand says that we shouldn't compare two different lifestyles and that we should be a little less sensitive here in Singapore. Yes, I do agree with him but don't you think Singapore will become a very sorry state if each and everyone of us starts accepting bad behavior as part and parcel of city living. Being nonchalant is not the way but being aware, addressing and finding remedies.
Having said all this, what can we do as ordinary citizens? Simple solutions that works wonders - show a little kindness, politeness and exercise a little bit more patience the next time someone seems to get in your way. Above all, please set a good example to your children as educating our young is the very first step to ensuring a more gracious living society.
We all share the same planet and every single person is of value to everyone else. We all should keep an eye out for each other like our own family. Compassion, kindness and empathy should be ingrained in us. It's never too late to mend our ways should we be lacking in basic courtesy. We have been recognized as the best city to live in Asia recently but what is the point if we all behave ill mannered and uncultured?
Creating awareness (my main objective of this blog post) is the next step to halt and hopefully remedy this sorry state in Singapore...Remember a simple golden rule - treat others like how you would want to be treated. I am positive and hopefully we will see more civil Singaporeans among us in the near future.
My home is
usually in a mess and has dust settled on almost everything. But I believe laughter and love will win the day. In 20 years, my girls won't remember how messy the house was but will remember the time we spent together and the love they felt...