Abstracts of essays; news; announcements; short takes.
which confirms the government's thesis, that the people have to be guided with a firm hand
clearing up after you is a given in overseas fast food outlets. But hawker centres are not fast food outlets. in fact, from my narrow-minded past experience in western countries(I'm poor and I don't travel much), only two kinds of food outlets exist; high class cafes or fast food. where do hawker centres come in? do you expect people eating in a cafe to clear their own trays? and the comment "you guys eat like pigs." that is so ethnocentric! asian food is really messy. even anthony bourdain admitted he had difficulty eating "sup tulang". your friend was probably turned off after seeing everyone eating with their hands. everything in the west is sanitised, prawns peeled for you, fillet of chicken, ribs. if your friend was in india or malaysia, where it is customary to eat with your hands, what would he have said?as for the rest, i don't really have much to comment because sometimes i'm put off as well. but if you see the amount of people clustered around the platform as compared to the bangkok example, where there were only a handful of commuters, you will somehow gain an understanding of what it's like to be slugging it out here among the 4million other people in the crowded commune. these are very different realities.
I think you're raising a general issue of poor social behaviour of Singaporeans and have offered a few examples. I'd like to break them down a little...I agree with you that it's unpleasant, but leaving the plates/bowls/cutlery after your meal at a food court has become a social norm here. Non-Singaporeans and those who've spent some time abroad may have negative comments about it, but if there's no local expectation that things should be done differently (i.e., people should clear their trays at foodcourts and fast-food restaurants), then it's all well and good to lament, but the answer is to begin a campaign to educate the population.You also brought up examples of public common areas being littered (e.g., HDB lobbies with durian husks, bench in People's Park with litter). Here I agree with you totally, but I wonder who actually did this? Without going into too much detail on my thoughts here though, I'll just suggest that I think this is a problem that won't go away for another generation or two.I'll skip past your example of the McD employees brushing their way past you as that may be an isolated experience?Finally you provided the photos of the MRT vs. Skytrain and how people queue up there. I'd be curious to see how the Thais queue up when there's a lot more traffic. It's very easy to be gracious when there is litle pressure on resources (in this case, space in the train). The true test comes when such pressure exists. I've not been to Japan in a long time - if you have, could you offer a comment there? I know that in HK, things are pretty mad too...One last thought: I've been spending a considerable amount of time in Vietnam lately, and while I notice that the people are generally polite, I'd suggest that this isn't evident in their traffic system - it's pretty much a free-for-all with the motorcycles everywhere. To summarise, I think we could think about the issues you raised through the lenses of a) societal norms and b) pressure on scarce resources.Regards, Anon.
In crowded train stations in some cities (Tokyo is an example), officials are sometimes present at peak times to help manage the masses of people and ensure their safety and cooperation with safety regulations (such as standing behind the yellow line and not rushing through closing doors). While Japanese generally exhibit much more civilised behaviour than Singaporeans when it comes to train etiquette, a few carefully-positioned officials in Singapore train stations at the platforms might help remedy the problem by scolding at people who block the train exits and do not give way to the elderly, etc. After being conditioned for a few weeks, commuters' behaviour might improve.
In response to Marcus who said, "but if you see the amount of people clustered around the platform as compared to the bangkok example, where there were only a handful of commuters..."Siam Skytrain Station is the main interchange station, right next to leading shopping centres, e.g. Siam Centre and Paragon. It can get very crowded.At the time the picture was taken (a Thursday, at about 6 pm) a train had just left and so it was momentarily less crowded.However, consider this: Those that you see queuing up were confident that others coming after them would respect their prior place in the queue. If they had no such expectation, why would they queue up? So even though at the precise moment the picture was taken, the platform wasn't crowded, it still shows that civil courtesies were practised and expected of others.
I've often wondered if our lack of social grace might be a Chinese thing. Not queueing in metro stations is not a phenomenon unique to Singapore; I've seen the same situation in metro stations in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Beijing - all Chinese cities.
With reference to the empty looking trash can with bags and open boxes of rubbish beside it:There are many poor people that go around dumpster- diving to salvage anything that can be re-sold.Very often, they take out trash already in the bin, open the bags/boxes, remove anything re-sellable. But do not put the bags back into the bin. Thereby creating the mess.
Totally agree with you and with Martin Goh's article.Let me be the first to warn you - Martin Goh's article will get a lot of responses from people armed with all sorts of dumb excuses. I'm predicting that you will see lots of that in the newspapers in the following days. I'm only hoping that the St Times will not censor those dumb responses and publish all for the world to see. Similarly, your website will also receive those sorts of dumb responses.In case anyone is wondering, the dumb responses I'm predicting are the excuses like - (i) there are cleaners, what! and (ii) they don't provide tray collection points, what!Well, for fastfood outlets, there're definitely collection points. Plus, food is in light-weight packaging, collected together in a tray - what can be more convenient? What can be the excuse, except for missing a brain? Or having the brains of animals?What many Singaporeans don't seem to understand is that even though there are cleaners, other fellow diners have only half-hour or one hour to spare, so invariably their left-behind mess is cleared up by other diners. I have on many, many occasions seen people waiting for a table to be vacated and then having to clear up the mess left behind by the previous group. So Singaporeans have to understand that their mess is not cleared up by cleaners, but by their fellow diners, by people who also paid for their meals.Same thing happens at the condo swimming pools. Swimmers will leave their can drinks and other mess at the pool deck, imagining that cleaners will clean up after them. Yes, IMAGINE. The reality is that cleaners only show up at the end of the day, and other families who need to use those tables and chairs will have to clean up after their filthy neighbours.It's easy to pick flaws and find excuses for difficult conditions, but the true test of a nation's character is when there is no more excuse. Focus on this and then find out WHAT IS WRONG with many of us.Robert L
Even Malaysia, they actually bother to queue up. I took these photos last Friday from a KL LRT station.Picture 1Picture 2
I dont know about other countries, but the fact that Singaporeans leave their leftovers and not throw them in the rubbish bin is clearly a trend built up over the ages.I've always thought that we are supposed to leave the jobs to the cleaners to clear away the leftovers in hawker centres and fast food restaurants. Ever met an over-zealous cleaner who comes to clear you food before you are done eating? (Note that this applies for hawker centres only.)When its in my school (Tertiary Education), we are supposed to clear the leftovers ourselves but the workers will never fail to come and clear our leftovers anyway...The point I want to make is that unless the adults foster the virtue of clearing away the leftovers yourselves, it will never stick in the minds of Singaporeans, even with 10 years of Compulsory education where you take your used plates back to the store.Abao ^^
The last I was in Taipei, the commuters were very orderly. They queued up as in the Thai photos. Everyone kept to right side of the escalator, and those on left walks up/down without fail.
Anon said: "if there's no local expectation that things should be done differently (i.e., people should clear their trays at foodcourts and fast-food restaurants), then it's all well and good to lament, but the answer is to begin a campaign to educate the population."I remembered there was an attempt/trial by NEA at a hawker centre at Zion Road some time back. The lauch of this trial was reported widely by the media. Notices were placed at each table to remind people to return their trays and bowls after eating. Result of the trial was not publicised for obvious reason.We are taught to return our plates and bowls to their respective stores in primary and secondary schools. I guess we loose it after that.I dont think a campaign will solve this problem. It goes much deeper into one's attitude towards one's surrounding. Whether one has a feel for it and has a sense of ownership.
Another example is dog owner allowing their beloved dog pee and sh*t any where any time.There are many pillars at my HDB flat ground floor lift lobby. At each corner of the pillar is a watermark which cannot be washed away. This is the result of a daily peeing by various dogs in my neighbourhood.
I particularly agree and am miffed with the MRT issue. I just don't get it - if you're not going to let commuters off, how do you expect to get into a crowed train?At the very least, if we have no manners, we should have some common sense. It's just fustrating to see the guy/girl outside the entrance looking like he/she has the right to go into the train.
Another one for the montage. http://www.punggol.sg/forum/index.php?topic=1073.0
I total agree with your observation that S'poreans have poor social behaviours. I took my 3 year daughter on a MRT to Harbourfront today. No one offerred seat to my little princess on both trips. When I was in BK last month, whenever I stepped into a train, Thais there would stand up and insist my daugter take the seat! S'porens still have lots to learn.....
Asian food can be messy but there is no need to leave the "unwanted stuff" on the table, put it in some corner of your plate! It cannot be that gross considering the fact that you've already eaten the other parts. I might ruffle some feathers here but I wonder if its a cultural thing. My husband's family does the same thing. They arent singaporeans and they live in n.america. I think it boils down to this attitude of "someone else will do the dirty work". Its as if clearing trays is beneath them. "Why bother helping them, waste my time, will anyone help me next time?" Thats the response I got from friends who think that im silly for going out of my way to help a mother with her pram in a crowded shopping centre. Its everyone for themselves in sg.
I have to agree with Martin Goh, having lived in Singapore, I, am, myself, guilty of having done that.All this came to a screeching halt after I re-located to the States.I watched while customers cleared up the mess on their tables in fast food chains, lining up for the subway trains, for the movies, and even taking only ONE COPY of the newspaper, from the vending machine, instead of grabbing 3.Guilty as charged, as I have been told to stand in line, n clear the mess of food at my table...very politely.It is 'the Me First' mentality which obviously does not wash well overseas. That includes loud-talking at restaurants, as everyone makes it a point to stare at the noisy customers.It was a learning experience, obviously for the better. But in Singapore, I guess we behave differently. When I open the door to others, they are all gracious. It seemed rude not to say 'thank you' ?
To Anonymous 15 October, 2006 23:16;yes, I had to conform to carrying tiny ziplock plastic bags to clean up my dog's poop, many cities in the States require the owner to do that. Taking the subway in NYC is a daily event, and I have to say, the older people are graciously given seats, by other commuters. It is a normal thing, that people will do. If an older or pregnant person is in the train, and asks for a seat, everyone is gracious enough to assist. And we are talking about NYC, where crazy things happen.Singaporeans can do it too, but I guess they feel that someone else can clean up the mess. The thinking here is 'Yeah...what's your point?"I asked.
now, i wonder what would happen if i opened a foodcourt, and made sure i forgot to hire workers to clear up after anyone? the way i see things, it's either i'll make a huge loss or some kinda hearted soul will help to clear up after himself, which apparently the latter is less likely to happen.kudos to this blog, sadly no one is going to bother with the forum or this blog. especially not singaporean teenagers. unless you put a 'cleaning' cop there on a permanent basis, and he's gonna be handing out fines all the time, if not no one is going to care.now the underlying question, who's fault? the government for always having had a strict hand, so we singaporeans find a chance to 'sin' in the lesser of the evils in life. our upbringing, ie our hand eating culture. or just plainly ourselves, whereby ignorant individuals refuse to accept that it should be the social norm to clear up after oneself where ever they're eating.i used to think that americans and the british are ignorant - imagine singapore is in china - but after today, damn i tell you, singaporeans are probably the most ignorant of all.
That is why the govt has to importas many FTs as possible and make them Singaporeans to improve Singaporeans. I'm sure the people from India and China are very good at keeping public places clean and nice. That is why we need more of them. Also we probably need to up the fine for litering and impose a fine for being sour faced and discourteous.
Sir, I suspect this is one way the ordinary citizen show their discontent with the present System which is oppresive and persecutory.What do I mean? You may ask: I believe the way the citizenry is being treated in the various oppresive ways encourage the people in so many little ways to "get back" at the ruling Elite.Examples of the various "Opt Out Schemes" angers the citizenry. Example "Eldershield"The ONUS for citizens to inform the TV/Radio Licensing Unit that they no more own a TV....The Banning of Chewing Gum because the relevant Authorities Cannot be Bothered to bring to justice or educate a few wayward youths. Punish the whole Nation because of a few wayward youths.The oppresive Coupon parking system...example; one has to "accurately" estimate the parking period if underestimated you get fined...so people cheat.The unfair system of charging a person by making him buy a "Season" Parking only good for one HDB Carpark..There are so many other oppresive laws and regulations.The Civil Servants really NOW believe they are the Rulers instead of Servants of the Public.Can you blame the citzenry for "protesting" in this "Antisocial" way?
It is kiasuism. I for one know that I tried to keep to the habit of waiting at the designated area at the sides, but I have given up that practise because people always tend to cut me. So, I feel aggrieved. Because there are times when I get cut cut until cannot go into train. So my mentality became, everyone doesnt seem to care. Then why me?But after reading this article, I believe maybe I should maintain my own stance and return to the practise and not waver. But will all of us who have such objections to the lack of graciousness in our social behaviour also do it? Or will we all also continue to go with the flow.I think there is the mentality of not wanting to be taken advantaged of and be at the 'losing end'.
My take is that whether you clear the leftovers after having a meal depends on the type of place you're in. Just like in high class restaurants, you're not expected to clear your own plates, right? Similarly, I find the price range in fast food restaurants such that I'm not expected to clean up as well. Whereas in places like school canteens where food is really cheap, you're expected to. So if you compare this to western countries, note that fast food for them is perhaps the cheapest food around.
I agreed with Martin Goh that Singaporean do lack social grace. This is sad but I guess this is what happened to all human being when resources are scarce.Australian are no better too! Try taking the budget airline within Australia and you can see the same Singapore MRT experience there. As budget airline has no fix seating, you can see the “Ang Moh” crowding around the boarding gate even before the aircraft had landed. Once its ready to be boarded, a mad rush is only slowed by the speed the ground staffs are able to clear the tickets. Once on board, we can almost certain see people “Choping” seats. The one activity I once thought only happen in Singapore.Let me also relates an experience I had at Siam Station, Bangkok.I was joining the queue during peak hour. When the train arrived, several people are dashing in from the side without queuing. This happened several times. However I do agreed that generally the situation in Bangkok is better in Singapore. But again what I am trying to say is that, put any human being in that situation where only the fittest survive, the result are always the same. Another incident in Bangkok.When I was queuing to clear Bangkok immigration. A tourist of Caucasian descent cut the queue at the next lane right in front of a Taiwanese woman. To me he is a pig.
How about doing something active to bring about change; by "reminding" the "pig" to change his/her behaviour? Sure, (a) the pig's parents should have taught him better, or (b) the government should do it, or (c) you feel by raising your voice you're embarassing yourself, (d) or you just want to be nice, or (e)you feel there's no need to be so vigilante about it. But by doing nothing in the face of "piggish" behaviour, what does the "pig" learn? NOTHING. So, be brave, speak out directly against the pigs.P.S.1 Speak out the "right way" though i.e. tact is always appreciated.P.S. 2 I admit to being a pig sometimes, and will not mind being jolted to being more gracious.
eat in cookhouse also no need to wash the plates and bowls liao! outsourced to contractors, yay!!!
My first culture shock being in the States, was asking the UPS man, who happened to be african-american, to assist me with taking out my trash, it was just empty boxes that I had sliced n packed away neatly in black dustbin liners.I recalled my saying to him: 'Excuse me, can u help me with this extra trashbag, since we are going downstairs at the same time?'The UPS man looked at me n said "Hey man, can't you see? I just deliver packages, I ain't taking out your garbage!"Wow, that was one learning lesson. As I got quickly acclimatized, I mentioned this incident to my friend, and he had a good laugh."Don't u know everyone is equal here? even the household help, my friend?...this is not Asia."That really put things in perspective for me. EQUALITY amongs humans is a huge factor.Things are done differently in Singapore and Asia. it is a culture thing.
if I cleared the tables for myself, someone will be deprived of a job.someone once told me "the resources for that job could have gone to someone else at a higher level" but somehow I doubt it for for macdonald's rank and file demographic
we need to keep reminding everyone that if we all act just a little more responsibly, smile a bit more and act with a little more consideration towards one another, we can make all our lives quite a bit more comfortable than all the higher bonuses, marigold lined city roads and endless self-accorded accolades can deliver.
1) Clearing up your mess after eating at fast food outlets. If we all do that, then the Ah Peks & Ah Sohs who are in their late 50's to early 70's at McDonalds would be OUT of a job. They depend on their meagre salary for a living to buy basic necessities. They need the income to survive. 2) Spore MRT stations are exceptionally crowded since the lady CEO took over. She is economizing to the point of spacing out train intervals much longer than what was a much shorter wait about 3 years ago. There have been loads of complaints in the press about packed platforms & extremely crowded trains.3) Bangkok MRT is not an extensive network like in Spore. Besides, the vast majority of Thais living in Bangkok cannot afford to take the MRT based on their low salaries.
Oh yes, I forgot to mention one more thing re my point based comments. With the arrival of thousands of immigrants each year & accumulating every month, the no littering policy is cast aside as the newly arrived from 3rd world countries abide by their homeland's rules until they are fined. You'll be surprised by just how many new employment pass holders & immigrants arrive as my HDB block as well as my neighbourhood has changed so much in the last 5 years.
One more thought? Could it be when one lives in a system where the people are 'told what to do? when to do? how to do? where to do?...rules n more rules?' that the people are so used to rules that when there ARE NO RULES, re: making messes of food on tables, common courtesy?- that we maybe inclined to throw caution to the wind- and buck the rules? That thought has been bugging me the whole day?The thinking is "we leave the food on the table, u see any signs that say we have to clean up or what? just no littering, what? Leave it there." I think the same thought process enters when we wait for the MRT- "wah, give chance? no way man?...PaPa, see the woman is pregnant, want to give up our chair?"'shut up boy!, sit down n be quiet!".RULES N REGULATIONS dictate the lives of all Singaporeans. One commentator had mentioned it earlier in this blog- don;t get me wrong- rules are good, but too much can hamper the thinking process of singaporeans.I have a feeling the system will pick up on this- and we will see more rules. Maybe for the better?
I agree on the McDonald thing: I never clear my table because someone needs the job (and the cost of that job divided by the number of meals served everyday is nothing); yet it does not mean I leave everything in a sorry state: no, I neatly pack everything on the tray: it is simply more respectful.I think that several things come into play to make Singapore the rudest country among the developped and rich nations. First of all yes Kiasuism; the difference with other countries where the self made man has been put on the pedestal, is that in Singaporean man has externalised Kiasuism as a trait of Singapore: it is exposed proudly as part of the culture. Of course kiasuism is not discouraged by the govt thanks to its streaming ("not in the stream? sorry, you're out") and "no wellfare state" policiies and stances. But what is most typical in Singapore and comes before kiasuism is the total lack of communication and communication skills. This goes all the way to the top ministers (and/or civil servants who write for them): their speeches and the deliveries are apalling. Let us look again at the MRT situation, when is the last time you heard some one asking for a seat? are Singaporean so scared of loosing face? or are they just scared of communicating with someone else? I will give my seat to granny, I might give my seat to the huge pregnant women, but if only others could start talking (and of course stay courteous). I live in a condominium: what do Singaporeans do when they have a small issue with a neighbour? they complain to the guard/management/police. what would it cost them to go a talk to the neighbour? (I know, I know: Singaporeans who are living in a condo have achieved a certain status and they don't need to talk to other people when they already pay for services) Yet our best topic as foreign talents: holding the door open (not even letting others go first, no, just holding for an extra half a second) seems to be impossible for 99% of Singaporeans; and then you have the 30% who possess the extra skill of never ever touching a door: they just slide through behind someone, lest they get germs or something. Thanks to doors, it does not take long for foreign talents to label Singaporeans rude and after a few months they have killing thoughts (I myself do have them every morning when I go to work and a door slams in my face after being pushed at the MRT exit) All that is required is for Singaporeans to realize that there are other people around them (that would have the side benefit of reducing the number of road accidents)CharlesPS: "Bangkok MRT is not an extensive network like in Spore."Bangkok is not a great network, but Singapore is not "extensive"; Singapore for all its money has had e bad planing of economical area development vs. transport. Just like the economical concentration, MRT station design is terrible: all the stations are built on the same model repeated all over Singapore: "central control". It leads to the few numbers of exits, fewer escalators (what's the point when there is only one exit?) and thus the jam when two trains arive almost at the same time (what's the probability of that?).PPS: just realised that all this is about not only communication, but also respect of other human beings. One need to look as well as how Singapore treat its maids (and foreign workers) ("of course, wah, pay already must make full use lah!. already come to Singapore so lucky one!").But just like the Church with the Ameridians, it might take sometime for Singapore to decide that maids are human afterall.
The validity of such comments aside, I wonder if inducing shame is really the way to go. Singaporeans get enough shame and scoldings from their government as it is; surely there are nicer ways to encourage people to behave more nicely than pontification and slurs. If a Singaporean is a person spending too much time defining what is a Singaporean, its probably because existing ways of defining Singaporeans tend to make them feel inferior to everyone else on the planet. This is not to deny that there are no problems, but more to suggest that getting on a moral/civil high horse is probably not quite the most opportune tone to adopt.On a whimsical note, I wonder how Muslim Singaporeans feel about Martin comparing them to pigs.
I am a Singaporean living abroad. We have made two trips to Singapore as a family over the last ten years. Both times we have had bad experience with the rude service from staff as well as rude behavior on the part of Singaporeans. Added to this is the overpowering attitude of the Singapore government politicians and the bureaucracy.We have decided to give up ourSingapore citizenship.
Hi,The design of the MRT station platform is party to blame for the free-for-all boarding of trains. Unlike bus interchanges, there is insufficient space for the waiting crowd to form orderly queues. The space constrain is especially acute in the underground MRT platforms. Sometimes, there just is not enough space to get out of the way of the commuters exiting the train.I think we all would welcome some fair and equitable system of queuing for the mrt train not dissimilar to queueing at a bus interchange.....if space permits. I think Singaporeans can be civilised.Any thoughts?Darren
I was back in Spore recently for a wedding. At a shopping centre, I was the one closest to the lift buttons. I held the Door Open button for numerous groups including some TCS couple and their child. Did anyone say "thanks" - yes , the very last couple did - and they were Caucasians. None of the locals did. Another day , I was at Ikea , again holding the Door Open button. This couple came in and another came behind them. The couple behind said "thanks". When I held the button again for the rest , again not a word of thanks. I got so frustrated I said "People here don't know how to say thanks, hor?" in a loud voice. It was really annoying to see this inability for people to thank others for little gestures !
GERMS N SPREAD OF DISEASE-What purpose does it serve to the people living in Singapore, re- the food mess?It only HURTS them.The spread of disease with all the filth around, rotting away on the tables, even if there is HIRED HELP, why don't the consumers help clear their mess up after they finish eating?the danger of filth, contamination and the spread of germs, espercially so in a hot humid climate like in Singapore? It is a tiny island.
Except for the aggressive types at Sim Lim, I always have a pleasant experience with the sales staff. The chap who sold me my car rang me to asked if I needed help to book my service appointment. The sales lady at Takashimaya took pains to unwrap the bubble pak from each of my Bodnum glasses to show me they were defect free. The guy at Harvey Norman told me, without my asking, the DVD player I bought on impulse was region free, and that I could go online to register the warranty. And the checkout lady at NTUC Fairprice always reminds me to redeem my parking token. IMHO Martin Goh was just being nasty.
the mrt thing is my pet peeve. but then again, count the number of seconds between the doors opening and when the alarm starts to beep. chances are, even before the commuters finish alighting, the alarm starts. can't blame those people on the platform for rushing in.and sometimes when i try to clear my tray at fast food outlets, i get an old lady or teenage boy running after me, trying to take over. and then i worry if i'm going to cause them a scolding for bad service. the point is, the fast food outlets consider it part of their employees' jobs to clear the trays, and therefore i think the safest thing to do is to keep the trays neat. but i still clear my own trays anyway. i don't like seeing someone the age of my grandma cleaning up after me. i hate it when people think it's ok to leave their spilt ketchup on the table because 'it's their job to clean up what. they're paid mah, why you clean for them'. i am embarrassed to admit that singapore's relative cleanliness is a result of our team of cleaners who magick away the trash under the cover of darkness, rather than the social grace of our general population.and oh, i think there already are ALOT of rubbish bins in singapore. many more than most other places i have been.
The more progressive, richer, and industrialized one country becomes, the more its citizens lose their values.Im a Filipino working here in Seoul, Korea for 8 years now and I can relate to your story.People in industrialized Asian countries are rude and inconsiderate exclamation points period
Post a Comment