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Personal space and common courtesy (lack of)

Posted: Wed, 28 May 2014 2:23 pm
by Fortan
I've now been in Singapore for more than 4 years combined and I am still trying to understand the culture here. I've been enlightened on many issues during my time here and some has actually made sense to me and others didn't but I figured that perhaps one day I would understand it....

There are a couple of things that still puzzles and bothers me:

The first is the Singaporean's lack of common courtesy. Things like holding a door for someone else who is carrying large bags or driving a stroller. Offering a seat to a disabled person on the MRT. Giving way in traffic. Queuing from the back of the queue. Saying excuse me when you have to pass someone or saying sorry if you bump into another person. Why oh why is it so hard to give up the kiazu mentality and actually show a little common courtesy. An example from today was this morning where I got the elevator to my office (6th floor). Big elevator and only 3 people in there. A fourth person just manages to get in and pushes the button of the top floor (12th) and stands right in front of the door, people having to ask him to move so they can get out. Clearly he must know that he is the last to get out so why not go to the back of the elevator from the start of the ride?

Second is a personal space thing. Not quite sure how to describe it otherwise than that. I can walk and try to pass someone and I can literally be 2 cm behind the person and they don't register I am there. If Singapore wasn't such a safe country perhaps it would be different, because it would be heaven for pickpockets.

Another example from today. I walk toward 4 guys on the sidewalk of Anson Rd. They walk side by side taking up the entire sidewalk. I have eye contact with the for a long time but none of them makes an effort to take a step back and give me a space to go through their 'line'. I end up bouncing straight through between two of them pushing them away to get through..... and don't get me started on people playing PSP and looking at their mobile devices as they walk on sidewalks, with absolutely NO idea what is coming towards them.... Bounced into a couple of those this week as well....

Everything else here is fine but those two things and the combination of them really, really, really annoys me.....

Posted: Wed, 28 May 2014 2:43 pm
by Beeroclock
Yes me too, annoying and don't get it. Actually I worry that i'm unconsciously picking up bad manners over the years here.

Posted: Wed, 28 May 2014 3:18 pm
by PNGMK
It's a genetic fault I think from inbreeding. The fault is a lack of foresight (all the incidents you mention above required foresight). I see the same issue in other aspects.

Posted: Wed, 28 May 2014 3:29 pm
by bgd
PNGMK wrote:It's a genetic fault I think from inbreeding. The fault is a lack of foresight (all the incidents you mention above required foresight). I see the same issue in other aspects.
A genetic fault, that's an interesting idea. I can't say that the PRCs here seem to be more polite than the locals. What about other Asian countries? Similiar behaviour? I haven't spent enough time anywhere else to have an opinion.

My forays into Malaysia make me think that Malaysia is quite a polite country. But I don't find Singapore, on the whole, too disagreeable. Which I guess means I've adapted as I've observed all the behaviour mentioned.

Posted: Wed, 28 May 2014 3:42 pm
by PNGMK
bgd wrote:
PNGMK wrote:It's a genetic fault I think from inbreeding. The fault is a lack of foresight (all the incidents you mention above required foresight). I see the same issue in other aspects.
A genetic fault, that's an interesting idea. I can't say that the PRCs here seem to be more polite than the locals. What about other Asian countries? Similiar behaviour? I haven't spent enough time anywhere else to have an opinion.

My forays into Malaysia make me think that Malaysia is quite a polite country. But I don't find Singapore, on the whole, too disagreeable. Which I guess means I've adapted as I've observed all the behaviour mentioned.
Maybe not genetic, perhaps inherited through societal interactions.

Posted: Wed, 28 May 2014 4:16 pm
by Hannieroo
It's not just here. The impolite me first attitude seems to be anywhere where people have struggled to survive in recent memory. Baku always amazed me, surely if nothing else being part of the USSR should have taught y'all to queue.

Posted: Wed, 28 May 2014 4:52 pm
by martincymru
To all you NUS Students: write a thesis on this subject.
//

education
democracy
insecurity
short/long term view
mature/nurture
new/old society
history

Posted: Wed, 28 May 2014 5:08 pm
by Fortan
I lived in Bangkok for two years and I only ever met almost ridiculous friendly and courteous people and attitude. The foresight mentioned above was there in abundance. And I might add that I lived in the Sukhumvit area where the population per sqm is higher than here but was always amazed at how people managed to posses exactly the opposite qualities as to what I described in the original post. Been to Tokyo many, many times too and it is the same with respect, courteous behavior.... so it is not something 'Asian'.... China does have some of it but I still feel it is worse here...

Posted: Wed, 28 May 2014 5:09 pm
by Fortan
Hannieroo wrote:It's not just here. The impolite me first attitude seems to be anywhere where people have struggled to survive in recent memory. Baku always amazed me, surely if nothing else being part of the USSR should have taught y'all to queue.
When in recent memory have Singaporeans struggled to survive?

Posted: Wed, 28 May 2014 5:24 pm
by x9200
I don't know whether this is lack of foresight but certainly it looks like one. A neutral example: while driving, if there is a need to change the lane it will be changed at the last moment, so right before the back of the car in front, or at the traffic lights. They may have a 200m stripe of an empty road but they still first will get to end of this stripe and only then will change the lane.
Single core cpu?

Posted: Wed, 28 May 2014 5:50 pm
by martincymru
Singapore is a new society, rich yes, but in many ways insecure. It influences short term thinking/forward planning. Grab it while you can attitude.

Going from number 50 in the world to number 3 in such a short space of time is bound to produce some unintended side effects. At least in the UK our decline has been gradual.

Posted: Wed, 28 May 2014 6:19 pm
by Hannieroo
Fortan wrote:
Hannieroo wrote:It's not just here. The impolite me first attitude seems to be anywhere where people have struggled to survive in recent memory. Baku always amazed me, surely if nothing else being part of the USSR should have taught y'all to queue.
When in recent memory have Singaporeans struggled to survive?
Most Singaporeans come from countries that are fairly harsh. Please tell me you aware that most inhabitants are fairly new, three or four generations or less.

Posted: Wed, 28 May 2014 7:53 pm
by sundaymorningstaple
Hannieroo wrote:
Fortan wrote:
Hannieroo wrote:It's not just here. The impolite me first attitude seems to be anywhere where people have struggled to survive in recent memory. Baku always amazed me, surely if nothing else being part of the USSR should have taught y'all to queue.
When in recent memory have Singaporeans struggled to survive?
Most Singaporeans come from countries that are fairly harsh. Please tell me you aware that most inhabitants are fairly new, three or four generations or less.

Having worked in all but one or two of the Asean countries over the past 31 uninterrupted years, I find most of the poorer countries and cities in those countries have the most tolerance and politeness when compared with Singapore. They don't have the infrastructure and don't have access to the "finer" things in life and they take life a wee bit easier, e.g., they don't seem to covet thy neighbour's assets, but rather accept their lot in life (what you have never had you don't miss?) The only place I did not find this other than Singapore was Papua New Guinea which is a collection of several hundred warlike tribes and the rule of law doesn't seem to exist at all. That had to be the most harrowing experience I had to date. Props to PNGMK for surviving it all as a kid. But aside from that, Singapore is a class of it's own. (And it's not good, 1st world infrastructure inhabited by 3rd world savages with the occasional bird of paradise).

Posted: Wed, 28 May 2014 8:04 pm
by singapore eagle
I remember starting a similar discussion in a thread a couple of months back, and my experience is still the opposite of you guys.

Two examples from the last two days:

- this evening I was in Joo Chiat. As I got out of the car, a bloke came from across the road to warn me that I would get a ticket for parking against the direction of traffic. He didn't need to do that.

- yesterday I picked up dinner from Pow Sing in Serangoon Garden. When I got home, I realised they had misheard my order. I went back a good 45 minutes after taking the food and they couldn't have been more apologetic, replacing the incorrect items and even refunding me the difference in the bill.

Have you lot been in places like London and Paris recently?

Posted: Wed, 28 May 2014 10:02 pm
by yogaloungeforever
Years back in the UK and during dinner one evening at some posh place north east my then boyfriend and I sat down to a feast of english pork and lamb chops. After a 45 minute wait the 2 plates came but we were aghast at the sight of the meat. The lamb especially was so burnt black it hardly looked like lamb chop. The pork chop too was burnt but not as bad as the lamb chops. Seeing this my ex hollered out to the waitress and requested for the lamb (and pork) chops to be taken back and replaced with a new plate of lamb and pork chop. After 30 minutes of waiting the waitress came back with the plates of lamb and pork chops and we were shocked that they not only not bring us a new and freshly made plate of lamb and pork chops they'd only just scrapped off the burnt parts of the meat - you could tell from the sprinkles of charcoal all over the meat and plate. My ex, upon seeing this picked up our coats and jacket and headed straight out the exit without further fuss.


singapore eagle wrote:.... they couldn't have been more apologetic, replacing the incorrect items and even refunding me the difference in the bill.

Have you lot been in places like London and Paris recently?