Monday, December 15, 2008

Are These Really Singapore's Cultures?

I am a judgmental person. Not a really good trait to possess but it is really in my genes. And like other Virgos too, I analyze - deeply analyze.

After some time living in this small island yet metropolitan, I think all the judgments that I made towards this country from the beginning almost all are true, again thanks to my analysis.

First, Singaporeans are rude. I work as a conference producer. My work involves making A LOT of phone calls for phone researches and speakers' recruitment. Why do you think I tend to choose speaking to people from other countries as my research targets but Singaporeans themselves, where I am based? It is simply because many of Singaporeans are quite rude over the phone. No pun intended though. The way they respond to you, the tone that they pass you over the phone conversation (after you start everything nicely), the words that they choose to reject people's offers, etc - somehow I feel they are just too harsh. It is totally understood that people on the other line might have super busy schedule, but why should they respond in such demeaning way? There are better ways to communicate with people over the phone, especially in business world.

The next example that shows how rude Singaporeans is totally reflected in our daily must-do activity in food courts/hawker centers. Yes, eating. Eating at busy hours here can be torturous. Never had I experienced a situation where you actually need to "book" your table with whatever belongings you have (i.e. tissues, newspapers, umbrellas, business cards, etc) before you order your food other than in this country. This is actually the first "norm" that I picked up first time I had lunch with my colleagues in Singapore. It can take up to 30 minutes alone just to find a seat or empty table in local hawker centers during lunch hours, then of course you must not forget to place a tissue on the table!

Also, it is very normal here to have people waiting for you, just standing behind or staring next to you while you are eating. They are aiming at your seats and waiting for you to leave. Hence, if you want to have a really quick lunch in Singapore, just go to hawker centers. You will feel compelled to leave immediately right after you swallow your last bite!

Other example also occurs in hawker centers, most of the cleaners here are super keen to clear the tables even though we have not even finished eating the food. When they see your plate is almost empty, they'd just say "Lai... Lai..!" (meaning Come.. Come..!) and quickly take your plate away from the table and place it into their dish trolleys, sometimes without asking your permission first. For me, this action is not uncommon anymore but first-timers to Singapore might feel this deed is a bit shocking and indeed annoying. So, better hold your plate tight before you really finish your food or these rude cleaners will take the plate (and your food) away from you.

First judgment: Singaporeans are rude - Quite True!

Second, Singaporeans are inconsiderate. Since I was a young kid, I knew that I should give my seat to old person without being asked. I should help old person carrying their stuff. I should help old person walking when he or she is not that strong to walk anymore. I should help old person cross the street. All the things that I think are common sense apparently need to be reinforced in Singapore. Here, you need to deliberately ask some younger Singaporeans to give their seats to old people or pregnant women. The government here has to remind their citizens to become a little bit considerate, especially inside the train through placing pictures, posters, advertising campaigns, etc on "How to be considerate".

In fact, apparently there are quite a number of Singaporeans themselves who are upset with these "inconsiderate" behaviors from their own country fellows. A lot of complaints, concerns and comments have been posted online at websites like Stomp and sometimes also featured in daily newspapers such as My Paper. One article that stroke me best from the newspapers was titled: The best sleeping pill in Singapore is a pregnant woman as a lot of people inside the train pretend to be asleep when there are pregnant women around. I couldn't agree more.

Why some Singaporeans just do not know how to behave in public? I really think all the social manners in treating other people should not be taught again. These are merely common sense.

Second judgment: Singaporeans are inconsiderate - Kind of.

Last but not least, I think the combination of both behaviors mentioned above is the worst. I happen to actually experience this combo on daily basis since I recently moved to an HDB. My very next-door neighbors cannot control their volumes when they communicate to each other, be it at 8 p.m, 10 p.m., 12 a.m., 6 a.m., well basically anytime. They shout to each other in Mandarin. They just sound as if they always fight. Mom shouts to her son every time and likewise. I think they are just quiet when they fall asleep. I'm like, "Hello!?!"... There are other people around your unit and they need to think, rest and get up early tomorrow morning for work! Come on, people!

First judgment + second judgment = Horrifying!

** These analyses of mine do not necessarily apply to every Singaporean as I believe kind and friendly people in this country have not really gone extinct (though maybe they are in short supply). I just happened to experience these with some particular Singaporeans.

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