"Uniquely Singapore" is an advertising slogan in current usage in Singapore to encapsulate all that distinguishes Singapore from all other small bits of land, worldwide (distinguished in ways apart from being small, I suppose).
In some ways, Singapore is unique. It is unique in the extent of its conformity, in some respects, for instance. So, in that manner, Singapore is unique to the extent that it is not unique. However, Singapore has its merits: it is easy and convenient to live here. Most consumer goods and services are readily available, though perhaps, now, not at ideal prices. Public infrastructure is well done: the libraries are particularly good, for instance. Then there is the crime rate which, in our experience is not as low as proclaimed (we have been stolen from three times in six years), but is safer than most other places, in terms of violent crime, at least, which is something worth having.
Yet there are other matters which are "uniquely Singapore" (yes, I know it should read "uniquely Singaporean" - but I was not the ungrammatical advertising
writer who wrote it), which are not so happy.
Today, I encountered one "Uniquely Singapore" incident. I was approaching the lift below my place of work as a Singaporean woman approached the same lift from the opposite direction. She was a thickset woman of indeterminate race, perhaps a mix of Chinese and something else, maybe Malay. It was difficult to say, but she didn't clearly fit any racial category, without doubt. She was mature in years and body, but, as we shall see, not in attitude.
We both vectored in on the opening lift door, she closer than me. She couldn't fail to have seen me, since we faced each other. She got in the door first, turned around - and pushed the button to close the door in my face. The door duly obeyed and I was left staring at a steel door. The oddest thing about the moment is that she appeared to be smiling
, as the door closed on me and she looked out on me standing there.
"Uniquely Singapore", I thought, as I waited for the next lift. Only in Singapore do people regularly snub their fellow human beings in such ways. It would have cost her perhaps one or two seconds of her life, to let me into the lift, too...but that was too high a price to pay for courtesy.
Now, I must say that not all Singaporeans are like this. Others are of the opposite kind: they OPEN doors that have closed, on seeing that they have closed the door on someone. I met one such in the same lift only a few days before. I thanked her for opening the door for me - and she smiled a different kind of smile to the one that had smiled today.
Yet, the sad truth is, that door closers are more common, in Singapore, than door openers. Those who are not considerate of others, outnumber those who are. It makes, sometimes, for unpleasant moments, when one's fellow human beings are rude, simply because they either enjoy being rude or think that it is their God given right to be so.
This lack of courtesy is, of course, something that foreigners note. It grates upon the sensibilities of those who have come from more courteous cultures (of which there are many...for instance the entire developed world, for a start). I don't think that the powers-that-be realize the price that Singapore pays, in terms of its reputation and the impression it makes on others, for this common lack of courtesy that infects its citizens. I say "infect" deliberately, for poor, inconsiderate behaviour of this kind is rather like a disease of the spirit. It is also infectious because if people treat each other ill, they tend to begin to treat others as they have been treated - and, before long, lack of courtesy and consideration are the common habit of all.
If I have closed the door upon someone I did not see, I press the button to open it. Sometimes, this irritates my fellow lift passengers, but I do it, because while I might lose a couple of seconds, I am probably saving the other person a minute. It is, therefore, on average a time saver
. If all did this, WE WOULD ALL SAVE TIME.
Let's make courtesy and consideration for others a "Uniquely Singapore" characteristic. We can all contribute to it. For a start, we can hold the lift door open for others. If all did that, we would all be better off. Consider my thought, the next time you get in a lift.
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Labels: courtesy, lack of concern for others, on being considerate in public, Uniquely Singapore