An unexpected word.
Yesterday I did as I have done, many thousands of times in my life: I held a door open for someone. It was at a petrol station, where I had been buying a newspaper.
Now, I have done this many, many times, in Singapore. This time, however, I was in Malaysia. I was surprised to note that there was a distinct difference in the two experiences. Can you guess what it was? Please have a think about it, before reading on.
Well, have you come to a conclusion? What difference could there be in simply opening a door in Malaysia or Singapore? Well, I was surprised. You see, the Malaysian man - who was Malay, in appearance, and in his fifties, I would say, said: "Thanks".
That is all. He said, "Thanks." Oddly, I found myself startled to hear that word. Now, why, you may ask, would I be startled? Well, because in Singapore I never heard the word at all. I had become accustomed to holding doors open for people - be they men, women or children - who would never, ever say "thanks" for doing so. They would walk through in silence, as if I were some kind of lower life form or personal servant (the same thing, in Singapore). So, here, in Malaysia, when I heard that word, I found myself rather surprised. How sad it is, that I should be surprised to be thanked.
I must say, that I am not always thanked when I hold the door open in Malaysia - however, it does seem more common, here, to hear the expression of thanks, than it was in Singapore. The polished city state to my south, may believe itself to be a higher civilization than Malaysia, but, in terms of the manners of its citizens, it is most certainly not.
Perhaps, in Singapore, manners are not regarded as important. In that CITY state, CIVIL behaviour is not thought of as important. Yet, it makes a difference. I felt suitably appreciated for having had the forethought to hold the door open for that middle aged man, yesterday. In Singapore, however, I would usually be made to feel like an idiot for caring enough to do so. One word makes all the difference between appreciation and a snub - and, personally, I would rather be appreciated. So, Singapore could learn something from that middle aged Malay man: a single word, "thanks" and when to use it.
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