Monday, December 18, 2006

The rude(?) Singaporean

Last Saturday, the MRT was crowded - not quite peak hour crowded, but the next best thing. The average person there was carrying shopping bags galore - it was the coming-home-from-Xmas-shopping crowd - the kind that clears out of Orchard so that the heading-out-for-dinner crowd can move in.

Two senior citizens got on. Senior with an S - white hair, pajama top and polyester print - not one of those can-withdraw-CPF sort of senior citizen, the kind that doesn't quite identify themselves as senior citizen until financially or morally convenient.

The seats filled as usual.


Two people - under 30 - got up and gave their seats to them. Both of them were carrying bags as well, and looked slightly knackered from a day of shopping. One man, one woman, not together.

I remember the man's face - vaguely uncomfortable at reaching out to another person in the potential breach of a social contract that sacralised personal space in the crowded MRT in lieu of not actually having any, slightly awkward because god forbid he should actually draw attention to himself, wanting to go unnoticed while at the same time needing to get the senior's attention.

The elderly man sat down, and smiled in thanks.

The younger man gave a slight grunt and nod of acknowledgement, and quickly turned away. I fancied there was a tinge of pink to him now.

It's not the first time I've seen it happen - enough for me to question the maxim that Singaporeans are innately rude and uncaring, or that young people have no breeding. Granted, I've never taken the MRT at the real peak hours, where I'm sure all the real shit takes place. Still, it makes me wonder if the whole "rude Singaporean" meme is an overreaction to the official line that Singapore is a gracious society.

I don't think we're particularly gracious, nor are we particularly rude. I think we're not very good at standing out from the crowd, whether it's to do the right thing or the wrong, thing, and we're more likely to bitch that something went wrong than when something went right. I think we're human, with all that entails, and all the variations between.

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home