Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Excuse me? How to train a nation to be courteous.

Of all places in the world, the only country that could conceive a National Courtesy Campaign could be Singapore.

The idea might seem crazy to folk in UK where manners are - or at least used to be - taught to us at an early age.

Please, thank you, could you, excuse me, are words and phrases cultivated into our daily language use in our formative years.

We wait until someone has finished speaking before we speak (unless you come from my family where we all talk over each other!), hold the door open for people and say thank you when they do so for you, and if you bump into someone you apologise.

But here things are different. When I first got to Singapore, like the stupid Ang Mo* I was - and probably still am - I was holding doors open for people and swore under my breath at them when there was no acknowledgement. I was miffed when people barged into me with no apology. You get the picture.

So I guess these are the reasons why the National Courtesy Campaign was launched back in 1979 by the then Prime Minister to create “a pleasant social environment with Singaporeans considerate to each other and thoughtful of each other's needs”. And within 10 years. Wow now that’s commitment!

The campaign has now morphed into the Singapore Kindness Movement and the latest manifestation of this campaign tickles me every time I get on the MRT**. 

In London, on the Underground, the messages to "move up "or "let passengers get off first before boarding" is usually mumbled incoherently by some crazy person who sounds like they have come from Mars. In Singapore, they have recruited the Dim Sum Dollies to “Love your Ride”.

So not only do you get their smiley faces looking like this telling you what you need to do..

They also  put together this ditty for the campaign….

For those not in Singapore, this is the little sing song you actually hear on the MRT…

Now I know most people in Singapore probably want to get the Dim Sum Dollies and push them off a cliff in a trolley, but I’ve got to give Singapore top marks for originality on this one. Maybe people would prefer an incoherent mumbling person from Mars. I’m sure one could be seconded from London.

Anyway, will the Dim Sum Dollies make us more courteous in Singapore? Now that’s another story!

*The term affectionately bestowed upon us expats here in Singapore
** Singapore’s version of the underground


Hot Mama said...

Ang Mo = literally means "red hair" in hokkien dialect. So its used to describe all you whities out there.

Ms Demeanour said...

Haha brilliant! Well I have a ginger gene so my grandparents would be proud! So anyway what does Ang Mo Kio mean then? Land of the red tomatoes? ;)

Anonymous said...

Frankly speaking, the people in UK is not that courteous nowadays. Gone are the days of true gentlemen and missy good manners. At least, Singapore is doing something about it.


Ms Demeanour said...

Hi Zebby, I completely agree! Perhaps the UK need to enlist their own version of the dim sum dollies to remind people to be courteous?