Singaporeans can learn to be less reticent

Practically every day, I encounter other Singaporeans sharing the same lift in my HDB housing estate.

Often, I would attempt to strike up a casual conversation with these strangers. I have also done this in lifts in other places, such as shopping malls, offices and the airport.

Very often, locals would remain silent and ignore me, smile, or give a very curt reply.

It would not be unfair to say that the typical Singaporean is, by and large, indifferent and rather cold and deficient in terms of empathy for others.

Research states that this lukewarm response or lack of response stems from our very conservative Asian culture.

But this is not very true, as the same cannot be said of those who hail from other countries such as China, the Philippines, India, Vietnam or Myanmar. These people, though of Asian stock, are surprisingly more willing to engage in hearty conversation.

Singaporeans, it seems, are reticent by nature, and are not comfortable or accustomed to making small talk with strangers.

Furthermore, with the daily grind and stresses in our lives, our minds are perpetually preoccupied with making a living. This takes a serious toll on us.

Perhaps we should all take a leaf from the Western book and emulate Caucasians' overtness in terms of human interaction and relationships.

Nevertheless, we must be selective in which areas to emulate.

For instance, it is imperative to differentiate between loquaciousness and creating value-added conversation. The former is counter-productive, whereas the latter enables us to learn more from one another.

In a nutshell, it is imperative to carry out a thorough examination of our Asian cultures and values, some of which are too conservative, undesirable, obsolete and out of step with the 21st century.

Catherine Tai Siew Leng (Ms)