Forum: Lack of civic-mindedness apparent in Singapore

Litter on the floor of the void deck at Block 205 Toa Payoh North.
Litter on the floor of the void deck at Block 205 Toa Payoh North.PHOTO: ST FILE

I share the sentiments expressed by Professor Tommy Koh in his commentary (Five tests of a truly First World people, Dec 21).

Littering and a lack of graciousness are just two reasons why I am suffering from a reverse culture shock after 12 years of living in Taiwan.

Cigarette butts, used tissue, paper cups, plastic bottles and plastic bags are strewn all over the streets and grass patches of Singapore, even when bins are in sight.

I had to lodge several reports with the National Environment Agency about dozens of cigarette butts littered around a bench at a covered walkway before the situation improved.

The Taipei MRT has a very effective poster on board the trains encouraging passengers to speak softly, keep their conversations short and send text messages instead. This results in peaceful and comfortable rides.

In Singapore, I cannot leave home without my earplugs, because of people talking loudly on their phones or students roaring with laughter, oblivious that they are in a shared, public space. I have had to pluck up my courage to ask bus passengers to lower their volume more than once.

The sight of priority seats being occupied by young, able-bodied passengers is rare in Taiwan, whereas it is rather common here, with passengers using their phones or napping to avoid eye contact with passengers who truly need the seats.

Furthermore, Taiwan has an exemplary recycling culture which we can learn from.

I was dismayed that recently at my estate, the four recycling bins for paper, plastic, glass and metal were replaced by a single large recycling bin. Although this makes it much more convenient for people to recycle, it increases the possibility of contamination such as from food stains on paper, rendering it unrecyclable.

It is ingrained in the Taiwanese to keep the environment clean and show consideration for others. One wonders what accounts for the difference in civic-mindedness between Taiwan and Singapore.

Liu I-Chun

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 27, 2019, with the headline 'Lack of civic-mindedness apparent in Singapore'. Print Edition | Subscribe