Forum: Lessons on graciousness from overseas

In 2017, I went to Taiwan on holiday and noticed that there was hardly any litter on the streets of Taipei. I had to hold on to my litter for a long while before finding a garbage bin.

At food centres, people ate from trays on their table and cleared the trays to a central collection area, leaving the tables clean. There was no "choping" of tables and people were willing to share vacant spaces.

I have also been to Bangkok on business trips and taken the Airport Rail Link and mass transit system to avoid the traffic jams. I notice that commuters wait for others to exit the train before entering, even when it is the peak period and the trains are packed.

Priority seats are indicated discreetly without the need to plaster huge signs all over notifying the public that the seats are for those who need them more.

People give up their seats even when they are not on priority seats.

Those who have been given seats acknowledge and thank the person who gave up the seat. This is often not the case in Singapore, and those who have been given seats often slip into them without a word of appreciation or eye contact with the people who gave up the seats.

Bangkok's Airport Rail seating is like a long bench without bucket-shaped individual seats. Those who are seated will move sideways to create space for others to sit.

People do not place personal belongings on the bench.

When the carriage is full, passengers at the door will step off the train to allow those alighting to pass.

While Singapore tries to inculcate First World habits, Professor Tommy Koh is correct in saying that there are areas Singaporeans can learn from the people of developed and less-developed countries on being kind, gracious and civic-minded (Five tests of a truly First World people, Dec 21, 2019).

Oei Chooi Leng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 02, 2020, with the headline 'Lessons on graciousness from overseas'. Subscribe