Forum: Much we can learn from foreigners about being gracious

Singa the Lion figurines at Raffles City Singapore on July 31, 2019.
Singa the Lion figurines at Raffles City Singapore on July 31, 2019.PHOTO: ST FILE

There are aspects of graciousness that Singaporeans can learn from foreigners living here (Being gracious, regardless of whether one is Singaporean, Oct 21).

I recall how expatriate customers of the supermarket chain where I used to work would occasionally complain about tubs of ice cream being opened and fingers pressed against the ice cream to check that it wasn't melting.

Those Western customers were also aghast at how Singaporeans would press fruit to ensure they were not too ripe, resulting in the fruit bearing fingernail marks.

Our former Indonesian maids would duck their heads or bow slightly as they passed us while we were seated. To them, this show of respect is part of their culture, but alas, it is uncommon in our homes, at schools or at public events such as concerts or meetings.

Sharing a table with other diners at a hawker centre is inevitable, especially during peak hours, but there seems to be a lack of basic courtesy.

The phrase "anybody sitting here?" is invariably directed at me when a diner notices some unoccupied seats at my table.

There is nothing wrong with asking in this manner. However, it may be more polite if the question was prefaced with an "excuse me".

Singaporeans are a much-travelled lot these days, and besides shopping and sightseeing, they would do well to learn much more about acts of graciousness and respect from people of other countries.

Jeffrey Law Lee Beng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 23, 2019, with the headline 'Much we can learn from foreigners about being gracious'. Print Edition | Subscribe