Singaporeans prefer privacy to mingling with neighbours: Poll

People here have been mixing less with their neighbours, with more indicating a need to maintain their privacy and putting less emphasis on greater neighbourliness.
People here have been mixing less with their neighbours, with more indicating a need to maintain their privacy and putting less emphasis on greater neighbourliness. PHOTO: ST FILE

Lack of interest in interaction may be due to lack of time, says kindness movement's head

The kampung spirit in Singapore seems to need revitalising.

People here have been mixing less with their neighbours, with more indicating a need to maintain their privacy and putting less emphasis on greater neighbourliness.

These findings, released yesterday, are from the latest Graciousness Survey by the Singapore Kindness Movement (SKM), which tracks kindness and graciousness among residents.

In the face-to-face poll of 3,066 Singaporeans, permanent residents and non-residents, only 23 per cent said they exchanged greetings with their neighbours more than three times a week, down from 29 per cent in last year's survey. In terms of striking up a casual conversation, only 11 per cent did so more than three times a week, falling from 17 per cent last year.

And when asked if they wanted to have greater neighbourliness, 26 per cent said yes - lower than the 29 per cent in the previous year.

More than half said they think the "current situation is good enough now", 15 per cent said they preferred to maintain their privacy - up from 11 per cent last year - while the rest said it was unnecessary to socialise with neighbours.

SKM general secretary William Wan said people's lack of interest in interacting more with neighbours could be due to their lack of time.

"Surveys have shown that Singaporeans have longer working hours than others in the world.... by the time they go home, they have dinner, watch the news for a while, then it's time to go to bed. They're tired after a long day at work."

Dr Wan felt various government efforts to build neighbourly ties had succeeded, but "people are quite content with superficial relationships and have not considered the advantages of stronger bonds with neighbours".

He said it was vital to have more neighbourliness so people could turn to one another for help and could also be more aware of suspicious activities.

National University of Singapore sociologist Paulin Straughan said the year-on-year change in figures was "marginal", and pointed out that not exchanging greetings often is not necessarily an indicator of bad neighbourly ties, but could simply be due to neighbours not seeing one another often.

Retiree David Kwok, 67, was concerned about the growing proportion of people preferring to maintain their privacy. The Tanjong Pagar resident said: "If a lift breaks down, such people may prefer to just wait for others to give feedback about the lift. Worse, if there are emergencies such as fires, such people may just think of themselves."

He added: "We should have good relations with neighbours. You never know when you need help."

Besides looking at neighbourliness, the study also provided insights on issues such as the integration of foreigners in Singapore, and the role of parents in inculcating values in their children.

 

The annual survey used to have a Graciousness Index, with Singapore scoring 61 out of 100 in 2015, the last time when such figures were released. But SKM said the score had not changed significantly in recent years, so it decided to do away with the index.

COMMUNITY TIES MATTER

We should have good relations with neighbours. You never know when you need help.

RETIREE DAVID KWOK, on the growing proportion of people preferring to maintain their privacy.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 28, 2017, with the headline 'S'poreans prefer privacy to mingling with neighbours: Poll'. Print Edition | Subscribe