Counting on courtesy

How have Singaporeans fared in terms of being courteous across the years?

Grace Neo
Grace Neo

Published: 22 July 2016, 3:58 PM

Social courtesy has been a constant challenge for us Singaporeans. A recent spate of events has also proved a general lack of such behaviour in the community.

What’s going on?

Recently, a Facebook user known as Mr Tan, posted a photo of over 20 trolleys left behind at a parking space meant for the disabled. Mr Tan wrote that these trolleys were reportedly left at the parking space in Silversea condominium for more than six months, triggering an uproar among netizens.

Amidst the sea of criticisms, the trolleys were later returned to Parkway Parade, a five-minute walk away from the condominium.

This is not the first time the media has highlighted such inconsiderate behaviour among Singaporeans.


Have Singaporeans taken the trolley service provided by supermarkets for granted?


Other recurring problems include getting Singaporeans to return their trays in hawker centres, and giving up their seats on public transport.

However, there are a handful of youths who are willing to be courteous in public, even in ambiguous situations.

Ngee Ann Polytechnic student Charmaine Khong, 18, said: “If I’m not sure if the lady is pregnant, I’ll try to make eye contact with her. If she avoids my gaze, [it probably] means she has no intention of wanting the seat. In retrospect, I’ll ask her if she needs the seat if our eyes meet.”

Similarly, student Yang Xin Hui, 21, does not mind returning her own tray at designated tray-return stations.

The industrial design undergraduate from National University of Singapore (NUS) said: “I do it 90 per cent of the time because I want to make life easier for the cleaners.”

However, some Singaporean youths still find it challenging to display graciousness in public.


A common sight in food courts: trays being left behind.


For Stephanie Soh, she hardly gets the chance to return her crockery after finishing her meals at the hawker centres.

The 21-year-old sociology student from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) shared: “At crowded coffee shops, cleaners usually clean up even before I leave the table.”

For some youths, their reluctance is based on practical reasons.

NUS graduate Jocelyn Ong, 22, explained: “It is quite awkward to stand up in a train carriage, and it’ll be even more [awkward] should the person reject my offer.”

For Nanyang Polytechnic student Mariel Descalsota, her daily commute influences her willingness to give up her seat. “I live about an hour and a half from school, so sometimes, I may think twice about giving up the seat. But I do so anyway,” said Mariel, 18.

Lee Seng Leong, 21, shared he prefers to let the cleaners help him as he is unsure where he should return his tray, since he eats only from vegetarian stalls. “I don’t know where to put the utensils. What I can do is to stack them, if possible, and I’ll leave the rest to the cleaners,” he said.


A tray return station like this do not have signs for different types of stalls.


On the flip side, the handful of youths who are comfortable with displaying social courtesy shared that they feel obliged to do so.

NTU undergraduate Rachel Kwan, 20, said: “I’d give up my seat mostly because people expect it.”

What’s your take?

  1. Did you encounter any instances where you had trouble being courteous in public? Why?
  2. Why do you think it is difficult for Singaporeans to practise social courtesy?
  3. What else can be done to encourage Singaporeans to be more considerate?

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