From a chicken rice boss mocking a taxi driver to a couple who refused to share their table at a hawker centre with an elderly man, Singapore would seem like quite the ungracious society if all you had read about were these high-profile cases of bad behaviour this year.
If these incidents had gotten you all riled up and unhappy about the state of kindness here, The Pride is here to help you see the woods for the trees.
Rather than let a few viral incidents colour your viewpoint, a study by the Singapore Kindness Movement which surveyed a total of 3,066 respondents on their perceptions and experiences offers a more balanced perspective.
Here are four things this year’s Graciousness Survey told us about the state of kindness and graciousness in Singapore.
We can afford to be more considerate
While the overall perception of graciousness (measured in 25 different types of gracious behaviours) remained unchanged, the biggest declines year-on-year were related to considerate behaviour.
Notably, we are perceived to have a sense of entitlement, and a tendency to be unwilling to clean up after meals in public space or keep public toilets clean.
The good news? Whether it’s moving in and making space on public transport, or allowing others to board first, commuter etiquette is seen to have improved from last year.
Perhaps Give-way Glenda and Bag-down Benny have made their mark?
Could it be time to introduce Tray-back Tracy or Keep-clean Kathy?
We’ve lost that kampong feeling
How many times have you heard someone say in Singapore, ‘I wish we could bring back the kampung spirit’?
Yet, despite the old adage that no man is an island, we aren’t that concerned with our lack of neighbourliness. Of those surveyed, only 26 per cent (compared to 29 per cent in 2016) desired greater neighbourliness.
Why are we so lukewarm about being chummy with our neighbours? Survey respondents say it’s due to a desire to maintain privacy. While the increase in the Singaporeans and PRs who felt this way was 4 per cent, the number of foreigner respondents eschewing neighbourliness rose to 21 per cent this year from just 12 per cent in 2016.
A look at the Graciousness Survey’s integration findings may offer further explanation…
Relax, we aren’t xenophobic. But…
Whose job is it to encourage integration in Singapore? Locals and foreigners alike attributed the most responsibility to the government.
When it comes to personal responsibility, however, foreigners took greater personal ownership relative to the locals.
Only 26 per cent of Singaporeans and 37 per cent of PRs felt they had a personal part to play in fostering greater integration, as opposed to 56 per cent for foreigners.
The disparity could also be seen in our interaction preferences. While both Singaporeans and foreigners reported slightly more engagement with each other in professional settings, foreigners recorded a big drop from 50 to 39 per cent, when asked if they socialised with locals outside of the office.
Even with this drop, that’s still twice the proportion of Singaporeans who were asked about their social interactions with foreigners. Only 18 per cent said they met up with foreigners socially.
Parents play the primary role in inculcating moral values
An overwhelming 93 per cent of respondents agreed that parents should play the primary role in inculcating the right moral and civic values in their children. In fact, 59 per cent strongly agreed with the statement.
Although this agreement was almost universal, respondents were less aligned when asked if parents were at fault when their children are ungracious. While 38 per cent of those surveyed would blame the parents, 41 per cent felt it was not their fault.
Perhaps the latter group were being considerate of some of the challenges faced by parents today. Among participants who were parents, 26 per cent felt they were unable to spend enough time with their children, while 17 per cent felt external parties, like their children’s schoolmates, could also influence their values.
Encouragingly, an overwhelming majority of respondents who have children believe they can do more, challenges notwithstanding.
In fact, significantly more are walking the talk compared to last year, with the frequency of the five parenting behaviours measured – ranging from consciously setting a good example to correcting wrong behaviour to reminding children to be polite – all showing improvement of between 8 and 16 per cent.
Although the survey illuminated some areas for improvement, Dr William Wan, Secretary General of the Singapore Kindness Movement, felt that the results were heartening.
He observed that the “lack of time appears to affect the graciousness of Singaporeans significantly” and suggested that “a study could be needed to explore this more deeply”.
Dr Wan added: “I hope that we will continue to amplify this in the decisions that we make in everyday scenarios – be it interacting with our friends at school, our colleagues at work or welcoming new residents into our neighbourhoods… After all, kindness – it’s up to us.”
For more on the full Graciousness Survey findings, click here.