Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Good Luck In Misery City

Does Singapore deserve its 'miserable' tag?
Singapore's reputation as a wealthy, aspirational and hi-tech country ensures it attracts a great deal of foreign talent - so why is it labelled the world's least positive country?

One morning the nausea finally got the better of me just as I had stepped on to a packed train. Worried I was going to faint, I crouched to the floor, holding my head in my hands.

And so I remained, completely ignored, for the full 15 minutes it took to reach my station. Nobody offered me seat or asked me if I was OK.

For the first time Singapore had made me feel unhappy. I had been vulnerable - completely reliant on the kindness of strangers. Singaporeans, I felt, had let me down.

Why Singapore is so much more than ‘misery city’
Just how compassionate are Singaporeans? (Yahoo photo)

When Charlotte Ashton and her husband moved to Singapore, a friend posted a link on her Facebook wall to a survey revealing Singaporeans to be one of the least positive people in the world. “Good luck in misery city!” he said.

Ashton’s experience in Singapore has now gone on to be a viral op-ed on the BBC’s website entitled "Does Singapore deserve its 'miserable' tag?". Singaporeans are passing it from one social media profile to another, arguing over how awful it really is to live in Singapore. Some have leapt on the piece as an opportunity to once again rehash complaints about the city, while others insist that Ashton has made it all up.

I don’t doubt Ashton’s account of crouching on the floor of an MRT train with no one to help her. Nor do I have any interest in participating in any discussion about whether her pregnancy was showing at the time (and even less interest in commenting on how “chio” she might be), thus justifying the lack of concern. It was bad that no one helped a woman who was visibly ill, or at least offered her a seat. Someone should have.

Singapore the ‘least positive’ country in the world: survey
A survey revealed that nearly 9 in 10 Singaporeans are working beyond their official hours. (Thinkstock photo)

A month after being ranked the most emotionless country in the world, Singapore now has another unwanted title to its name – the least positive country.

According to a Gallup poll released on Wednesday – the same poll that ranked countries with the most and least emotions – residents of Singapore are the least likely to feel positive alongside war torn countries such as Iraq and Armenia.

The well respected polling company measured positive emotions by asking 1,000 people in each of 148 countries five questions such as whether they experienced a lot of enjoyment the day before the survey and whether they felt respected, well-rested, laughed and smiled a lot, and did or learned something interesting.

Singapore Ranks as Least Emotional Country in the World

Singaporeans are the least likely in the world to report experiencing emotions of any kind on a daily basis. The 36% who report feeling either positive or negative emotions is the lowest in the world. Filipinos, on the other hand, are the most emotional, with six in 10 saying they experience a lot of these feelings daily.

Gallup measures daily emotions in more than 150 countries and areas by asking residents whether they experienced five positive and five negative emotions a lot the previous day. Negative experiences include anger, stress, sadness, physical pain, and worry. Positive emotions include feeling well-rested, being treated with respect, enjoyment, smiling and laughing a lot, and learning or doing something interesting.

To measure the presence or absence of emotions, Gallup averaged together the percentage of residents in each country who said they experienced each of the 10 positive and negative emotions.

PM Lee on BBC article about compassion: Good reminder to be more gracious, kind
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has become the latest politician to comment on a  recent BBC article in which a British writer wrote that Singapore suffers from a "massive compassion deficit". -- FILE PHOTO: AFP

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has become the latest politician to comment on a recent BBC article in which a British writer wrote that Singapore suffers from a "massive compassion deficit". PM Lee through a Facebook post on Sunday said that the article is "a good reminder" for Singaporeans to be more gracious and kind to others.

Freelance writer Charlotte Ashton, who moved to Singapore last year, had written about her experience on an MRT train when she was pregnant. She wrote how she had felt nauseous and was crouched on the floor for 15 minutes but no one offered her a seat. "For the first time, Singapore had made me feel unhappy. I had been vulnerable - completely reliant on the kindness of strangers. Singaporeans, I felt, had let me down," she wrote.

PM Lee wrote that we "need not accept everything" that Ms Ashton had written but added that her article was " still a good reminder to us to be kinder and more gracious to one another". He added that even as the country has made progress in levels of courtesy and kindness over the years, "we can still do much better". "It takes effort from each of us, but it is important and worthwhile," he wrote.

Kindness well and live in Singapore: PM Lee

Kindess is alive and well in Singapore, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in a Facebook post on Wednesday amid an ongoing debate on whether the country lacked compassion.

Along with his post, PM Lee attached a photo of six-year-old Rowan Chua, who is shown sharing a priority seat with an older lady on the train.

The boy, who had sent the picture to Mr Lee, included the words: "There are compassionate people in Singapore. See? This elderly woman even shared half her seat with me."

Does Singapore deserve its 'miserable' tag? It does, sometimes
There has been much discussion on whether Singapore deserves its “miserable” tag, following a BBC Viewpoint piece by freelance writer Charlotte Ashton. While in her 10th week of pregnancy, she felt nauseous while taking the train to work and ended up crouching for 15 minutes because no one offered her a seat. -- ST FILE PHOTO

Freelance writer Charlotte Ashton’s question about whether Singapore deserves its “miserable” tag has predictably generated quite a furore.

Predictable, because it happens almost every time an international publication portrays Singapore negatively. Predictable also, because the answer to her question is “it depends”.

Attempting to measure social behaviour is always a tricky business, and perception and experience can be a fickle unit of measurement. We experience the good, the bad and the ugly – not always at the same time, but certainly at different times and different contexts in our daily journey through life. And perception is always influenced and informed by our personal experiences.

Singapore A Misery City? Not A Gracious City?

The BBC article that dubbed Singapore a misery city…it might be a narrow/restricted view of a foreigner who happened to see the ugly side of Singaporeans but there is some truth in her observation. I take the train daily to and from work and many a times, I do see people giving up their seats to those in need but I also see many pretending not to notice the old hanging desperately to the pole or the woman carrying a child. Trains are getting very crowded these days especially during the peak hours and very often, I do not even have enough space to move…under such circumstances, I sometimes can understand why people do not willingly give up their seats.

Would these eye catching designs in the Downtown Line make people think twice about sitting in it, or make them more aware of giving it up to those who need them more?

I know that in some countries like Japan and Korea, many people choose not to occupy the reserved seats but frankly, when the trains are so crowded, it does not make sense to leave these seats unoccupied. The occupants only need to be more aware of those in need.

Misery BBC journalism from a Misery City

Another British is in limelight, again, for the right or wrong reason.

A BBC journalist, C. Ashton, who conveniently labelled Singaporeans as a compassion deficit breed [Here] based on her unpleasant train journeys where no one gave up their seats to an expecting mother like her, and where no one took the initiative to attend to her needs on the train.

I do not intend to defend our compassion deficit label over here but I take issue with her simplistic approach of generalizing all Singaporeans based on her concoctions of her train journeys and conversations with Singaporeans that were already framed under the compassion deficit label. I am not even sure if she intends to generalize about the people in Singapore or about Singaporeans.

Not often do I write to the BBC

While I understand that everyone is entitled to their opinion, it is extremely disappointing that BBC news chooses to publish the most ill-informed and ignorant ones. This ridiculously factitious article was pointed out to me by my Londoner friend with the comment 'I was thinking all of Asia displays the same behaviour'. So I would like to point out some missed nuances.

The Asian culture is largely a reserved one. So we don't greet or strike up a conversation with strangers, and tend to mind our own businesses. Now, anyone who thinks that I'm implying that it's ok to ignore a sick pregnant woman has missed my point entirely.

It's not common for us to express how happy and content we are, lest someone casts an evil eye, or gets jealous, or we inadvertently hurt someone's feelings. Or a whole bunch of other reasons which I won't get into now.

The road to a gracious society starts at home

While the label “misery city” might annoy many, there is some truth in Ms Charlotte Ashton’s observation, based on my and my friends’ encounters with ungracious behaviour from commuters on public transport.

While I agree that Singaporeans are “generally kind” and would offer help when asked, I also feel that in a truly gracious society, help is offered before any request is made. This is where a segment of Singaporeans are lacking.

An area of concern is the paucity of instances of children and teenagers displaying gracious behaviour. I have seen parents who do not encourage their school-age children to give up their seats to those who needed one more.

Do you live in Misery City?
“We got on with life on the immaculate island, where social housing estates look like spotless toy towns, crime is pretty much non-existent and you can get a delicious bowl of noodles for $3 (£1.50). If we were living in the misery capital of the world it certainly was not affecting our own sense of happiness.”

Charlotte Ashton’s Viewpoint article reminds me a bit of a scene in Bride and Prejudice – a film for which I will make no apologies. In it, Aishwarya Rai’s character and “Darcy”, an affluent Euro-American, are lounging by the pool of a luxury hotel somewhere in Goa, when they get into a tiff about how Darcy is enjoying India only because he hasn’t had to deal with any Indians. His India is “five-star luxury, with a bit of culture thrown in”.

Darcy – like poor beleaguered Anton Casey, or less-beleaguered Jayant Bhandari – might be considered an ass for both desiring and conspicuously managing to insulate himself from the stench of the less fortunate masses. Ashton’s opinion piece contains no such snobbery. She uses public parks, takes public transport, and eats at hawker centres – not bad for an angmoh already. Yet in a way her piece is part of the same conversation we’ve been having about the Darcys and Caseys of the world – a point which many of the impassioned responses to her story have overlooked.

Ashton spends the first half of her article arguing that her personal experience of a happy life in Singapore – enjoying its facilities, having various pleasant interactions with its people – belies various rumours and surveys that suggest that it’s an unhappy place.  In the second half, her happy life in and positive view of the city become tarnished, when no one helps her when she’s pregnant and clearly unwell on the MRT. So far the main response to this, both from ordinary Singaporeans and concerned government officials, has been been to defend most Singaporeans as “gracious” and “considerate”, and/or to encourage us all to try and be more courteous and caring regardless, perhaps with the encouragement of Singa the Courtesy Lion.

BBC commentary sparks compassion debate in Singapore
Vulcan Post - Singapore can do better in terms of being compassionate to one another, say two ministers in response to a BBC op-ed slamming the apathy that people have to those in need. (Vulcan Post photo)

It’s not easy to build a gracious society, but we can do it if we choose to, say two Singapore ministers in response to a comment piece that was widely shared on social media on Saturday night.

Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin posted a link to the article on his Facebook page, written by a foreign journalist for BBC News Magazine staying in Singapore, and admitted “many of us would be able to relate to some of her experiences”.

“We do hear stories of people being callous, indifferent, unfeeling. And I guess we need to look at ourselves and ask if we too sometimes reflect these ugly traits in the little things that we do or say, or don’t do and don’t say when we really should do the right thing,” he wrote. “Truth is, we often do know what is the right thing to do. And we can, if we choose to.”

Low on compassion, high on pragmatism

Let’s face it, Singapore will never top any chart measuring kindness, compassion or happiness. We all know that. So BBC correspondent Charlotte Ashton’s commentary on experiencing a lack of compassion on a packed MRT train in her first trimester came as no surprise. No one offered her a seat although she was visibly physically unwell.

The PAP leaders aren’t even trying to put a propaganda spin on this because they know they can’t. They sound a little shame-faced, as they should, being part of the machinery of pragmatism that ingrained such attitudes in the population.

Worse, the new immigrants they’re inviting in by the planeload are perpetuating the same kind of behavior — after generations of struggling to survive in their home countries. How do I know that? My personal experience has shown that Singapore men and women give up their seats on trains and buses 90–95 per cent of the time to pregnant women, old people or the physically disabled. Immigrants’ inability to absorb English means that most of the public transport propaganda is lost on them.

Is there a 'massive compassion deficit' in Singapore?
Freelance writer Charlotte Ashton said that she felt let down after her experience when she had felt nauseous on an MRT train but had to crouch for 15 minutes because no one offered her a seat. -- ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

The Oxford University graduate and former BBC reporter and her husband were happy here until one day, in her 10th week of pregnancy, she felt nauseous while taking the train to work and ended up crouching for 15 minutes because no one offered her a seat.

"For the first time, Singapore had made me feel unhappy. I had been vulnerable - completely reliant on the kindness of strangers. Singaporeans, I felt, had let me down," she wrote.

Recounting the incident in a BBC Viewpoint piece, she concluded that Singapore suffers from a “massive compassion deficit”.

"Massive compassion deficit" because ... ?

The former states that “One Singaporean friend told her it was because “we measure everything in dollar bills – personal identity, self-respect, happiness, your sense of worth”.

Reasons for “massive compassion deficit”? I spoke to some friends and they said “What do you expect? When a lot of people work very long hours, get paid very little that never increase for years, are struggling to make ends meet with the rising cost of living, so many foreigners taking their jobs and depressing their wages, all the way from the top – all wayang – nobody seems to care, so unhappy lah!”.

Massive Compassion Deficit

Thanks to the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), the world knows we are the most expensive city in the world. Now theBBCNewsmagazine is helping to broadcast that Singapore has a massive compassion deficit. As if to add credence to the BBC article, Lee Hsien Loong prefaced his comment on the observations with "We needn’t accept everything the writer says".

Freelance writer Charlotte Ashton, who moved to Singapore last year, wrote about her experience on an MRT train when she was pregnant:
"One morning the nausea finally got the better of me just as I had stepped onto a packed train. Worried I was going to faint, I crouched to the floor, holding my head in my hands.And so I remained, completely ignored, for the full 15 minutes it took to reach my station. Nobody offered me seat or asked me if I was okay."
Couple of years ago, while walking the busy underground linkway between Liat Towers and CK Tang, a young mother with a baby in arms was trying to persuade her older child to get on her own two feet so mom could carry the collapsible stroller up the stairway. 

Singapore is misery city with a massive compassion deficit

In the original BBC article, Charlotte Ashton was singing praises about our country’s cheap, delicious noodles and pineapple juice. She also described Starhub’s ‘Happiness everywhere’ campaign as ‘full of smiling Singaporeans dancing to PLINKY PLONKY music’, an ad with no ‘deficit’ of goosebumps or cheesiness whatsoever.

Then things changed abruptly for the worse following the train incident. Disappointed by how she felt let down by her Singaporean hosts, she quoted some guy called ‘Marcus’ who blamed our apathy on money and that we’re ‘programmed to think only of ourselves’.

This obsession with money is too simplistic a root cause of our ‘compassion deficit’, and the only way to prove Marcus’ theory right is for us to reward altruistic behaviour, like winning a week’s worth of free train rides if you’re the first one to surrender your seat, though no one would conduct such an experiment without being branded for cheapening basic human courtesy as we know it. Marcus is desperately trying to flee to Canada as we speak, and I can’t imagine how that would be accomplished smoothly if one didn’t at some point think deeply about the money involved, you know, like the rest of us miserly penny pinchers.

Neither overflowing with laughter nor “misery city”

It will be a fascinating city, competitive yet compassionate, busy and yet with time to enjoy friendships and recreation. It will be a nation overflowing with laughter, confidence, life,” said then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong in his 2003 National Day Rally.

11 years later, many Singaporeans will tell you that we are a far cry from the goal which Goh envisioned. They will cite various surveys, studies and reports in recent times which all told us that we are the unhappiest nation on the planet, with some of the most disgruntled workers living in one of the world’s most crowded cities.

Indeed, Singapore is overflowing – but not with laughter, as Goh had hoped. It is instead being inundated with people, consumed with materialism, with the average Singaporean struggling to keep himself afloat.

Perhaps Singaporeans really aren't that miserable?
Would you gladly help a stranger in distress?

Hello again everyone! I totally love it when one of my blog posts generates a huge discussion and such was the case with my response to the BBC article on Singaporeans being miserable. Allow me to synthesize some of the thoughts that have been raised as part of this discussion - as I have lived away from Singapore since 1997, I am glad my readers have filled me in and I would like to do a follow up please on the issue of this 'compassion deficit' in Singapore.

I think the key point that I got from a number of my readers is that Singaporeans are not miserable or unkind - but rather, that kindness tends to be reserved for people they know, even if that may be a friend or a friend or some equally tenuous connection. As for helping total strangers, Singaporeans tend to be a lot more hesitant about either approaching a stranger for help or accepting help from a stranger. Why is this the case?

Firstly, the older generation are quite used to defaulting to the government - people like my parents spent most of their lives trusting the PAP, they believed that the PAP would make all the best decisions on their behalf. This can be quite extreme - back in the 1990s, there was a scheme whereby civil servants could make a small monthly contribution to a charity of their choice through their pay system. This donation would be deducted directly from their pay packet and it was designed to be a simple way for civil servants who wish to donate to charity.


Today I woke up to read a story about Singapore on The BBC. Charlotte Ashton asks, ‘Does Singapore deserve its ‘miserable’ tag?‘. I wouldn’t recommend reading it as all it does it give Charlotte a soapbox to complain without ever attempting to get at the answer to her question. I disliked it so much that I felt compelled to write the following critique. I will explain why I dislike her article and then attempt to address Singapore’s misery in future posts.

Charlotte starts off by describing the lack of misery around her. She, a well off expat who associates with like minded and walleted individuals, doesn’t see any misery. She, of course, chose to come to Singapore and is oblivious to the difference between making that decision versus it being thrust upon her, as it is for native Singaporeans. She then describes such non miserable scenes as “the free public BBQ pits of Singapore’s beautifully-kept parks, for example – always full of jolly families and groups of friends enjoying an evening in the tropical heat over a cool-box of beer. And in the broad, toothless grin of the septuagenarian vendor at our local food court, who served me my daily dose of delicious, fresh pineapple juice.

She sees those scenes as examples of happiness, because she is looking at Singapore through the rose tinted glasses of a privileged Ang mo. Let’s break down what is actually going on.

No misery in this Misery City
Perhaps not the most picturesque view of the city, but this is my view from my home. Of my home.

Recently a few people were quoted in this BBC news article calling Singapore “Misery City”. While it is certainly true that Singaporeans could be more gracious, like giving up their seats on the MRT, giving way on the roads or even just signaling, for goodness sake; moving to the back of the bus, or even something as simple as holding the lift door for the poor lady behind you who’s carrying a baby and towing another 2 kids (your mother never teach you manners?!)

Ok I’m just listing out my pet peeves here but while there is room for much improvement, I’m sure there are an extensive list of places which are even more miserable than where we are. And in many cases, there is actually little that the common man can do. In our country, it is not entirely impossible to do what little we can to help make this world a better place. I know that sounds so idealistic, and although I suppose it is possible to lobby for policy changes with reasonable and logical intention, there are many small things that each of us can do.

Take for example, these Morning Greeters joggers who made it their mission to greet people while jogging; this NUS girl who made it her mission to serenade fellow students on the university shuttle bus; this lady who makes it a point to pick up litter wherever she goes; these graduating NTU students who chose to do their final year project on meaningful topics like promoting unstructured play amongst families, promoting dental health among children, promoting healthy digital media habits;

Misery City?

WHEN we think of Singapore, most of us especially from 3rd world countries think of its advantages such as wealthy, hi-tech, top ten nation of highest GDP per capital, world-class infrastructure, security, rule of the law, etc. Yesterday I found an article shared by Singapore PM on his Facebook wall to remind his colleagues and people to become more considerate and gracious when it come to public transport. He needs not agree on the content of the writer but he remarks as a good reminder.

The writer shared her experience on public train when she was morning sick due to visible pregnant. She was unhappy to learn that nobody on-board train offered her a seat. And later found out from her Singaporean colleagues that they don't wonder with the experience because they also have been similar degree of advert experience on public transport. They all agree that Singaporean have becoming money chasing society and no value at basis human right through their daily life.

My wife had the same bitter experience when she was pregnant. She was traveling on NE line to work when she felt sick and eventually collapse on to the floor of the train in the morning. Nobody offered any assistance to a little woman with pregnant. Fortunately, one FWs help her gets out of train in one station after few stations she was unconsciously riding. The kinder guy also gave me a call to fetch my wife and I rush to the place he told me. We later found out that there was a blood clout in the womb from ultra sound result at nearby hospital by OG. What can we do then? It is our faith and we blamed nobody and we consumed all shit coming to our life. We risk by choosing not to take operation for said suspicious blood clout. As a result, we live in fearsome of having flawed baby until our little girl successfully delivered at home town.

Have you read this article by Charlotte Ashton on BBC? Would you agree?

I am sorry the writer feels the way she did but I think many of us would be able to relate to some of her experiences. I remember my wife facing the same situation. When she was expecting, there was a period when she injured her arm and it was in a sling and yet, no one offered her a seat on the MRT. People pretended to sleep or not to notice.

We do hear of stories of people being callous, indifferent, unfeeling. And I guess we need to look at ourselves and ask if we too sometimes reflect these ugly traits in the little things that we do or say, or don't do and don't say when we really should do the right thing.

Truth is, we often do know what is the right thing to do. And we can, if we choose to.

read more

National Courtesy Campaign

The National Courtesy Campaign was launched on 1 June 1979 by the then prime minister Lee Kuan Yew. The aim of the campaign was “to create a pleasant social environment, with Singaporeans considerate to each other and thoughtful of each other's needs”.

Early yearsThe courtesy campaign began as an initiative by the Singapore Tourist Promotion Board (now Singapore Tourism Board) in 1978 to encourage Singaporeans to be more polite and friendly to tourists. However, Lee strongly felt that the campaign should encourage Singaporeans to be polite to everybody and not only to tourists. He thus spearheaded the nation-wide courtesy campaign with the intention of making Singapore a polite and considerate society as well as to raise the quality of life in Singapore by the 1980s.

The campaign’s first slogan was “Make Courtesy Our Way of Life” and was represented by a smiling head logo. The campaign was initially held in July – designated as Courtesy Month – each year until 1985 when it became a year-long publicity drive. In 1982, the campaign’s logo was replaced by a new mascot named Singa the Courtesy Lion.

Singapore Kindness Movement

The Singapore Kindness Movement (SKM) was launched in 1997 in response to the then prime minister Goh Chok Tong’s call for Singapore to become a gracious society by the 21st century. The objectives of the movement are: “to encourage Singaporeans to be kind and considerate; to create public awareness of acts of kindness; and to influence and raise standards of behaviour and responsibility”. The SKM is managed by the SKM Council and comprises members from educational institutions and private organisations.

Singapore Kindness Week - One of the major activities of the SKM is the Singapore Kindness Week, which is held every year to promote and raise public awareness of the importance of small acts of kindness. The first nation-wide Singapore Kindness Week was launched by Goh on 8 November 1998 at the Istana. The SKM Convention was at the World Trade Centre Auditorium the following day. Some 800 delegates comprising primary and secondary school principals and teachers attended the convention to hear speakers from Japan, USA and Canada share their experiences in running the Kindness Movement in their countries.

Graciousness Index - In 2009, the SKM management committee commissioned a survey titled “The State of Graciousness in Singapore” to look at gracious behaviour in five areas: public places, home, work, school and on the roads. Conducted annually, the survey also asks respondents to rate themselves and their fellow citizens in terms of their level of graciousness. The results of the survey are subsequently reflected in the Graciousness Index. In 2013, the index fell to a five-year low with respondents reporting that they performed and experienced fewer acts of kindness and graciousness.

Singapore kindness mascot Singa the Lion quits
Singa the Lion resigns from the Singapore Kindness Movement

Almost every Singaporean recalls growing up with Singa the Lion reminding you to let people exit the train first before boarding and to give up your seat to the disabled or elderly. But after 30 years of service, Singa says he needs “a long break” as he’s “just too tired to continue facing an increasingly angry and disagreeable society.”

In an open letter posted on the Singapore Kindness Movement’s (SKM’s) website, Singa explains his resignation, effective Wednesday, saying “kindness shouldn't be a campaign”.

He adds that “kindness should be a part of values education” and that “people in authority – at work, in school, at home and in government – should lead by example.” Thus, he believes it’s time for him to “step aside”.

Singapore Kindness Movement, does it work?

One afternoon, I decided to play basketball in the HDB area. After playing for an hour, I waited in the vending machine queue near the basketball court used by a young girl and her younger brother. It took quite long that I even thought to myself, “What took ‘em so long?”

After they were done, it was my turn to use the vending machine. I inserted one-dollar and fifty-cent coins, but there was no sign of acknowledgement from the machine. So I inserted another dollar coin, just to push them in; hoping I could take it back from the lever. But still, It didn’t return any acknowledgement

Suddenly, the boy came over and asked me, “Is there any fifty-cent?”

Singapore Kindness Movement launches month-long kindness campaign
Messages promoting public transport etiquette, such as giving way to alighting passengers, queuing up in an orderly fashion, and moving in to make space for others, will be carried on selected buses and MRT trains

The Singapore Kindness Movement (SKM), today starts its month-long media programme on the kindness message this year, "A Nation of Kindness Starts with One".

Through gentle reminders to incorporate graciousness in our daily routines, SKM's messages will be visible on public transport and elsewhere on the island, as well as in print and online, to encourage people to take ownership of kindness.

A kind and gracious society is built through the accumulation of single kind and gracious acts, giving rise to the theme "A Nation of Kindness Starts with One".

Singapore Campaigns of the 70s/80s

Started by the Ministry of Culture (later Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts, and now Ministry of Communications and Information) in June 1979, the objective of the campaign was to promote a pleasant living environment filled with kind, considerate and polite Singaporeans.

The courtesy campaign was actually kicked off much earlier in the seventies, when Singapore was focusing in developing its tourism sector. Launched by the Singapore Tourism Promotion Board (STPB) to encourage Singaporeans to be polite to the tourists, the successful campaign was “extended” to all aspects so that courtesy and thoughtfulness could be spontaneous characteristics in Singaporeans’ everyday life.

In 1982, the National Courtesy Campaign adopted Singa the Courtesy Lion as their official mascot to replace their Smilely logo. Singa went on to become one of Singapore’s most recognisable mascots in the eighties and nineties, and the designer even added a female companion and three little cubs for Singa in 1987.

Bring Back Courtesy Campaign, Says Visitor

I beg to differ on the effectiveness of the courtesy campaign then so even introduced now again, it is not likely to achieved its intended objective of basically having social graciousness in all of us, foreigners included.

As many bros has mentioned before, the population mix today is rather complex with 1 in 3 here are foreigners so some of the ungracious acts may be attributed to these folks as Singaporeans in general do not go around spitting or clipping toenails in the public. Concerning the observation on overcrowding, well enough have been said about this issue so I shall not touch on it.

Having said that, it is a shame that this issue has been brought up by a foreign visitor who used to have a great impression of Singapore.

Singapore, a Miserable City