Let’s face it, we are not the most gracious country in the world. From pushing the elderly off of buses to teenagers occupying breast-feeding rooms, we have much to improve on. In Japan, good manners have become instinctive and comes naturally to people of all ages. Of course, this isn’t an article to highlight how unruly Singaporeans are, or how much we have to follow the Japanese, but more of what can we learn and improve from our mannered counterpart. After all, no one is above improving themselves. Here are some easy things we can do to slowly make Singapore a more pleasant place to be in.
Put retail items back where you found them.
This is an easy one. If you care about others, others will care about you. If you took an item from a shelf across the shop and changed your mind, go back to put it where you found it. It’s not hard to do. If you absolutely can’t move your lazy ass across a store, at least pass it to a sales staff.
Try not to talk on the phone in the train.
In Japan, if you talk on the phone in the train, the train crew will politely ask you to stop your conversation. In fact, my Japanese friends alight the train, just to take a call. I’m not asking you to do that, but just to talk as quietly as you can if you absolutely have to take a call. Otherwise, WhatsApp and iMessage are there for a reason.
Keep used chopsticks back into the wrapper.
Don’t like touching used chopsticks? Well, I’m sure the auntie that keeps your used cutlery doesn’t like to either. Fold the wrapper to indicate use and put it back in. Pointed side first of course. Also, the Japanese also do not stick their chopstick upright into their bowl of rice since it how its presented to the dead.
Wait in line.
It amazes me how Singaporeans feel there’s absolutely nothing wrong in cutting a line to use the MRT turnstile. Same goes for the escalator. If you are really in a hurry, walk a few steps down to an empty one. In fact in Japan, most turnstiles go both ways because people just give way.
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Return your trays whenever possible.
Guys, I’m sure the two years in National Service have taught this to you already. It’s little things that matter to an employee of any fast food chain. It’s not hard to do. If there’s a tray return area, it’s there for a reason.
Keep left on the escalator.
I don’t mean keep left when there’s alot of people. Or move left when you see someone coming, because by then, it would have already been too late. In Tokyo, people queue to stay on the left side of an escalator, without a sign reminding them to. That’s the amount of consideration that you can give to your fellow Singaporeans. If you end up stuck on the right side, just walk!
Use a pocket ashtray.
If you wanna smoke, by all means, but don’t leave your habit all around Singapore. Cigarette butt, ashes, make sure they don’t end up on the pavement by means of a pocket ashtray. It’s good for the environment too!
Whether you are a sales assistant or customer, thank people. It doesn’t cost anything, and it shows simple appreciation for each other. Say thank you when someone does something for you, however small it is.
Care about what you are wearing.
We don’t need people to tell us that Singaporeans in general, can be pretty sloppy at times. I’m not asking you to dress in designer outfits all the time, but don’t dress like a slob everywhere you go. Don’t wear t-shirts with holes and slippers to town, it’s an eyesore. Don’t care about what others think? Well, you should. If you just pay a little attention to what you are wearing, it’s gonna help yourself more than anything.
Use the other end of chopsticks to pick from shared plates.
I’m sure you’re comfortable with spreading your saliva around, but probably not your eating partner. Use the other end when picking food from shared plates, or passing food to someone else. In Japan, when a person dies and is cremated, their bones are passed from chopstick to chopstick as a part of the Buddhist funeral ritual. So don’t do that if you are superstitious.
Since the backsides of the chopsticks are where your hands rest, it’s actually not a very clean area and shouldn’t be used to pick up food. Asking the waitstaff for an extra pair of chopsticks or politely saying, jika bashi de shitsurei shimasu (excuse me for using my own chopsticks), and taking food using your chopsticks is actually the proper thing to do.
Well, there you go. These are just some super simple things we can work on. If you are already doing most of them, bravo to you. To be honest, I sometimes miss some of them out, but I’m trying to remind myself constantly so that it becomes a habit.