One value that is important to me is to have good manners. As a mother, I rather my children have good characters by being respectful, thoughtful and kind to everyone around, than to have good grades in school. I was brought up that way, understanding that good manners beget good manners, and this would make life more pleasant for all around.
Good manners begin at home, and it starts with respecting everyone. At home we try to greet each other every morning when we wake up and every evening before going to bed, or when we visit parents or siblings. As a parent, I respect my sons’ privacy by not opening their letters, eavesdropping on their conversations, or go through their personal belongings. They in turn do not use others’ belongings without permission. We do not have a domestic helper but a lady who comes in weekly to help with housework, and being courteous to her is important, too.
When I was growing up, my parents expected us to keep our own rooms neat and tidy. If it was a mess, then we lived in that mess. We used to have a chore schedule and were given extra pocket money if we volunteered to do more than was expected. Now, with my own family, we have a rule that we must not expect others to pick up after us. And to always remember to express gratitude to those who have helped to do family chores like setting the dining table, clearing the table after meals, washing dishes, keeping plates, and carrying out and throwing the rubbish.
I am generally a punctual person and I appreciate others who respect my time by being on time too. I grew up with the Courtesy Campaign here in Singapore, which taught us about being considerate and polite, giving way to others, not staring at people, offering help to needy people, covering your mouth when you cough, sneeze, burp or yawn, not spitting anywhere and the list went on. It was expected of us and we were reminded about our behaviour at home, at school and in public places. So it is kind of sad that nowadays that we do not see such polite behaviour or hear enough of “Please”, “Excuse me” or “Thank you”.
What about behaviour in public places? There has been a lot of reminders about how to behave at food centres like not reserving your table or seat with a packet of tissue paper. But there are more, like using only the needed number of seats, clearing your used plates and drinks if possible, not placing your bags on the seats and depriving someone else of seats, keeping your table clean by not spitting or discarding food on the table, throwing used tissue paper on the table or leaving it inside the used dishes or throwing it on the floor
At the cinema or a public performance, do arrive punctually so that you do not disturb or block the view of others, keep your hand phone on silent mode. If you need to answer a call, leave discreetly. During any performance, refrain from talking, eating snacks or flipping through the pages of the programme noisily. While seated, avoid putting your feet against the chair in front of you. If you are late, take a seat or stand at the back until a break comes.
As a driver, I have noticed that our behavior on the road is becoming quite bad, especially when we need to give way to others and generally drivers are becoming more impatient and thoughtless. Be considerate to pedestrians and do slow down near crossings. My worst experience is when I try to give way to cars at the yellow box or buses from the bus lane. The driver behind me sound his vehicle horn or flash the headlights at me! I have also had friends tease me about using the directional indicator when I want to change lane, as they tell me the other drivers will speed up. I have seen many make vulgar signs at other users or turn to stare at slow moving drivers. One of my pet peeves is when others are inconsiderate at parking lots by taking up two lots. Giving way to ambulances, police cars or fire engines is surely a civic responsibility.
I have recently moved into a HDB apartment and I like that most neighbours are friendly and helpful. They greet and smile at each other in the lift, even if we stay on different floors. It is nice to get to know your neighbors, but do not be a busybody. As a considerate neighbor, do try to keep your noise level down when listening to music, watching television or even using the karaoke system. Once in a while I hear a power-drill or hammer till late into the night, or someone pressing on the car horn for a long time. But we must learn to be tolerant and do not constantly complain but try to settle the annoyance / nuisance in a straight forward manner. Do keep the common areas clean and not clutter up the corridors with furniture or other items.
Because I have 2 sons, I have tried to teach them to behave like gentlemen to both ladies and the elderly. For example, they try to open the door or hold it open for others to enter or exit, whether it is into a building, room or lift.
Though we complain and hear a lot about the poor behaviour of people here in Singapore, I have noticed that such boorish people are a minority in our midst. Though they may seem like small gestures, good manners are always appreciated and must start with someone, somewhere, some time.