Why You Gotta Be So Rude?

Image taken from google search

After my awesome holiday in Taipei, I came back to Singapore and immediately got a culture shock within 30 minutes of stepping foot on Singaporean soil.

Firstly, after the taxi pulled into the lot and opened the trunk, I was trying to help the cabby load some of our luggage into his trunk. I lifted up my luggage, which was the largest, and was about to put it in when he shouted "No! No! Cannot fit! Put the smaller one inside first!"

Well, obviously he was underestimating the size of his taxi's trunk, as clearly my luggage would have no problems sliding into the back of the trunk.  Being the nice person that I am, I took it in my stride and brought my luggage back down, and picked up the smaller luggage. I slotted it in the horizontally, so that the would be enough space for the 2nd luggage and the big "Ma Dai" bag [yes, we went crazy over the shopping there] to fit in nicely into the trunk.

Imagine this Ma Dai bag filled with biscuits...

Then he yelled again "No! No! The other way! Not like this!" and blatantly stepped in front of me to adjust the luggage so that it would be "side by side" instead of "front and back" of the trunk. Well, thanks to his brilliant organisational skills, after putting in the 2nd luggage, there was no more space left to fit the "Ma Dai" into the trunk without crushing all the biscuits that were in it.

I ended up having to bring the "Ma Dai" into the back seats with the 'excuse' that we didn't want our biscuits to get crushed. But it didn't end there.

After getting into the taxi, I told him I was going to Tampines, and he commented loudly "HAIZ, EXPECTED." Well, if you expected to get a customer who was going somewhere near, then why did you "queue up for hours" in the first place? There are so many people in Orchard lining up to get a cab home. I really don't understand why taxis would rather queue for hours without a customer than roam around in hopes of picking up one.

Image taken from google search

Anyway, this whole episode got me thinking on why us Singaporeans [including myself] grow up to be so rude and self-centered. We really "donno where to hide our faces" when being put in comparison with the Taiwanese in this aspect.

The Race for Space

From what I see, it's the same reason why people living in the Eastern side of Singapore [east-siders] tend to be more picky, pushy, rude, Kiasu, and Kiasi as compared to the people living in the Western side of Singapore [west-siders]. Humans are self-centered by nature, with the in-built nature to ensure our own survival over the survival of others.

And because of this, we start turning competitive when we realise that there are not enough resources to go around. And when there's limited resources, the more people there are the less you are likely to get.

The Eastern side of Singapore is much more populated than the Western side of Singapore. We have residential towns and HDBs all over place, and any patch of available green grass would very quickly be turned into a high-rise residential or a commercial space for rent. Check out this population map of our tiny red dot.

Image taken from google search

And because of this, courtesy and politeness tend to take a back seat over self-preservation. Snaking queues for freebies are always forming before the freebie booth even opens, the practice of letting others go first is almost non-existent, and getting a seat on the MRT is like striking a mini lottery.

That being said, I can sort of understand why we have visitors from a not-so-neighbouring country who behave in atrocious ways which even us Singaporeans cannot accept. [I understand it, but that doesn't mean I condone it]

Image taken from google search

Welcome to Taiwan, the Land of Courtesy

Not sure whether it's their education system or the way the country is run, but someone definitely did something right in Taiwan. Every single person that you meet seemed to be programmed with permanent smiles on their faces and courtesy that would put Singa to shame.

It's amazing how courteous and polite the Taiwanese are. Every single service staff greets you with a "你好,欢迎来看看一下喔!。。。。", which continues into a flurry of other phrases introducing their product or service. And all of them sound so sincere!

Maybe their language has some part to play in making it sound so nice and friendly, but the key factor for me is their sincerity in really wanting to serve you, and not just wanting to earn your money. Apart from that, there are also quite a number of things that I feel that us Singaporeans can really learn from the Taiwanese.

Image taken from google search

The more you give, the more you get.
One thing that never ceases to amaze me about the Taiwanese is their willingness to give without expecting anything in return. We went to a local night market at Tonghua Street, and many stalls were run by local Taiwanese.

And many of these stall owners [especially the food sellers] are more than willing to let you try their goods, even if you are just walking by and had no previous intention of buying. I know it's part of their marketing to give out freebies, but the way they do it is just so sincere.

Image taken from google search

Probably it is the way they phrase their words. In Singapore, when there's free samples, you rarely see the stall owner 'advertising' their free samples. It is usually just small portions on a plate at the counter, which they would only offer to people who approach them and ask to try their samples.

However, in Taiwan, the stall owners would be saying things like "Come try out our xxxx product! No obligations! Only buy if you really like it!" And they really mean it! They offer a sample to each and every human walking past, without any expectation of them wanting to buy.

But what surprises me more, is that only those humans who are really interested in the product will step forward to try a sample, and more often than not, they will end up buying the product. Unlike in Singapore, where you will see Hello Kitty queues of aunties and uncles whenever the words "Free" and "Samples" are written on the same piece of paper.

I think we Singaporeans have to first learn to "unlearn" our Kiasuism, and learn to leave some for others, rather than snatching everything for ourselves. Only then, can we start to be as giving as the Taiwanese. Any business that tries doing that at this point in time would probably close shop within 2 weeks because all their stock have been snatched off by kiasu customers.

Image taken from google search

Share your stories with everyone
Each and every single Taiwanese that we met during our trip had conversations with us like we had been good friends for years. Random uncle on the train shared with us about his travels around Taiwan and nice places to visit, night market stall owners shared with us their experiences dealing with people from various countries, as well as why they choose to stay in Taiwan over Hong Kong. All these from people that we just got to know within the last 5 minutes!

The Taiwanese really love to share their stories with people around them. This is probably also one of the reasons that every single one of them have no problems holding a conversation. Whereas in sunny Singapore, people only tend to talk about the current topic at hand, whether it is the product they are selling, or the person they are gossiping about. You don't hear or see people talking about their personal life experience very often, unless you're attending some motivational talk. Or in a very talkative taxi driver's cab.

As a result, Singaporeans almost always lose out to other nationalities when it comes to holding a conversation or presenting in front of an audience. And the simple reason is that we lack the practice of conversing.

This one is probably one of the most uphill challenges that we can put forward to all Singaporeans, which is to speak more to everyone. But if we are able to put aside our pride, ego and fear of saying something stupid, more Singaporeans might just be able to become good speakers in the near future.

Image taken from google search

Ask, Don't Demand
One thing I noticed about the people in Taiwan is that, from a very young age, they are always taught to ask. Whether it is making an order at a food joint, or getting off from a crowded train, they tend to use questions instead of demands.

For example, when ordering food, you never hear the words "give me this and that" but instead, they will use the phrase "Can I have this and that" or "Do you still have this and that".

And when they are getting off from a crowded train and there is someone in their way, typically in Singapore you will hear the obvious "SCUSE ME!". However, the Taiwanese will ask "Sorry, are you getting down? If not I need to get down here. Thank you."

Again, it is very much in the phrasing of the words. Although both "SCUSE ME!" and "Sorry, are you getting down? If not I need to get down here. Thank you." Basically mean the same thing, the person who the phrase is directed at will have 2 totally different responses.

This is probably due to the fact that from young, they are all thought to...

Image taken from google search

Put Others Before Themselves
It seems that Taiwanese are trained to think of others before themselves. When you are walking on the pavement, you almost never get a chance to bump into others walking in the opposite direction. This is because they seem to plan their walking route so that it is almost impossible to bump into you, even though it means that they have to make a small detour around that parked motorcycle beside the lamppost.

Another perfect example of this is when we arrived at Shifen during one of our days in Taiwan. We reached Shifen about 4.30pm in the afternoon, and our initial plan was to release a Sky Lantern before heading inwards to see the Shifen Waterfall.

Little did we know that the Shifen Waterfall closes at 5.30pm daily. Luckily for us, when we approached the owner of one of the Sky Lantern stalls there called "阿妈的天灯" and told him about our plans, he immediately told us that we should go visit the water first as it was closing soon. He even went out of his way to walk further down the lane to get us a cab to bring us in. And he didn't even expect a deposit or something to ensure that we would come back to his stall after visiting the waterfall!

Of course we did go back to his stall after our visit to the waterfall, and had a wonderful time writing our wishes on the Sky Lantern and releasing it into the sky. The staff even helped us to take some nice photos!

But the point here is, if this scenario would have happened in Singapore, the stall owner would have probably just taken our business, and left us to our fates with not being able to reach the waterfall in time.

All in all, we definitely enjoyed our trip to Taiwan, as well as the unique goodies we managed to find there. But the most memorable thing about Taiwan was not the places we visited, nor the food we ate, nor the shopping, but instead, it was really the sincere courtesy and politeness that came from the hearts of the people. We will definitely be back again!!

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