Monthly Archives: December 2013

Pedestrian etiquette

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I love living in Singapore, as everyone knows, and have practically nothing to complain about, except for one major gripe—pedestrian etiquette. Since I do not have a car (I don’t need one plus they are horrendously expensive here), this affects me every day. There is no pedestrian etiquette in Singapore, as there is in Australia, and in case you are not familiar with the protocol, I’ll explain.

Sidewalks, or footpaths as we call them in Australia, are generally wide enough for two people to pass comfortably. If you are walking two or three abreast, pedestrian etiquette requires one or two members of your party to assume a single file during a passing maneuver ie while you are overtaking or when a pedestrian is on approach from the opposite direction. This is common courtesy, and in Australia, this is observed along with the customary cheery greeting to the passer-by. In Australia, Queensland in particular, if you approach someone on the street while out walking, a hello is expected, stranger or not.

In Singapore, the natural citizens ie the non-expatriates, walk two, three or four abreast and never make way for someone coming in the opposite direction. They will drive you into the terrain either side of the sidewalk or if you do decide to maintain your rightful position, striding on your fair share of the concrete, someone will walk into you rather than surrender. Similarly, they will stand in the middle of the footpath, or aisle at the supermarket, and chat away on their phones, completely oblivious or uncaring that others are trying to pass.

Understanding this behavior is a conundrum. Generally, Singaporeans are non-aggressive, polite individuals, who know and understand the importance of rules and procedures, for example, proper queue etiquette. There are queues to join a queue and there are queue officials who ensure proper order and conduct is observed at all times. Queue jumpers do not survive. I would therefore expect Singaporeans to similarly appreciate the importance of sidewalk etiquette.

It might be explained by kiasu, which is a fear to lose out to others, and always wanting the upper hand. Kiasu, and it’s partner, kiasi (fear of death) are widely used terms in the local vocabulary. As an example, “Look at him so kiasu pushing people away to get a seat on the bus first.”

If the government painted the sidewalk with a dotted line up the middle, there is a very good chance that behaviors would change since Singaporeans are conditioned to obey such ordinances, like those related to spitting, chewing gum, jaywalking etc. Is this the only solution? Must I write to the government to report this blemish on an otherwise almost-perfect society?

What is the status of pedestrian etiquette in your hometown? How should one deal with poor pedestrian etiquette, in a lawful way?

Regards
Leigh

Contact Leigh at:

Website: http://www.leighkcunningham.com

Email: leigh @ leighkcunningham.com

Twitter: @leighcunningham

Facebook: Leigh K Cunningham

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Miami without the vice

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I’m just back from a quick trip halfway around the world to Miami, Florida to attend and present at the Readers’ Favorite Book Awards ceremony and accompanying events. Thank you to James Ventrillo and Debra Gaynor for their kind invitation! Debra also presented me with the gold medal won for Being Anti-Social at the 2012 awards program (Chick Lit category).

Although it was a long trip, it was well worth it and I came away having met some wonderful people and new friends including Dete Meserve, gold medalist for The Good Sam (coming soon) and President, Wind Dancer Films, and Eriq La Salle of ER fame (Dr Peter Benton) however his creative genius also extends to writing—check out Laws of Depravity, gold medalist, and Laws of Wrath coming soon. And to balance all the authors on the panel, we had Mark Wayne Adams renowned for his picture book illustrations. I’ve posted photos on my Facebook page.

For a lot of people, Miami means Don Johnson in his white suits fighting crime in Miami Vice, which is obviously not very practical. For whatever reason, I didn’t watch the show during its heyday, 1984-1989 and I’m not sure why—possibly too busy with sport and fitness at that time. Another show we don’t watch is CSI Miami—those opening ‘poignant’ remarks from Horatio, with sunglasses poised in anticipation, weren’t.

For me, an absolute must in visiting Miami was the art deco district near South Beach. This is the largest concentration of art deco buildings in the world. Birdcage, a fantastic movie with Robin Williams, Gene Hackman and Nathan Lane was filmed at The Carlyle Hotel on Ocean Drive. This is one of my favourite scenes with Robin Williams.

On my first day in Miami, I set out for the Miami Book Fair International with no appreciation of how far it was from our hotel—we walk everywhere in Singapore so I was ready for the trek for the sights along the way. In the end, a bus came along headed in the right direction (and no taxis in sight) so I jumped on. It didn’t matter where I ended up; I had a map which is pretty useless if you have no sense of direction. In the end, the bus stopped right in front of the book fair. My only regret, once again, was that we only did one level of Spanish back in 1997. Being able to count to 10, hola, buenos días, buenas noches, gracias and adiós only get you so far.

Thanks to my trip to Miami, I’ve also now had Key Lime Pie at its point of origin (although I did not make it all the way to Key West) and this of course is an important aspect of my travels.

Regards
Leigh

Contact Leigh at:

Website: http://www.leighkcunningham.com

Email: leigh @ leighkcunningham.com

Twitter: @leighcunningham

Facebook: Leigh K Cunningham

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