Tag Archives: etiquette

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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Those of you who know me, know that I’m a very happy person…90% of the time. I have every reason to be happy; my life for some strange reason has been blessed, particularly so because I’m able to go through it with my twin soul—the other half of me, much like how Jerry and George teamed up to be one complete person in my favourite Seinfeld episode, The Summer of George 🙂

However, I have three pet peeves: (1) pedestrian etiquette, (2) taxi drivers who think I’m a tourist and don’t know the quickest route from A to B, and (3) bad manners, in particular, coughing without placing a hand or tissue over your mouth. I’ve already blogged about the first two, so I figure it’s time to deal with (3).

As a child, we were taught to cover our mouths when coughing or sneezing so that germs, viruses, whatever you had, weren’t spread to those around you. And this seems like a pretty easy thing to do in order to show others that you’re thinking of them and their wellbeing first and foremost.  When someone with a cold, flu or other virus doesn’t cover their mouth when coughing or sneezing, they’re saying, ‘I’m sick and I couldn’t care less if you end up sick as well.’

The average human cough fills about 3/4 of a two litre bottle with air together with approximately 3,000 droplets of saliva which fly out of the mouth at speeds up to 80 kilometres per hour (50 miles per hour)! And it’s even worse with a sneeze. Do you like the idea of being doused in someone else’s saliva? If that person is sick with a virus, the virus is on those droplets and can survive in the air for hours afterwards. A single cough can catapult as many as two hundred million individual virus particles in your direction; there is nowhere to hide.

Viruses need a living being (human or animal) to survive so when they land on a surface, their life span is limited to a few minutes or at best, in humid conditions for example, a few hours. They last longer on hard surfaces than on soft surfaces like fabric. And since we wash our hands several times every day, the chance of infection this way is less than if we breathe in the virus—we can’t avoid breathing but we can avoid putting hands in our mouth.

The World Health Organization has predicted that the next pandemic that will kill millions, will be spread in this way, and it is not a case of ‘if’ this will happen but ‘when’. So practicing the hand-over-mouth drill now will reduce the risk of this killer virus spreading worldwide in record time. We’ve already had a glimpse/warning with SARS and H1N1, H7N9 and other birth flus but people still seem complacent…except for the Japanese. In Japan, if you have a cough or cold, virus or flu, you wear a mask. It’s another easy solution but I guess if you just don’t care about other people, it won’t matter how easy the solution might be, and that seems to be the way of the world today.

Regards
Leigh

Contact Leigh at:

Website: http://www.leighkcunningham.com

Email: leigh @ leighkcunningham.com

Twitter: @leighcunningham

Facebook: Leigh K Cunningham

Achoo!