‘Us and them’ drags us down

July 14, 2014

A GRACIOUSNESS mirror was held up to Singaporeans, and they did not look too good.

One factor contributing to this low grade is the attitude towards foreigners residing here.

On the issue of “accepting foreign residents”, Singaporeans scored a mean of just 5.2 out of 10 in the latest Graciousness Index. Some 1,666 residents were polled, of which 62 per cent are Singapore citizens.

Sociologist Paulin Straughan noted that “when things get rough and tough in Singapore, it is easy to blame the outsider”.

This sentiment is shared by Christine Leong, who has noticed just how resentful fellow Singaporeans can be towards foreigners here.

“Just because the streets and public transport are getting more congested, people get annoyed and want to find someone to blame for this, and the first group that comes to mind are the foreigners,” said the curriculum coordinator.

With the large influx of foreigners into Singapore over the years, William Wan, general secretary of the Singapore Kindness Movement (SKM), said that Singaporeans have started to form stereotypes of foreigners based on just one ungracious person.

“That is terrible. More time needs to be spent to help the process of integration and educate both the foreigners and Singaporeans on how to act,” said Dr Wan.

Associate Professor Straughan also attributed the rising antagonism towards foreigners here to the Internet, a space where netizens hide behind their online monikers and make the “rudest and vilest of comments”.

“Instead of directing one’s anger at the foreigners, focus on the policies instead to see if we can ease our reliance on foreign workers here. We are their hosts and must remain gracious to them,” she added.

Dr Wan said: “If you think about it, we are all immigrants here.”

The study also showed that Singaporeans failed in cleaning up after themselves at hawker centres, foodcourts and fast-food outlets.

However, this could be because people are unsure of what the norm is in various food establishments, said Prof Straughan.

“In some establishments, such as schools, there is a tray-return preference, while in others, there is an assisted-cleaning system. It should be stated clearly what protocol to follow,” she added.

There are some bright spots to the results as well.

More respondents have reported doing, receiving or witnessing acts of kindness and graciousness, consequently driving the score up to 55, a two-point rise from last year’s record low of 53.

Respecting other races and religions also rated high.

The study, in its sixth year, tracks perceptions and experiences of graciousness in Singapore and is commissioned by the SKM.

“An improvement in the Index is heartening news, but it also points to how much more work needs to be done,” said Dr Wan.

“At the end of the day, showing kindness and graciousness starts with one self. Don’t wait for others to make the first step, as your actions will encourage others to do so as well.”

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First published in MyPaper – July 10, 2014

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