Talk of the town: An Ang Moh (foreigner, literally redhead) has been negative about Singapore in the press. Again. Singaporeans would be uncompassionate and uncourteous. The attack is not coming from an arrogant British banker this time, but from a British lady. A pregnant lady.
In a column on the BBC website, freelance writer Charlotte Ashton writes about her experiences in Singapore. She loves it, initially. Until one day, a couple of months pregnant, she feels unwell in the MRT. Nauseous and weak. Does someone offer her a seat? No.
Charlotte describes how, for the fifteen minutes of her journey, she crouches on the floor, head in hands. It makes her very unhappy. Singapore, she writes, has let me down.
My thoughts immediately go back to myself, pregnant and sick, in the London underground. Did people offer me a seat in this country that is supposedly so polite? Often not. I too, have spent an uncomfortable journey on the wobbly floor of the tube, my piercing eyes trying to force someone of their seat.
Did I blame Great Britain? Did I feel the country had let me down? Or was I just mad at that car full of commuters too busy with their phones and e-readers to notice me?
A friend who commuted daily on the underground had a good trick, a button: Baby on Board. It did help, she said, most of the time. I was never pregnant in the Netherlands, nor in Singapore, but I think not giving up seats for fellow passengers, pregnant or not, is a universal problem. Like many expats, Charlotte Ashton sees her home country through homesick stained pink glasses.
Singaporeans fight back. Netizens throw generalist platitudes as bad as Charlottes. In online comments, they wish her back home, together with the rest of the complaining bunch. Prime minister Lee Tsien Loong comments the article is a good reminder for everyone to be more gracious and kind to others.
Yes, customs are different in every country. Everyone should value that, guests and hosts alike. I propose a button, in good Singlish: Everyone be nice, lah!