Sunday, November 28, 2010

The MRT Says Please Be Polite

The Merlion of Singapore
Riding the MRT (subway) in Singapore is as familiar as riding the tube/metro/subway in London, Paris, New York and LA up to a point.  The maps, the connections, all easy to follow.

What was different?  No food wrappers dropped on the floor, no graffiti inside or out, no vending machines selling snacks or drinks, no people snacking as they commuted.

Most surprising?  There was no one (almost) was reading.  Only once during a week’s worth of riding did I even see someone scanning a newspaper.  No books, magazines, no Kindles.  No ear buds peeking out suggesting an I-Pod in use.   Looking around there were just lots of people sitting or standing going along to their destinations.

The quiet, orderly ride contrasted sharply with the rush to get into the car.  The doors open and people charge ahead to get on as people are getting off.   “Everyone in Singapore wants to be first all the time.”   That was the comment of an American working there and, judging by the actions of the commuters, he may be right.  The MRT thinks it’s enough of a problem that they regularly make announcements encouraging people to be more polite.  To let people off the train before they enter, to give their seats to elderly riders or pregnant women. 

Keeping the subways system clean isn’t a problem.   Stopping the rush on and off, getting people to be polite – that’s still a challenge and one that isn’t unique to Singapore.

Monday, November 1, 2010

No PDA here

When I think about my upcoming visit to Hong Kong I imagine the wonderful view of the harbor at night, the pleasure of riding the Star Ferry and the adventure of figuring out what to eat while exploring the city. 

But talking recently with friends who work for the Hong Kong Trade and Development Council ( discussing differences between business in Hong Kong and the US I learned about something I wouldn’t see.  There probably won’t be any  PDA.  That translates to no Public Displays of Affection.   

Even when the public is your friends or family much less strangers on the street.  No holding hands.  No quick kisses.   Showing affection between two adults is very private, reserved for the people involved.    As I thought back to my last Hong Kong visit that coincided with Valentines Day I realized that on that romantic weekend celebrated enthusiastically I saw no PDA.  There were many couples walking together, with the woman carrying a bouquet of flowers (not something you’d see in LA).  But there were no casual PDA.   Flowers carried were the show of affection rather than hands linked together.