How to raise a polite gentlemen


The queue at the beverage stall at the food court was moving at a slow pace for Singaporean standards. One auntie was making kaya toast. Two were preparing coffee. Nobody was collecting money or taking orders. I was second in line and when I was about to make a payment for my soft drink, a middle-aged Chinese man rushed in front of me and shouted, “One tea!” I frowned disapprovingly. He did not see my expression, but the coffee lady did and told him to wait his turn.

I have noticed this among quite a number of Singaporean men (and also women). Okay, I’m not saying that they are ALL like this. But many really lack manners, tact and gentlemanliness. No man has ever let me off the train/bus first, opened the door for me, let me get ahead before them. For all the bad press the ang mohs get, at least most of them say “please” and “thank you”, and even the Western equivalent of “ah bengs” display gentlemanly behaviour.

Having lived abroad for a few years, I am finding this lack of manners among Singaporeans a little disturbing. We rarely say please or thank you. Of course it doesn’t help that I have been living in the UK, a nation with an excessively polite culture to the extent where people say “sorry” even when you are the one who bumped into them.

It’s all about the culture and upbringing. If you don’t say “please” and “thank you”, chances are your kids probably don’t either. If you don’t give up your seats on the MRT, then why should your kids do it? If you pick up after your children and always be there to clean up their mess, how would they know it is really their responsibility?

I am especially aware that many boys are brought up pampered by their mummies or maids. They have never lifted a finger to do any housework. A girl too could be brought up in the same environment, but when she grows up and gets married, the pressure usually falls on her to keep the house in order due to societal norms. I hope to raise a son who thinks being involved in housework is normal. It shouldn’t be SOLELY a mother’s job or a woman’s responsibility.

A man should be look out for the fairer sex, not take advantage of their vulnerability. We are no Einstein or Donald Trump. No super huge brain or super fat wallet. But if we can raise a boy who grows up to be a gentleman, I think that’s a success in itself.

 

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