Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Walking Game

Ok, I'm just going to warn you, this post is mainly meant for other expats in Singapore. Probably more so the expats of the American variety too.

So don't go all "Ang Mohs know nothing" on me here. I'm just sharing an observation. Put the guns away people.

When Aaron and I arrived in Singapore, we sort of developed a fear of leaving the house. Unless it was absolutely necessary, we would plant ourselves in the flat and lock the door. No unnecessary trips period. Necessary, meaning only if we were starving, bleeding or not breathing. Otherwise, it was a no go.

Why were we so weird?

See there's this thing that we Americans are so very used to and have come to love more than cheeseburgers and french fries.

It's called this: three feet of personal space.

I'm guessing it's more of an American thing because no one here seems to have an issue with it like we do.

Every time we walked amongst the natives, we were constantly being bumped into, walked into and downright shoved out of the way.

It was psychologically tiring.

So we just avoided the natives. And scavenged the pantry for food until the last tiny crumb could be found.

Then, my dear husband found a solution.

He created what we call the "walking game". The walking game is easy. All you do is stare blankly ahead of you and make sure to NEVER make eye contact with anyone.

Magically, people dodge out of your way.

I'm fairly sure they're all thinking "What the hell? Those crazy white people aren't even watching where they're going!"

But I don't care.

Because you're not shoving my purse off my shoulder as you push your way into my path.

Now we're trying to think of a game for the grocery store for when those people step in front of you while you're reading product labels and completely block what you're trying to do.

I think I may just start dropping cans on their feet. Then they might catch the drift.

Too harsh? Ok, I'll keep thinking.


TF said...

Hahaha. I'm fron the states and working in South Korea. I also just took a trip to Beijing and it seems to be the same deal all over Asia -- people being crammed into subways and people doing a soft tackle on you as they rush to their destination. I think you get used to it after a while... just remember to shove back!

FISH said...

I play a game exiting the MRT train when eager beavers are standing *exactly* in front of the doors... when, clearly, many people are preparing to get off the train (think Orchard station). The game? See far they will bounce off me when we bump into each other. I know it sounds terrible, but don't they see the yellow lines on the floor indicating where to stand?!?!? And all the signs on EVERY train door explaining to let riders exit before boarding? Aren't these Singaporeans supposed to be rule followers?

Anyway, most don't match-up well against my 215 lbs. And, to be 'polite' this game only applies to men and youth. LOL. ;)

And, I won't even get into my game for people congregating in front of the escalator exits just to catch-up on the day's gossip...

SS said...

JUST PUSH THEM BACK. Honestly, i don't give a damn about that.

Well, that's what i do anyway. Especially when I'm trying to get off the train. Once i got so pissed,then i told off all those who were rushing into the train.

And i'm just a student but who cares.

Kristen said...

oh yes, personal space is so very important! GOod luck with the grocery store! lol

TC said...
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Sandra said...

I agree, I do the same when I am blocked while trying to exit the trains. Just walk straight into the wall of people. That's why I try my best to avoid traveling by train during the rush hour; the worst time of day. It just gets my pressure up.

Anonymous said...

look, just go back to america & stop yr complaining, it seems you're starting to become one of us, complain queen. :\

Megan said...

Ah, there's always one. Thanks for being the little ray of sunshine for this post, anonymous.

Fish, the people at the top of the escalator are ridiculous! That just makes me have a mini freak out when they do that. I'll even very loudly say "Now, is this REALLY the best place to chat it up, huh?". I always thought it was common sense. Eh.

I agree with the rest of you in your train exiting strategy. Although sometimes I feel like I should be wearing American football pads to make it out alive.

TURIKE said...

Ha ha! This is also a a big problem for me in MRT and bus stations, eventhough I'm ASIAN :p Not all ASIAN people behave as such TC and TF; for example we don't do this 'pushing n bumping thing' in Jakarta as far as I can remember (I'm indonesian). I think this 'bumping' behaviour depends on the personality of the person. So next time a local bumped into you, just laugh it off or simply tell him to mind his steps. It worked for me for sure. Just refrain from generalizing the people, cherish the differences it has with the States and maybe you'll enjoy sun-kissed Singapore more :)

Dawn said...

Megan - isn't it possible this is just a problem with big cities? I think NYC is arguably just as bad.

FISH said...
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Dawn said...
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Dawn said...

Okay, the lollygagging on the sidewalks gets to me too - also the escalator huddle :)

In terms of bad driving though I must speak up in defence of my fellow Singaporeans. We may not be the best drivers in the world, but at least people do generally stop at crosswalks. It's something I've come to appreciate a lot more now that I've live in the US. The last time I stopped at a crosswalk here in Baltimore, the pedestrian gave me the finger.

One thing I learnt from travelling : always ask beforehand what that particular country's pedestrian culture is (Greece - run across the road when there's a break in traffic, London - people will stop at the crosswalk, Vietnam - RUN, etc, etc). You get the picture :)

Dawn said...

In case you're wondering what kind of lousy driver I am, I hasten to add the pedestrian was actually crossing as he flipped me the bird. I can only assume he was just joining in with the car honking at me because I stopped for said pedestrian :)

Dawn said...

I think TC has an interesting point, I don't remember it being this crowded when I was growing up. My Mom who has lived almost all her life in Singapore tries to avoid going out on weekends because of the crowds.

One reason I think that may account for lack of personal space is because there is so little space. Period. Singapore has one of the highest population densities in the world (behind Macau and Monaco, which are much smaller in terms of population). People become desensitised because they have to.

In grocery stores for example, think how small the stores are in comparison to the US. When I first came here to the US, I couldn't believe how wide the aisles were. It's harder to get into someone's personal space, when there is the luxury of space to begin with :)

TC said...
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Megan said...

Dawn, you make a good point. I'll try to keep that in mind the next time I want to scream obscenities at the "crowders". :)

As for the American inability to stop at crosswalks, I have to admit, I have issues doing that too. In the States, if you have a green light, you go. A pedestrian should not be walking in the street when the light is green, whether it's a turn lane or not. That's a difference in our traffic regulations. It took me a long time to get used to stopping in the turn lanes here in Singapore when there was a green light and a pedestrian jumping out in front of the car. There were many close calls until I readjusted my thinking.

Dawn said...
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Dawn said...

Megan - thanks for the tip! It was actually a traffic light in that instance though. Plus I realise it varies from place to place. I live in rural Maryland now and everyone stops here. A friend in Tennessee said that people stop for her even when she's jaywalking :)

Megan said...

Oh yeah. You're right. Traffic courtesy varies greatly amongst the different States. I'm sorry! I only gave you my "Kansas driving" opinion.

Yeah I remember when I was in New York, there were signs everywhere that said something like "Use horn only to warn drivers of danger". I was like "Isn't that the only time you're supposed to use the horn anyway?". I quickly learned different. Driving in NYC is a completely different experience altogether.

Dawn said...

Even within the state! I have to remember to switch depending on which part of MD I'm in.

I had my eyes closed the entire time I was in NY traffic. Fortunately I wasn't driving :)

I was thinking more about what you said about personal space and whether it's more of a modern concept. I was at a friend's very old farm in PA the other day, and I couldn't believe that people actually lived in that tiny farmhouse. There was only one bedroom. I can imagine they were out working most days but what happened in winter when you're stuck at home all the time?

Brad Farless said...

I can agree that the lack of personal space still drives me crazy after a year of being here.

At the MRT I just blindly walk straight out and push whatever person is blocking the way to the side, sometimes using my hands if I have to. I gave up trying to be polite, and trying to twist and doge, after six months.

On the sidewalks, I still sometimes give way when it's practical, because the idea of sharing the sidewalk with oncoming pedestrians is apparently not common knowledge here.

In the malls, I start to freak out because people are constantly bumping into me. I keep checking my belongings over and over. I'll even go outside the mall and walk around it sometimes, especially in Tampines.

I wouldn't say that it's all the fault of third world foreigners though, because I've spent a lot of time in Manila, and people respect each other's space there. Of course, Manila is the kind of place where you might disappear if you invade someone's space, so it's not surprising.

Oh and ya, in the US it's true that pedestrians don't have the right of way when the light is green for the cars.

I drove in NYC once. I won't ever do that again.

Oh, and Anonymous, why is it that Singaporeans sound like a broken record with "if you don't like it then get out"? I get tired of hearing it. Especially in cases like this where it's plainly said out of blatant stupidity.

Dawn said...

Brad F - the light was green for the pedestrian actually!

Singaporean said...

Brad Farless:

I was reading through all the comments and had to agree with some of your points even though I'm a Singaporean.

But your last remark on Singaporeans is not very nice. Even if these people are nasty, there is no need to stoop to their level and be equally nasty back. You can just ignore them if you don't agree with them.

Brad Farless said...

Look, don't be so overly sensitive. Why does everything have to be spelled out? Everyone gets all butt-hurt over things that don't even apply to them.

If it doesn't apply to you, then don't take it as being for you.

It obviously doesn't apply to all Singaporeans. I'm just making a point about how whenever someone says something that even slightly portrays Singapore in a bad light, then right away an anonymous poster wants to say, "If you don't like it, then get out!" I've seen it dozens if not hundreds of times. It's a fact.

I'd like to know why Singaporeans are so sensitive of criticism, or perceived criticism, now that you mention it.

If someone tells me they hate the way people drive in the US it doesn't bother me. If someone tells me they hate the food in the US, or think that people in the US are rude, then ok, that's their opinion. I don't stat ranting about how they should "get out" if they don't like it, or go off the handle about how great the US is. If anything, it's a point of discussion that would lead me to understand how someone from outside perceives my country. Singaporeans on the other hand get defensive a lot.

And again, let me add a disclaimer that when I say "Singaporeans" I'm making a generalization and not saying that the above comments apply to every man, woman, and child of Singaporean birth.

Singaporean said...

Let me just clarify that I did not take your comments personally.

Why are Singaporeans so sensitive? Maybe because Singaporeans are brought up to be perfectionist. Criticisms are seen very negatively here, and sometimes taken quite personally. You will need to experience the education system, workplace and mindset thoroughly to fully appreciate what i mean.

Although I don't agree with those people who say rude things on the blog, like "If you don't like it, then get out!", I guess I could understand why they do that. Maybe it's patriotism. Maybe they just don't like it that foreigners seem to have so much to complain about. Maybe they think its just purely American arrogance. Maybe they think it is not respectful. Now, don't start arguing with me on this. I am just speculating what these people think and putting myself in their shoes.

This is probably a difference in the American and Singaporean mindset. You guys may not be used to our "overly-sensitive" attitudes, but neither are all Singaporeans ready to accept your "open-mindedness". And that is probably how conflicts occur all around the world.

TURIKE said...

Just want to comment on TC's comment : "2. Too many peoples from third world countries where space is not respected, and they're flooding the island." Ha ha. Funny thought, just blame it on the immigrants. Psst, I also come from a 3rd world country and believe me, we have more empty spaces than in here. Period.

Brad Farless said...

Well, Turike, I can sort of agree with you, but part of what you said doesn't make sense.

I don't think the problem of people walking into each other can be blamed wholly on foreigners either.

However, saying that there are more open spaces where you're from doesn't really support your claim. In fact, it supports TC's, because what he said was that the population density in Singapore is higher, reducing the amount of open space, meaning that people are more crammed together, and more likely to bump into each other.