Freelance writer Charlotte Ashton, who moved to Singapore last year, wrote about her experience on an MRT train when she was pregnant:
"One morning the nausea finally got the better of me just as I had stepped onto a packed train. Worried I was going to faint, I crouched to the floor, holding my head in my hands.
And so I remained, completely ignored, for the full 15 minutes it took to reach my station. Nobody offered me seat or asked me if I was okay."
Couple of years ago, while walking the busy underground linkway between Liat Towers and CK Tang, a young mother with a baby in arms was trying to persuade her older child to get on her own two feet so mom could carry the collapsible stroller up the stairway. The 2-3 year old girl would not surrender her ride. I approached the little one and told her I could carry the stroller up the flight of steps, but she had to hold on real tight so she won't fall out. She nodded in assent, and mom and kids made the ascend safely. But there was no word of thanks, just a blank look which made me wonder. Back in the office, colleagues lambasted me for being kay-poh. What if she had reported me for kidnapping?
A decade earlier, I was at a bus-stop in Australia when another mother with a pram was in queue. She maneuvered the pram to the entrance of the bus, picked up her baby, and went into the bus. Without a single word exchanged, the driver got out, and carried the pram to the back of the bus where there were brackets to hang the pram. When she reached her destination, she got off the bus and waited at the curb. Said driver went to the back of the bus to retrieve the pram, so mom and baby could continue their journey. "Thanks, mate," she managed.
Ms Ashton's Singaporean friend - who chose to remain anonymous because "in this authoritarian democracy, the majority of people are very reluctant to go on the record with anything remotely negative about Singapore" - enlightened her about the difference between Singapore and other countries:
"The problem here is that we measure everything in dollar bills - personal identity, self-respect, happiness, your sense of worth - it is all linked to how much money you have. But only the top few percent earn serious cash - so everyone else feels worthless and apathetic."