The Tissue Issue that won’t go away

Straits Times, April 28 2011

When we step into a hawker centre in Singapore, it is common to see tissue packets left on the benches. Instinctively, we know that this seat has been “reserved” by someone else. Many people are complaining that this reflects the selfish attitude of Singaporeans, but some disagree, sparking debates over this issue.

Does anything have to be done? Let me express my opinion. When tourists step into Changi airport nowadays, the first few things that they see are red and white posters put up by Singaporean telecomm service Singtel saying “Tables with tissue packs are usually reserved”, as part of the “Tips for a great stay in Singapore” campaign. Although it may be out of good intention, I think that the government should do something to stop this behavior. One may argue that this action is unique to Singaporeans, and are part of our culture and habits. However, think about all the unwanted and negative effects of this behavior. When the tourists see these posters, they will think that Singapore is an ungracious society, and will not come back to Singapore again. Even though they do not see these posters, when they go visiting around Singapore, they will definitely find out about it, and will consequently have a bad impression of Singapore.

I think that the government should remove the posters at Changi Airport, and instead, add other posters in hawker centres that discourage the patrons to be considerate and not “reserve” the seats. However, there will be people who try to find a way around things, and will place things like their umbrellas to reserve the seats. Therefore, it might be more effective to put up posters to tell patrons not to even reserve seats at all. The government should also constantly tell the people that they can remove these items if they feel that the people who placed them there are inconsiderate and selfish. I hope that the people will also realize that they are inconsiderate and selfish if they continue to place their items on the seats.

If all these measures are taken, I am quite sure that Singapore will become a more gracious society and will attract more tourists in the future.


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Hi guys, I'm a student in Singapore, and this are some thoughts and essays I have written over the years.