Most neighbours just say 'hi' and 'bye'

Most neighbours just say 'hi' and 'bye'

Neighbours may exchange greetings and make small talk, but that's as far as many Singaporeans go.

Displays of trust, such as looking after house keys or lending and borrowing items, are seldom heard of in Housing Board estates.

Residents' interactions also tend to be "incidental and minimal", according to study findings released by the HDB and the National University of Singapore Centre of Sustainable Asian Cities and Sociology department. These findings, however, do not surprise experts.

"The more densely packed we are, the more we value privacy," said sociologist Paulin Straughan.

"Modern society prides itself on being independent. As a result, we don't make the additional effort to reach out to our neighbours. Unlike the olden days in a kampung, when neighbours needed each other to borrow rice, for instance.

"Combined with the work stress that comes with urban living, when you retreat to the sanctity of your own home, you want it to be your own private sphere. Many of us put up a sub-conscious barrier and it becomes a norm."

Associate Professor Straughan added that such behaviour is prevalent in cosmopolitan and urban cities.

In a bid to find out how design and amenities have contributed to interaction among residents, the year-long study surveyed about 2,200 residents in five HDB towns.

Respondents were asked to score their frequency of interactions with neighbours, from a score of one (never) to five (daily). Overall, they ranked "exchange of greetings/ small talk" as the most frequent activity, with a mean score of 3.47.

Safekeeping of house keys and borrowing and lending household items ranked the lowest at 1.11 and 1.25 respectively.

MP for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC Gan Thiam Poh said that he has noticed this lack of neighbourliness in the less mature estates, where neighbours have spent less time together: "To my surprise, I have met residents who don't even know their next-door neighbours." Ms Ellen Lee, MP for Sembawang GRC, said that while most residents are on cordial terms, few are extremely close.

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