A Singaporean writer has described a difference between people in Taiwan and Singapore after seeing a simple poster in a Taipei restaurant during a recent trip to the nation.
In an essay published earlier this week in Lianhe Zaobao, a Chinese-language newspaper in Singapore, writer and columnist Wu Wei Cai said he saw a poster with a smile sign at a restaurant in Taipei that read: “Please forgive us for being short of helping hands, short of greetings and short of smiles.”
The poster, which may seem normal to most Taiwanese, gave Wu plenty of food for thought.
Singaporeans have grown accustomed to direct speech, he wrote, and signs reading: “Please help yourselves when we’re busy,” are common in the city-state.
Singapore’s signs are definitely different in tone from the poster in the Taiwanese restaurant, which shows the “civility and human warmth” of the Taiwanese, the writer said.
Another time in Taipei he traveled through heavy rains to go to the Red House Theater in Ximending (西門町). Staff at the theater advised him to dry off in the lobby for a few minutes, worried that he might catch a cold in the air-conditioned theater, Wu said.
He wrote that such considerate attention went well beyond the usual greetings and politeness.
“Taipei is a modern city. How is it that despite being under pressure people have not forgotten such human kindness?” he asked.
The newspaper also ran a letter from a woman who wrote about how Taiwan changed the mindset of a male acquaintance.
She said the young Singaporean man, whose English was excellent, although his Mandarin was poor, thought differently about learning Mandarin after visiting Taiwan and being touched by its warmth, kindness and friendly service.
Taipei’s many distinctive coffee shops made the young man realize that Taiwan has a richer culture than Singapore, making him rethink his attitude toward learning Mandarin.
The letter writer said the young man discovered that even if Singapore has better facilities and hard infrastructure, it lacks the soft power of warmth, sincerity, passion and friendliness.