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Laughing your way to better social graces

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People's Association to launch comic book to highlight good social habits

Being neighbourly means wringing the water out of your laundry before hanging it out to dry.

Being polite means keeping a distance from a person in front of you while waiting to use the ATM.

Most people know this. But the People's Association believes people here can do better.

It has created a comic book which it hopes will publicise and promote good social habits that will, in turn, help build an inclusive and caring society.

The light-hearted approach to reach the hearts and minds, whether locals or foreigners, would be especially useful if it happens on a regular basis, said National University of Singapore sociologist Tan Ern Ser.

"I believe a comic book alone would not help very much. People may flip through once and not return to it," he added.

The illustrations and humorous situations depict commonplace faux pas that often seem to stem from a lack of knowledge.

For example, the guide book encourages people to refrain from mixing utensils used for halal food with those for non-halal cuisine at hawker centres.

Laughing your way to better social graces
(Above, from left) PA Integration Council chairman Mr Goh Peng Hong, Advisor to the PA Integration Council, Associate Professor Fatimah Lateef, and Grassroots Advisor, Mr David Tay, enjoying the new comic book. 

People are also urged to share their table with other diners, and to return their trays with used plates and cutlery to cleaning stations after a meal.

Other norms are simply part and parcel of good behaviour, like being punctual.

Associate Professor Fatimah Lateef said many of the habits are common sense "which any civic-minded person would do", she told reporters yesterday during a sneak peek at the comic book, which is to be launched tomorrow.

"But sometimes, they're taken for granted, so it doesn't hurt to remind people about them," added the Marine Parade GRC MP.

This is "not just for foreigners, it's for everybody who lives in Singapore - Singaporeans too".

She is adviser to the PA Integration Council tasked to help new citizens and permanent residents settle into the community.

The 40-page book was born after two months of brainstorming by 120 grassroots volunteers and representatives of at least 20 immigrant bodies.

These strips may appear on trains, buses and town council posters in housing estates by early next year, she added.

But Assoc Prof Tan fears that over time, "people would soon be desensitised to their presence and message".

He suggested producing short, humorous skits that could be incorporated into popular local television shows.

Peer pressure could be another effective way of getting the message across.

"People tend to conform to social norms if they want to be seen in a positive light by people who matter to them," Assoc Prof Tan added.