Singaporeans need a little more space

JULY 4 — The past year has been tough on all of us. Lockdowns meant keeping within exceptionally close quarters and for many Singaporeans, this meant the confines of our flats. 

Homes that have been steadily shrinking — the apartment I purchased is significantly smaller than the one my parents purchased — and in buildings pressed increasingly closer and closer together. 

This means we are very familiar with our neighbours. We know when they are awake, what they are cooking, the topics of their marital strifes, their favourite TV shows — in a city as dense as Singapore, we have been raised to accept this is par for the course in an urban setting. 

And in many ways it is. 

However, since one of the driving forces of Singapore as a nation is persistent self-improvement — I think a case can be made that we should change this. 

Of course there are many positives to be found in such communal lives — walking around my estate feels lively. It is immediately apparent this is a place where lives unfold. 

And if you get along with your neighbours — great! Easily available babysitter, dog-walker, meal partner but if you don’t — it can get so unpleasant. 

Last week alone, there were two incidents. In the first, a 52-year-old woman noted down each time her neighbour smoked, arriving at the observation that they smoked 150 times in two weeks. 

This woman is obviously very upset about this; sharing the smoking caused her to lose her appetite, get a stuffy nose and be forced to deal with the heat of closed windows. 

Now, I understand why this is unpleasant for this woman but I also have sympathy for the neighbour because ultimately a person should be free to do what they like within their own home and if smoking is that thing then they should be able to do that without having to worry about the impact on their neighbours. 

Another pair of neighbours have been exchanging passive aggressive notes over the use of the shared corridor — with one neighbour complaining about the other leaning against their window. 

Again, I see no value in discerning who is the wrong or right because the fight reduces to space. 

We should be able to open our front door and not immediately be standing outside our neighbour’s bedroom window. We should be able to smoke a cigarette inside our own homes without causing upset to a lady next door. 

Yet somehow we are moving in the opposite direction. Flats are smaller, corridors are tighter and neighbours are closer.

*This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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