Monday, May 11, 2015

Condo Dwellers’ Syndrome

Or as some may prefer to call: Condo Living Syndrome

Pareto’s ballpark is seldom wrong; even with the case of condo dwellers.

Eighty percent of dwellers in a typical higher-end condo are apathetic to anything that is happening out of their routine.

Joint Management Body? Residents Association? And their AGMs or EGMs; all these are inconveniences! And why bother about neighbours?

My wife and I were staying in a condo at River Valley Road in Singapore for a couple of years in the mid-2000s. Most of the residents I believe were families of fairly rich Indonesians, and ethnically Chinese, of course. I ran into a number of familiar faces in the lifts every day. Having lived in Australia for some time, it was just natural for me to say hello to them. I gave up after a few attempts. Our overture many a time was met with complete aloofness.

Toorak is “Kampung Tunku” or “Damansara Heights” of Melbourne. There are many mansions there, many of which used to be owned by the old money of Melbourne. No longer! Each time a house was sold, the new owner would invariably be someone ethnically Chinese – whether they are from Mainland China, or Hong Kong, or Malaysia, or Singapore, or Indonesia. My daughter and her family live in this suburb, thanks to her parents-in-law’s foresight. Since my wife and I had to help provide a taxi-service to Monica’s two boys, we decided to also put up with them.

We take morning and evening walks every day. We could see the transformation. Greeting on-comers is no longer a social norm in Australia. Thanks to all these new Permanent Residents! And a reaffirmation of the stereotyping of Chinaman to Aussies!

I could not help but conclude that we of Chinese descent are really not a very friendly lot.

I was therefore a little guarded when we moved into our second home in Malaysia: a unit in a condo in Shah Alam’s Saujana Resort. True enough, we seemed to be invisible to many we met for the first time in the lifts, or along the neighbourhood paths during our morning and evening walks.

I had long resigned to this reality, until a fellow resident insisted on nominating me to be the president of the condo’s resident association - in spite of my protestation that I was only a “part-time” resident.

I thought I should help promote neighbourliness as my first challenge of the office.

Alas, changing attitude is more difficult than moving a mountain! Apathy is just a natural outcome of condo dwellers’ syndrome. Not many residents are interested in the activities of the association. (However, those who do are really very committed to its cause.)

I see this apathy is most glaring with those who were educated wholly in Chinese schools. Is there something very fundamentally wrong with Chinese schools' approach?

Chinese schools are completely capable of producing straight-A students. But many do not seem to know how to “educate”, especially in the area of social etiquette! I dare say many products of Chinese schools are awkward when it comes to the ABCs of social skills. But if the teachers themselves are not aware of this need, what do you expect? I suppose one has to start with teaching the teachers first! Who else to learn from? My answer: the people the community seems to hate most. Who else but the Japanese, lah!

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