Whatever happened to good manners?

Whatever happened to good manners?

Vancouver SkyTrain

Photo reproduced under the Creative Commons License.

I’ve hesitated to write this as I know it will read as a good old whinge. But I just can’t help myself.

I just returned from seven weeks in Vancouver, Canada. (No, I’m not going to comment on the fact that Melbourne outdid Vancouver once again for being recognised as the “most liveable city in the world”.)

But I have to say, if good manners and politeness factored into this evaluation, I don’t think Melbourne would stand a chance.

So, upon what do I base this assertion?

Just imagine for a moment; you are standing at an intersection waiting for a break
in the flow of traffic so you can cross safely. 
There are no traffic lights to control the vehicle traffic. There are no pedestrian markings on the road to indicate a cross-walk. To your surprise, a driver three lanes over stops his car and waives you across. You do so reluctantly because you see oncoming traffic in other lanes. But lane by lane, all the traffic stops – it’s safe to cross.

Wow! It’s like the parting of the Red Sea. I felt like Moses! (Exodus 14:21-22). And it didn’t happen just once, it was a common occurrence.

So that’s it? Am I building my case on this peculiar traffic custom? NO.

I used Vancouver’s public transport extensively; automated trains and buses.

Here’s another observation that contrasts significantly with Melbourne’s public transport. The bus drivers are friendly to and engage with passengers. Don’t know where to get off the bus? Just ask the driver. He’ll call out the stop when he gets close to it and pull over even if you didn’t respond to his alert. He calls again, “This is your stop, passenger, the connecting bus you want is around the corner!” And by the time you get to your stop you have learned that passengers always thank the driver. “Thanks, driver!” each passenger calls out as he steps off the bus. So you do the same. After all, we Aussies are polite too, right?

Here’s another one. When you climb onto a crowded bus, standing room only, two or three people stand and offer you their seats. Admittedly, I’m obviously a senior. But it’s a little off-putting when one of the people who makes the offer is a woman in her early fifties. I mean, this is taking manners to the extreme. (Romans 12:10) Mmm… haven’t seen this in Melbourne.

Finally, parting traffic, helpful bus-drivers and considerate passengers aside, here’s what impressed me most. It was like I was in a curse-free zone for most of the time there.

I realise TV broadcasters are disallowed by law from F-bombs and cursing. But this prohibition does not extend to the general public on the street.

We enjoyed a wonderful evening at one of Vancouver’s popular inner-city beaches watching the finalist in the Canada Day Fireworks Competition. To get a good viewing location, tens of thousands of Vancouver citizens started claiming their viewpoints some 3 hours before sunset, the start of a spectacular 45 minute display of pyrotechnics. Young people, families with children, adults young and old waited for the show. The crowd behaviour was exemplary. People engaged in conversation with strangers. As drinking in public is illegal in Canada, there was a complete absence of loutish behaviour. And just no cursing – a safe place to take ones children without fear of verbal pollution. (Ephesians 4:29)

Why does this impress me? Because, immediately upon arriving home at the Tullamarine Airport, I couldn’t help but overhear a small group of young people, boys and girls freely expressing themselves with every vile expletive known.

How common – how sad! Whatever happened to good manners?


  1. Martin Pakula (Author)

    I SOOO agree Don! I wonder if Australia used to be much better? I’m sure when I was growing up it was more like Vancouver. I guess you could take that one of two ways… Either Vancouver is still living in the 70s, or Australia is rude. 🙂

  2. Andrew Courtis

    Thanks Don. I have never been to Vancouver but I appreciate your point. Sadly society in general is becoming very much “me-centred” and things like manners are a thing of the past in many (but not all) cases. A reminder of man’s greatest need – the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 1:16)!

  3. Don (Author)

    Yes, that’s it Andrew. What I am observing here is a decline in community standards perhaps reflective of the diminishing influence Christian values seem to have amongst the general populous.

    Martin, as you so faithfully urged, it’s our task and privilege to proclaim, teach and exemplify this gospel in our communities. Matthew 5:13 gives us a warning about this.

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