10 Things I Love About Malaysia Print E-mail

Monday August 23, 2010

10 things I love about Malaysia

A Different Spin
By Sheila Stanley


There are things that we miss or take for granted, only to be reminded of them when we are deprived of their presence long enough.

It has been said that absence makes the heart grow fonder. I’ve certainly found this to be true when I spent the last month out of the country — mostly in London (for work) and Dublin (for pleasure).

Here are the top 10 things I found myself celebrating about Malaysia when I was away.

1. Malaysian innovation – an essential Malaysian characteristic we take for granted. Let me illustrate my point with a story.

I needed a cartridge for a printer. The cheapest way to resolve this was by getting a refill of the old cartridge.

In Malaysia, there is a man in a shop in the inner city of Kuala Lumpur who does that for me for about RM15, plus a money back guarantee if it doesn’t work.

In London, the cheapest way was to order a refill online for about £15 (RM73), and it was pretty much a DIY job, no guarantees.

In Malaysia, I took this kind of innovation for granted. In London, I just felt ripped off.

2. The Tabung Haji building – I really meant Kuala Lumpur architecture.

I could have said the Petronas Twin Towers, but then they’re hard to miss, and it’s one of those really obvious points (pun intended!) about contemporary KL architecture. The Tabung Haji building is another beauty in the KL landscape and one which people seem to either miss or take for granted.

3. All inclusive air-conditioning. Seriously, have you tried living in London with no air-conditioning during a heat wave? My apologies to the environment.

4. The Food – OK, so we don’t do Michelin stars and haute cuisine too well at the moment.

But, we are absolutely outstanding when it comes to affordable, seriously good, and constantly available food.

Food courts, hawker centres and mamak stalls serve more than affordable nutrition.

They also tie the fabric of Malaysian society together.

We bond with colleagues, catch up with old friends and court our future spouses in these places.

5. The Economy – In a recessive economy, it’s pretty much about negativity, despair and depression.

That’s Ireland at the moment. We have that on our side in Malaysia. But the wealth of natural resources available to the country just makes our economy more vibrant. Jobs are not hugely difficult to get, and despite inflation, we have affordable food, housing and healthcare.

6. The Highways – We’ve done a great job with building highways which now give us the option of a 10-minute travel period from one end of the city to the other.

And I haven’t even started on tunnels which are smart.

Seriously, we may not like the tolled nature of our highways, but the fact of the matter is that they do work.

7. Progress – By this I mean how much we’ve progressed socially and culturally. In Malaysia, we’ve embraced other cultures and ethnicities quite openly as a result of the multicultural nature of our society.

Sure, things aren’t perfect, but they have progressed since a long time ago. We’ve started looking at issues like HIV and AIDS with more compassion and understanding.

We’ve begun questioning ourselves and others more openly than we would have in the past.

8. The Weather – perhaps the lack of change in seasons can be a tad boring for some.

But the lack of really cold winter and grey days means we don’t have to deal with SADS (Seasonal Acquired Depression Syndrome).

We also don’t have errant volcanoes to deal with, or crop withering droughts. Not yet, anyway.

9. The Peculiarity of Malaysian Kindness – which is quite distinct from the peculiarity of British politeness. What I mean is that Malaysians are capable of genuine random acts of kindness.

To illustrate – some time back, I headed out to my favourite char kway teow stall for breakfast.

The noodles were fried and served to me. I ate and then tried to pay for it with a RM100 bill.

Unfortunately the char kway teow lady had no change.

I managed to scrape together some spare change sitting at the bottom of that black hole I call my handbag, but it was still RM1 short of the total.

A woman sitting at the table with me offered me the RM1, not because I asked her, just because she wanted to.

I didn’t know her — we just happened to be sitting at the table together (as one does in Malaysian coffee shops) both having our respective plates of noodles for breakfast.

I thought it was incredibly kind of her. Yes, it’s only a plate of char kway teow, but that’s the same kind of generosity which gets Malaysians donating money for a life-saving surgery which the patient cannot afford.

10. We Have Budget Airlines Too! – The majority of people in Ireland who travel out of the country on holidays tend to use budget airlines.

It makes for affordable holidays and weekends away. It also makes for a well-travelled group of people who are able to open their minds to new experiences and cultures.

Since budget airlines arrived in Malaysia, we’ve started on this journey as well.

>Sheila Stanley is a Kuala Lumpur-based writer and TV producer. You can read about her at www.sheila-stanley.com.