Thursday, May 01, 2008

Are Malaysians Behaving Like Singaporeans?

*Disclaimer: This is my own experience and no way intend to create any furore in any way. Please read with an Open Mind.

Kiasu (scared to loose), arrogant, egoistic, rude, demanding - you name it, these are the labels given to Singaporeans by both Singaporeans themselves and even many people who have encounters with them. There's also the nickname by themselves - the Ugly Singaporeans.

And recently when the consumer index survey rated Singapore 7 out of 10, there was quite an outcry by the public that that couldn't be true - Singaporeans service standards are not that high. At least they didn't feel that experience.

How true are these - one needs to really just visit the Lion City to see it for themselves.

Now, across the causeway, a land promoting the warmth smiles of friendly Malaysians. In tourist brochures, on TV adverts, you see people smiling with glittering eyes. And these are not the poses by models. These are genuine smiles unlike adverts where models force a grin to see it only so fake.

The smile itself is a tourist attraction. And so I think or thought.

My last trip to KL a month back, I encountered by a rude lady shouting at me after I came out of the taxi - 'Apa lambat sangat?' (What took you so long?). Fat & pompous, she was waiting to enter the cab. Yes, I knew I took some time, that because I was counting the RM1 notes (8 of them) - and I just wanted to make sure I gave the right amount, so I counted twice.

And my destination - the Craft Centre in KL. Golly, what a welcome to a tourist!

In and around the centre was ok, but I don't get that warmth I imagined - did I have just too high expectations? Sales people were more like 'Nak beli, beli-lah' (Want to buy, buy-lah). There were no greetings, no hello... and rarely any smiles.

And this is very frequent in most retail outlets. In fact, by asking a question like 'Do you have this size' or 'Any other colours?' is like a sin - they frown at you for making them work their brains. Usually, the standard answers apply - 'tak ade' (don't have)... Why bother asking at times.

I had an encounter with a sales girl who also rudely blamed me for wrongly classifying that a title of a yearly publication was a book - making her unable to find the title.

And rarely do you get a 'thank you' or 'do come again'. Of course, these are Westernised politeness - so maybe yes, we can overlook this. But the smile, the Malaysian smile - where is it?

And just yesterday, I had someone pushing his full plate behind me, pushing me just to get to the counter! When I stood firm, he then pushed his plate hitting my elbow (yes, my elbow in his food). Now, I was in front, and the cashier was serving me. Why couldn't he wait? This guy didn't seemed sorry.

Again, I never expected these to happen in Malaysia. Am I too naive?

Now, in business. Sometimes, when I talk to some of these business people, I sometimes hear this superior voice. I've had some encounters actually - really weird and unwelcoming. It gives the feeling as if they are talking like 'I'm better than you' or 'You must follow my rules', though they don't mention it directly.

In fact, its so subtle, but their body movements & tone clearly show it. It is their aim to do so actually. But they put it in a 'nice way'.

For example: 'Oh so that is what you are doing... ah ah'.
'Oh that is your book...'

Not sure if you get it. But you will know it if you are in that spot, whatever language you speak. It's the tone.

In fact, it happened on the phone - the Geela lady (my nickname to her) actually called me all the way from KL to Singapore on my mobile to say:

'No, we cannot attend such functions... we have many functions in KL. We are very busy people. These kinds of events we cannot attend'.

Luckily I wasn't face to face to that Geela lady or else I'll see her burning eyes which says 'as if they want to eat you!'.

I know this is a contradiction to what I'm promoting - Malaysia! Golly! But, I just thought I need to bring this up - we need to reflect, really.

Maybe this could be a reason why many Malaysians have anger and hatred?

I feel sad that these incidents are happening. No wonder people may say that I live in fantasy land - thinking of all smiles and all. lol. Anyway, I still believe the genuine smiles you find in those photos are there - but I guess it's a lil harder now.

And yes, I still think Malaysia and Malaysians are generally nice, but the point and conclusion I want to draw is, for Malaysians (including myself) - before we give those nicknames to the Singaporeans, should we give it to ourselves as well?



  1. hehehe..

    funny la u..

    u said in the last paragraph dat u r malaysian.. but u never lived here izit?

    hahaha.. genuine smile? *eyes-rolling*...

    friendly ? *palm-on-face*..

    hahahaha... Singapore is much better, getting on the cab "good day sir, where to?"

    Malaysia taxi "total silence"... dats good u know.... rather than u step in, he immediately quote a price "RM7!!!" for a Rm3.30 ride... hahaha.. or even worse... RM70!!! for a RM20 bucks ride..

    genuine smile?! hhehehe.. go government department la... the only smile u c is the yellow smiley face on the badge... n they r wearing dat on their chest coz of the "Kempen Mesra Pelanggan" which is not so mesra.. hehehe...

    just my 2 sen opinion.. hahahah...

    cya dude!!


  2. It's hardly to change the attitude in this Century! Yes, I mean : "Century". (Fact)
    I strongly believe, it's started on the school educations, then the society educations. It's not simple at all to change it, especially in the develop country like M'sia. As everyone forecast it, maybe.....another 2 generations? As I'm not condemn it but this is the fact!
    About 'Kiasu', I believe it's the "Asia Culture". Not only M'sia or S''s become a human nature around Asia or a developing country......
    Try to visualize, anyone want to left behind? Majority NO. (even millionaire?!) Haha!
    Just my 2 cents.....

  3. haha i enjoyed the post. generally, i believe its not only the tone, but the practices as well. we learn from our mistakes and hopefully able to leave better impressions. that's why customer service is so important! :)

  4. I guess that as the pace of life quickens, people tend to 'forget' to be nice to each other.

    I believe it to be the same everywhere. But I do believe that if you take the initiative to smile at every other person that you come into contact with, the only logical thing to expect is a smile in return, yah?

  5. teddy,

    love the part you say on the smiling badge!

    but really, the msian smile is there - but i think not so much in kl.. more in smaller towns and kampungs.

    thanks u enjoyed it haha. it was really written from the heart.

    act, i forgot to add one more part - my friend's filipino maid + an elderly japanese couple were scolded for bringing the camera to the pasar malam too. lol.

    i agree, customer service is v impt. i think many asian countries including china are very advanced in it :)

  6. robo,

    ya, agree, the education system plays a role here. and i think u have a point. if we emphasis it in the school, that would help! also, i think msians need to go overseas to see what is happening... then they will know what we have is sometimes good, and must showcase it. or sometimes what we lack too :)

    kiasu-ism to me is fine. but cannot overdo haha. as it, one must fight for survival, but not to just beat a rival (and cannot be arrogant) haha

  7. hi ck

    agree its like that - thats why the genuine smiles are easier to find in smaller towns & in the villages.

    and yes, if we smile, they usually smile back :) (just make sure we dont kena those who still blur and frown instead!). the coming out of the taxi experience was quite bad.

  8. too bad for those who didnt take u seriously as a customer. it only takes 1 customer to relay this bad service and the multiplication effect it has on their shops.

    kudos to those who train their staff well as they are forward looking shops and intend to grow further

  9. the title sud be "rude malaysians" instead

  10. hi johnny

    ya, i agree with you on the impression part :) esp if tourism is a sector our country is looking at... one thing i realise why ppl love to go back to thailand & bali is because of its place... but more so, the friendly ppl.

    thanks for the suggestion haha. but i also wanted to highlight that msians dont need to feel 'superior' all the time esp against singaporeans too hehe :)


Oh hey, thank you for commenting! :)