Since moving to Kuala Lumpur we have encountered many things that are strikingly different from what we were used to back in the states. I wanted to share some of these with you, not because it is my intention to make fun of or ridicule these differences, but because it really does amaze me how differently people live from country to country.
It is very normal to have your own opinions or thoughts about the way things should be and some of the things that have stood out to us have been so different from what we are used to that we can’t help but talk about it, at times laugh about it or wonder why it is that way here. It doesn’t necessarily mean that our way is the right way or that their way is the wrong way, it just means that there are clearly a lot of different ways of doing things.
Believe me, if people who have lived here all of their lives visited the states, I can guarantee you that they would also instinctively form their own opinions because of the noticeable differences. With that being said, we are embracing our life here in Kuala Lumpur and learning that one of the most beautiful things about life are in fact our differences.
I hope you all enjoy learning more about our new city in this blog and I really do hope that you find humor in some of our ‘different’ experiences.
Our Beautifully Different City ❤
This very well could be what I loathe most about living here. And that actually is a really good thing, because there could be far worse things to dislike about a city. So here is the deal. When you go to a restaurant together as a family or with a co-worker or with a friend or with your 2 year old daughter named Ariane Wade, you typically look at the menu, choose what you want to eat & drink, place your order and voila some time later everyone’s food is served. How lovely right? You eat together, have enjoyable conversation and maybe (I said maybe) offer a bite of your food to the person that you are with and if you are lucky maybe you too get a bite of their food in return.
I would say 9 times out of 10 this is not what happens. Typically when just one person’s order is ready to be served, it gets brought to the table to that one person. And also that one person typically is not me. It is even worse when it is not Ari’s food that comes out first because as a parent you know that if you can just get your child eating, they will be content for a decent (short) amount of time. When this first happened to me, my husband had a yummy plate of food in front of him, I had nothing and Ari had nothing. I start looking all around the restaurant like our food has to be on its way out, otherwise why in the world would they have just brought food out to my husband? Here it is…ready for it? They expect you to share. Well I don’t like to share my food all that much, even though I try to teach our daughter to share every single day. Asian countries have a strong tradition of food sharing. Supposedly you aren’t supposed to be territorial when it comes to your food. Blah, blah, blah. This is definitely something that I will have to continue to work on and in the meantime you better believe if my husband’s food comes out sooner than mine, I do now freely stick my fork all up in his food to steal me a bite or two. What can I say, he is a far better sharer than I am.
Here you are enjoying some drinks with your husband and a few friends when the inevitable happens. You can see the bottom of your glass, like literally not one drop left bottom of your glass. You casually glance around looking for a server and even though you see many servers, not a single one of them are showing much awareness to your table and your desperate situation of needing another round. I will admit that it has taken so long at times that back in the states I would have been served 3 glasses to the 1 that has now been finished for quite some time. I am convinced my mom is reading this right now thinking that this isn’t so bad and maybe that 1 drink was enough, but my dad is reading this thinking that there is now officially no way in hell that he is going to come visit us in KL. Ha ha! It is just very unusual for us. Back in the states you are offered another drink when you have maybe 1/4 of a glass left. They keep an eye on you and make sure to offer you another round. It isn’t that they are being rude about it here, but it just doesn’t seem to be a priority. No one is really in much of a rush so the sense of urgency when it comes to restaurant service here is pretty leisurely. Due to this, we may just double up on drinks so the wait doesn’t feel as excruciating.
You Are a Bartender Right?
Antoine & I rather enjoy being able to belly up to the bar every once in awhile. It is not only an opportunity for us to talk and socialize with ourselves, but perhaps even the bartenders and other bar patrons. We have found here that the interaction between the bartenders and the customers are very limited. So much so that when you are ready to order your drinks and your food, you actually order from a server and not the bartender that is standing directly in front of you! It is a very odd feeling when you are ready for another round and the bartender is looking at you and your empty glass and doesn’t immediately come over to offer you another one. Instead you keep your eyes peeled for a server, ask for another round and then they walk a few feet away to put your order in with the bartender that is standing closer to you than the server you just ordered from. This is truly backwards and will never make sense to me. I am happy to say that we have become regulars at a local watering hole and the bartenders there do in fact allow us to order directly from them. Complete game changer! However they do make a cocktail that appears to have pieces of raw chicken hanging over the top on a stir stick.This just about had me running in the opposite direction! I was quickly informed when asked what in the world it was and kindly mentioned that I would never be ordering that, that the raw chicken I thought I saw was actually lychee. It is a fruit, but in my defense it is white and does appear rather fleshy. It originates from China and is very popular in Southeast Asia. I reluctantly tried it and it was actually pretty good. It is sweet with a combination of a fruity, floral, tropical taste.
Excuse Me. I’m Here to Buy, Why are You Not Trying to Sell to Me?
One thing that we learned very early as we were getting adjusted to life in KL was the sales approach when in retail stores or even restaurants for that matter. The only way to describe it would be ‘soft selling’ and yet I struggle with summing it up that way, because there is little to no persuasion happening so I guess it is more like ‘not selling’. It is very confusing. I think it ties in with the whole laidback approach that we have experienced while here. Sometimes it is nice and sometimes it is really frustrating.
So my husband and I walked into ALDO to try and find him some new sandals. They had at least a handful that he liked and a couple that he really wanted. He typically wears a size 12 shoe and so when he asked for a size 12 in the shoes that he liked, the lady went in the back and came back sandle-less. Our 1st observation was that when we entered the store, no one came to ask if we needed help finding anything. Our 2nd observation was that when they didn’t have the sandal in the size that he did like, there was no recommendation made to him for sandals in his size that he might like. We thought maybe we had just dealt with an inexperienced saleswoman, but this didn’t just happen at ALDO. It happens just about everywhere. Don’t get me wrong, the employees are cordial and willing to help with what you are looking for, but they definitely seem to be okay with you leaving the store and not buying anything. It really is the same in restaurants as well. There is no hard sell for appetizers, or strong recommendations for specials or a push for dessert at the end, let alone ‘another round’ of cocktails being relentlessly pursued. I guess at times it is a bit of a relief to just be able to walk around and truly browse until I find what I am looking for or eat and just order what I want and nothing more. But part of me is missing the pursuit and the drive and the sales oriented approach. This topic actually leads me to my next topic…..tipping etiquette.
To Tip or not to Tip?
The reason the above leads me here is because I wonder if there is something that I don’t know about the way employees here are paid versus our norm of the sales, commision and bonus approach. For the most part, Malaysia is a non-tipping culture. Tipping here is not expected. Crazy right? As a side note, I am not quite sure how I will handle coming back to the states to visit and having to tip 15-20% for good service! I will say that the service here for the most part is good. Some places are great and others a bit too relaxed which leads to a so-so experience. But I will tell you that when that bill comes and the server hovers you for you to sign and keep it moving, I get really uncomfortable. I quickly scribble my signature and hand it back, thus resulting in no tip. If I pay cash, I have read to leave the ‘loose change’. This could literally equate to 4 RM or $1 USD. I am almost relieved when restaurants do charge a 10% service charge, because it makes me feel a bit more comfortable. Another difference here is that when you are dining at a restaurant, typically you don’t have a permanant server. You might order from one, have your food brought from another, order something additional from another, get your bill from another and close out with yet another. So are they more able to do this and share customers because there isn’t that dependence on the amount of the tip? I have been told that the way they are compensated does somewhat offset the non-tipping culture, where in the states you make less and depend more on the tips that you make. It is just so opposite of how tipping is perceived in the states so I am not sure that I will ever be able to be comfortable with it.
Doctor Appointments – First Come, First Serve
Those of you that know us very well, know that our daughter has an arsenal of doctors. Yes she is doing fabulous, but does require routine follow-up appointments on a somewhat consistent basis. That being said, I thought that the hard part was over. I located all of the doctors that I wanted her see so I figured that it would be smooth sailing from here. I was so wrong. I would make an appointment for her to see a doctor at 9am. I would get a response that her appointment was confirmed for 9am-11am first come, first serve. So basically a 9am appointment means absolutely nothing. We have now gone to 3 different appointments with 3 different doctors and it took anywhere from 2-4 hours just to get through the full appointment. It is extremely frustrating. I have obviously accepted it because that is just the way it is and for our daughter, my husband and I would do anything. I just so miss the ‘your appointment is at 9am. Don’t be late’. This is something that I will not take for granted when we return to the states. We will be early and we will love it.
So here in KL, we call elevators ‘lifts’. I frequent the lifts often, not because I am lazy but because I am typically rolling with my girl Ariane and her stroller requires them. It is kind of funny, because when she isn’t with me I sometimes find myself waiting for a lift and then get really excited when I realize I can take the escalators with everyone else! So my only issue with lifts here is that it is basically a free for all. Imagine yourself walking up to a lift and being the one to press the ‘up’ arrow. Only to have 10 other people approach the lift also wanting to go up. As soon as the lift arrives and the doors open, it is like a herd of people bum rushing into the lift and not even caring if there are people already on the lift that need to get out. And even worse some people even ignore the fact that I was there FIRST and in my opinion should be able to get on the lift first, but that doesn’t always happen. I have also been the one on a lift when I arrive at my floor and need to get off not just with myself, but with my daughter who is in a stroller and have 10 people in my face wanting to jump into the lift when we haven’t even been able to get off. It drives me nuts. Needless to say there have been some toes run over by Ariane’s stroller just to prove a point. And I don’t hesitate to throw elbows when trying to hold my place in the lift entry line. If I press the button, it is my lift! And please wait for others to exit, before you bum rush the door.
Russian Roulette Anyone?
People who drive here are crazy. It is why I don’t drive pretty much at all. And as much as I say people who drive here are crazy, people who walk here because of how people drive here are just as crazy (I am one of them). Red traffic lights here seem to be optional. Not optional like the occasional person runs a red light, but optional in the sense that just because it is red doesn’t mean I can’t go. Specifically motorbikes. If the light is red and you are on a motorbike, it just means casually scope out the scene and if the coast appears to be clear by all means go through the red light. So as a daily KLCC walker, who is often times walking my precious cargo (Ariane), there is not the ‘look both ways and if the coast is clear you may proceed’. It is more like if the coast is clear, it isn’t going to be clear long so haul ass and look like a crazy lady with your head on a swivel until you get across the street! Even on ‘one-way’ streets where you should technically only need to look one way to see if there are cars coming isn’t the case here. You still need to look both ways because if you don’t a whole family on one motorbike might be heading your way, the wrong way, literally driving on the wrong side of the road! I say a whole family because it isn’t uncommon for a family of 3 to be on one bike. The child sometimes as young as a year. It just isn’t frowned upon here. It is the norm. When walking sometimes I feel like I am playing damn double dutch! Should I go now? Nope, not yet. How about now? Nope, not yet. Okay, how about now? Yes, yes now! And run really fast!
Teksi vs. Uber
Uber in KL is awesome. My experience with Teksis (Taxis) not so much. Also there is an ongoing, quite hostile fued here that exists between Teksi drivers and Uber drivers. Teksi drivers are not fond of Uber drivers. So much so that Teksi drivers openly harrass Uber drivers on occasion. I fortunately have never witnessed it, but have had Uber drivers be very specific as to where they will drop me off so that it is at a distance from Teksi stands. I even had one Uber driver that requested that I sit up front with him so he doesn’t look like an Uber driver. Fortunately, we recently heard that a Teksi driver can have his license revoked if caught harrasing or threatening an Uber or GrabCar driver (GrabCar is very similar to Uber). My experience with Uber has been great. I believe I even have a 5 star rating. The only really random experience I had with Uber was that shortly into the ride I heard a cough coming from behind me, which startled me a bit. I looked into the cargo space of the car and noticed what appeared to be a 4 or 5 year old boy taking a nap. It surprised me and yet at the same time it didn’t. As judgemental as we would be about this back in the states, here it is not abnormal or necessarily frowned upon. Rather it is a father trying to make an additional living for his family and doing whatever he needs to do to make sure it happens. Anyways, Teksi drivers here are not my favorite. They usually don’t know where they are going and just don’t seem to have the friendliness that the Uber drives have that I have come across. Team Uber.
I am confident that there will be many differences that we will come across during our time here in KL. However we are embracing our differences, finding humor in how different countries can be and realizing that perhaps there really isn’t a ‘right’ way or a ‘wrong’ way of doing things. Being different is in fact a beautiful thing.
It’s All About Perspective