Why I moved to Malaysia


An American
The Malaysian Insider
May 27, 2011

MAY 27 — An overwhelming wave of civic negativity is sweeping through Malaysia; not a day has gone by for the past two-and-a-half years without one hearing the drums of depression beating throughout the country.

And while the ranks of rejectionists swell, a small but increasingly loud group of people are barking back about the greatness, exclusivity and perfection of Malaysia.

It seems that in the midst of this civic recession and polarisation (a temporary and short-lived one, I hope) the media has failed to highlight the vast middle ground: the real Malaysia.

From my limited exposure to Malaysia, I have found the fabric of the country to be extremely resilient. Countless Malaysians courageously wake up every morning, enduring horrendous traffic jams to attend to their professional obligations in a timely manner.

Countless other Malaysians are also quietly but patiently laying down the building blocks of a vibrant civil society by setting up community grass-roots initiatives: neighbourhoods jointly working with the police force to ensure a safe environment, Malaysian youth congregating online in order to debate critical issues pertaining to Malaysia’s economy, society and well-being.

Hardworking Malaysians taking up one, two or even three jobs in order to cough up cash for their stacking bills and to keep up with an increasingly material and expensive life-style.

Malaysia rocked my 90s when the country used to make it to the forefront of each and every global newspaper and media outlet (for good reasons). I still remember my geography high-school classes when we intensively discussed the rise of Asia and Malaysia was constantly cited as an example.

Having spent my high-school years in France, a deeply socialist-minded country, my classmates and teachers were intent on seeing new countries challenge the crushing hegemony of the United States in the post-Cold War era we lived in.

My friends and I dived deep into Malaysia’s economic data making projections in order to forecast when and how Malaysia and Asean could become a global economic and geopolitical powerhouse.

The French — and Europeans — (at least on a student level) were in admiration of Malaysia’s leadership of the Non-Aligned Movement. My friends and I dreamt of being part of a country that aspired to change the status quo of the time: provide stability, wealth and services to its people but also striving to become the voice of a “third world”, then mired in poverty and desperation.

This was the Malaysia I knew. And the Malaysia I wanted to be part of. Be part of a success story. Not merely ride on one. But build with one.

And here I am, eight years later, working in Malaysia for a Malaysian company.

By the time I packed my bags and left the United States, I had become a lifeless robot dragging along an empty soul. I barely survived through an educational system which systematically upheld the value of success in a very superficial and materialistic way.

Malaysia was a wake-up call. Wandering through the streets of KL, I finally saw happy people, smiling and congregating around a drink as simple as “teh tarik”. Poor, rich, yellow, white and black, irrespective of any human denominator, entering their mosques, temples and churches to thank the Lord for, in the end, less material “blessings” than their Western counterparts. Outstanding!

Walking in the park and seeing families — mother, father, brother and sister — hand-in-hand enjoying a colourful weekend was a fantastic sight to behold. Hearing the call to prayer every early-morning, echoing through a sleepy Kuala Lumpur provided me with the conviction that Malaysia was a place where people would not surrender as easily to the endless and lifeless quest for consumerism.

My Muslim, Buddhist and Christian Malaysian friends sometimes excuse themselves from late dinners because they have to be back home signifying the sanctity of family and respect.

So as the debate over Malaysia’s future, economy, society and politics rages on, I urge all my Malaysian friends to take a step back and relax (just for a little, though). The little a humble French-American can share with Malaysia is that the defining platform for Malaysia’s success will ultimately be cemented in respect, love, simplicity and smiles.

Wander around your neighbourhood, help the elderly and needy. Give your seat to the disabled. Touch the burning forehead of an orphan, sympathise with his/her pain and give whatever you can give. And only then will you feel the soft and enchanting pulse of Malaysia: a place of contradictions, yes, but also a treasure for those who love simple things.

I love my Proton Persona because it’s a humble car that doesn’t pretend to be something it’s not. I love my “roti canai” because its bland taste is what makes it so wonderful. And I love my P. Ramlee songs because they constantly remind me that the fabric of this country, in essence, is one of peace, respect and modesty.

Do not be carried away by non-verified facts and emotions. I hear swirling statements about Bangkok and Jakarta being a better place to live than Kuala Lumpur. Or maybe Malaysians enjoy two- to three-hour commutes in Jakarta traffic?

Or maybe Malaysian families enjoy exposing their children to Bangkok’s blinding prostitution and decadent nightlife? If Bangkok is such a good place to live in then surely, Kuala Lumpur must be the seventh heaven. Let’s stay realistic and factual, friends.

I have seen countless Malay, Chinese, Indian and indigenous Malaysians thrive in the Malaysian corporate world. But none of us can expect fulfilling our ambitions, both professional and familial, without sweat, sacrifice, hard work and most importantly integrity, honesty and diplomacy.

I will always be thankful to Malaysia for teaching me what I believe to be life’s most valued motto: most of the time a lot is not enough, but little suffices. And Malaysia is a heaven for life’s most cherished yet basic moments: family, diversity, spirituality and affordable happiness.

Just be yourself, Malaysia!

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  1. #1 by undertaker888 on Saturday, 28 May 2011 - 10:19 am

    Well, umno Malaysia will not be so friendly if you were a Bangladeshi, a pendatang or a beggar. Umno Malays worship white people.

    they will give you a scholarship too without applying and with a smile thrown in.

  2. #2 by undertaker888 on Saturday, 28 May 2011 - 10:24 am

    Well, umno Malaysia will not be so friendly if you were a Bangladeshi, a pendatang or a beggar. Umno Malays worship white people.

    they will give you a scholarship too without applying and with a smile thrown in.

    dam captcha. It is already difficult as is, now they put in this double vision words.

  3. #3 by drngsc on Saturday, 28 May 2011 - 11:27 am

    Dear misguided humble French-American, is it so nice to see the Malaysia, the false facade, from the outside.
    Give up your green card, take up Malaysian citizenship, then you have truly moved to Malaysia. Visitors are quite different from citizens. I thought that you would know that. many facade looks great from the outside, but stinks and rot from the inside.

    We need to change the tenant at Putrajaya

  4. #4 by wanderer on Saturday, 28 May 2011 - 11:46 am

    You are right my white friend only until “The Ketuanan Melayu” concept was introduced by UMNO. The innocence was lost, hopefully, temporarily. You no longer will seea group gathering with a mixed of different races…now, it is more “WE” and “Them”
    …the self-claimed Bumis and the tolerant Non-Bumis.
    So White man balek where you came from!

  5. #5 by limkamput on Saturday, 28 May 2011 - 12:05 pm

    Are you sure you are not paid to write this? We are not short of phoney writers nowadays – writing things to line their pocket rather than from their hearts.

    What vast middle ground are you talking about? Do you know by popular votes, the majority in Peninsula Malaysia have voted for change in the March 2008 election?

    The fabric of the society is extremely resilient? Touch your heart, answer me: is this country at peace with itself? We have no open conflict no doubt, but are we at peace. I can’t expect an American, if you really are, to be that dumb.

    Hardworking Malaysians taking up three jobs; You should ask why many Malaysians have to work so hard and still can’t get anywhere. Where did all the money and wealth go? I guess they are not an expatriate like you – you know cosy job with juicy pay. Sometimes I wonder you really know your blessed position for being an American, and yet you dare come here to give your half baked views.

    You said none of us can expect fulfilling our ambition even though we work very hard and with integrity. Let me tell you this: in Malaysia, there are actually many who get filthy rich and high positions without lifting up a finger. Do you know, or you are just pretending not to know?

    Yes, like what drngsc said, if you really love everything about this country now, give up your US citizenship. Talk is cheap, you phoney.

  6. #6 by limkamput on Saturday, 28 May 2011 - 12:11 pm

    You love your Proton Persona, sure. But I love Volkswagen Passat for the same price if not for the moronic rent seeking, distortion and illegitimate profits being siphoned by the do-nothing well-connected asses.

  7. #7 by limkamput on Saturday, 28 May 2011 - 12:12 pm

    You love your Proton Persona, sure. But I love my Volkswagen Passat for the same price if not for the moronic rent seeking, distortion and illegitimate profits being siphoned by the do-nothing well-connected class.

  8. #8 by Jeffrey on Saturday, 28 May 2011 - 1:23 pm

    Lim Kam Put,

    The American writer has already prefaced his remarks by caveat of “from my limited exposure to Malaysia”. He does not claim he knows all…Besides he is just stating his impressions of daily life in Malaysia. He is not really talking of politics. He is talking of his impressions of “family, diversity, spirituality and affordable happiness” to which whether one agrees or not, he is entitled to his opinion. Just because you have a beef with the politics in this country and are frustrated and bitter, you would want to question the American, just because his views are not in accord with your negative sentiments of your country, “are you sure you are not paid to write this? and dare him to express his half baked views and call him “phoney”? This is an ugly Malaysian of closed mind talking here who does not countenance an opinion contrary to his, or else that person must be a paid agent. It is an extreme paranoia with an ability to disagree civilly, spewing intemperate remarks. Had there been more Malaysians like you, I am sure the American will change his mind and move out of Malaysia out of this trait alone that represents the worst in any Malaysian! Fortunately not all many Malaysians like you. Neither are those who comment in this blog!

  9. #9 by Jeffrey on Saturday, 28 May 2011 - 1:25 pm

    correction “…with an DISability to disagree civilly”

  10. #10 by limkamput on Saturday, 28 May 2011 - 2:05 pm

    My abrasive comment intended. Obviously we can interpret whatever way we choose of his writing. Let me just quote a few, if you said he is not indulging in politics. What are all these mean to you?

    1. ….civic negativity is sweeping through Malaysia; not a day has gone by for the past two-and-a-half years without one hearing the drums of depression beating throughout the country.// who is he referring to here?
    2. …It seems that in the midst of this civic recession and polarisation (a temporary and short-lived one, I hope) the media has failed to highlight the vast middle ground: the real Malaysia.// the vast middle ground, who are they I want to know.
    3. …fabric of the country to be extremely resilient.// on what basis he based his observation on? Are we at peace as a nation? who is he to come up with a conclusion like that?
    4. Countless other Malaysians are also quietly but patiently laying down the building blocks of a vibrant civil society by setting up community grass-roots initiatives: neighbourhoods jointly working with the police force to ensure a safe environment,// give me a break, we pay to our nose so that we can sleep better at night, how there he made such an observation. Who work with the police force to ensure safe environment?
    5. Hardworking Malaysians taking up one, two or even three jobs in order to cough up cash for their stacking bills and to keep up with an increasingly material and expensive life-style.// Is this something we Malaysians should be proud of. Is he telling us we should remain fools be exploited?
    6. I still remember my geography high-school classes when we intensively discussed the rise of Asia and Malaysia was constantly cited as an example.// Ya, may be in the 1990s we may hold such a belief. But have we not known by now the 1990s was a a-go-go 1990 with crony capitalism taking its ugly root? He is so dumb to see it?
    7. The French — and Europeans — (at least on a student level) were in admiration of Malaysia’s leadership of the Non-Aligned Movement. My friends and I dreamt of being part of a country that aspired to change the status quo of the time// what precisely is he admiring about – a third world tribal leadership?
    8. I think enough lah, Sdr Lim may moderate me again.

  11. #11 by limkamput on Saturday, 28 May 2011 - 2:05 pm

    sage my response to you is under moderation, damn.

  12. #12 by PoliticoKat on Saturday, 28 May 2011 - 3:15 pm

    Malaysia does have a nice veneer.

    So long as you can divorce yourself from the Malaysian government in her ministries, not religious and paid an expatriate salary , Malaysia is a beautiful place to live.

    PS. Be careful when driving in that Proton. Like Malaysia, Proton cars do have a nice (and so ver expensive) veneer. But if you have seen the crash test of various Proton models… well the words “flatten” , “accordion”, “OMG” do come to mind.

    But do not worry, if ever in an accident while driving a Proton, there are only two states you can be in. Alive and unhurt. Or dead and mangled beyond recognition.

  13. #13 by cemerlang on Saturday, 28 May 2011 - 4:14 pm

    Malaysians are very nice to white people but not that nice to their own citizens. So it is not surprising to know that you find Malaysians and Malaysia nice. Many people will envy you because you can live in so many places and if ever something big happens, you can always fly back to the U.S., safe and sound again because if there is one good thing that is maintained until now and hopefully forever, is democracy in your country. There is lack of confidence in the kind of democracy practised in Malaysia. We are ourselves. That is why people are asking for change. Malaysians want a change. They want to see a Chinese, an Indian for the Premiership. An Orang Ulu even. If you can have President Obama, why can’t we ? Can you explain why can’t we have another race to be our leader or is this unexplainable ?

  14. #14 by omeqiu on Saturday, 28 May 2011 - 5:08 pm

    Welcome to Malaysia, “An American”. I wish you will continue to appreciate what you are having now. Don’t listen to rumours, nor believe the main-stream newspapers. I’m sure you will find out the truth about Malaysia because you are educated and able to discern the difference between what you see and what is the fact.

  15. #15 by on cheng on Saturday, 28 May 2011 - 6:09 pm

    Give up yr US citizenship, then you can talk, you hv US citizenship as insurance , so can talk big, moreover, you are a white race, US most powerful nation on earth, UMNO scare scare lah, so….??

  16. #16 by on cheng on Saturday, 28 May 2011 - 6:12 pm

    Yes, Malaysia certainly great country, but surely NOT the present Malaysia govt !!

  17. #17 by Loh on Saturday, 28 May 2011 - 6:28 pm

    If Malaysia now is good enough for the writer, then he would have loved it more had he been here in the 1960′s. We want to go back to the future, and it is just not good enough to be better than USA or France now. All this is because of the lazy politicians who found the formula to enjoy power and wealth without having to work like their counterparts in other democratic nations.

  18. #18 by cto on Saturday, 28 May 2011 - 11:57 pm

    limkamput :sage my response to you is under moderation, damn.

    I may not agree with LimKamPut’s view but s/he deserves to be heard, no matter how misguided his/her view may be.

    This moderation stuff is essentially saying that the majority of the readers of this blog lacks the maturity to debate and think rationally. It is a vote of no confidence and I personally think that it is wrong.

  19. #19 by Jeffrey on Sunday, 29 May 2011 - 2:01 am

    The Moderator is not censoring/moderating LimKamPut in particular. I am sure every reader experienced moderation. If comments are arbrarily put on moderation (automatic) it is likely a technical problem arising from this blog using (I stand corrected if wrong) the word press haloscan system. There’s lots of complaints of this platform since taken over by company JS-Kit. I hope the blog management will get technical advice and migrate perhaps to another platform that gives less problems on its filtering system as the present’s arbitrary one . I said beore unrectified you will lose your commenters. Maybe some IT experts can suggest the course.

  20. #20 by Jeffrey on Sunday, 29 May 2011 - 2:11 am

    IF you’re using Haloscan, which had faithfully been providing free commenting platorm before Blogger.com could, please note that its now under the control of another company (JS-Kit) which is slowing turning it to a paying system. Look into the new technical problems/frequent complaints of its automatic moderating sotware that have since arisen under this platform under this company.

  21. #21 by Jeffrey on Sunday, 29 May 2011 - 2:26 am

    If the filtering system goes haywire to place ordinary comments on the comment queue for (say) no better reason than the posting exceeds a certain number of words, then the Moderator’s burden is made worse (not easier) in that he has to spend unnecessary time to release comments that ordinarily ought not to be placed on comment queue in 1st instance as if they were spams or contain profanities .

  22. #22 by cto on Sunday, 29 May 2011 - 2:38 am

    Any filtering software that is used operates on “rules” set. These rules could be based on phrases or login id or both. If the hosting company does not allow the owner to set the rules, then change to another company.

    Having said that, I do not believe that the process is completely automated as I have seen the moderator stepping in from time to time.

    The “networking effects” of the internet is based largely on contributions of public in general. Implicit in this, the internet in the early days was a platform for free speech and exchange of ideas – crazy ideas, bad language and all but it is mostly healthy and good. I doubt the internet will grow to the extent that it has if moderation was put in place and only the ideas of a selected few is deemed fit for the public.

    There is really no need for this blog to be “Kiasu”, in my honest opinion.

  23. #23 by limkamput on Sunday, 29 May 2011 - 4:20 am

    Manchester United is no class to Barca lah. I stay up to watch Man U lose. Those guys in Putrajaya no need to watch anymore.

    Never mind about the filtering or moderation. This site has lost its popularity a long time ago. Without commentators, any web site is nothing. Malaysiakini should know better. Comments made by readers there make more sense than seasoned journalists. What new insight can this site provide if not for the comments provided by commentators here. Where is godfather now?

  24. #24 by Taikohtai on Sunday, 29 May 2011 - 2:45 pm

    Many Aussies sing high praises for Malaysia too when they visited the country. Food is cheap, so yummy, so varied and so on. People are so polite and helpful.
    I tell them all the above is true because they are Mat Sallehs and only touching base on the surface. Delve a bit deeper and you start feeling the Ibrahim Ali’s Sh*tx3!

  25. #25 by wanderer on Monday, 30 May 2011 - 9:11 am

    The bottom line, “If you came as a tourist, you see the surface of a country projected to bring in potential visitors…and have them properly greased, to earn their dollars!” If you are a “Pendatang” susa lah……

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