I have relocated from Shanghai to Kuala Lumpur for almost 2 years now. From a small cosmopolitan country Singapore to a major city Shanghai and a buzzing world in Kuala Lumpur. For the past 4 years, it has been nothing short of an adventure.
One thing that my friends love to ask me is what is life like between Malaysia and Singapore, what is the difference. Yes, I do get that question all the time. I mean besides the exchange rates at the current SGD$1 is to RM3. There is a vast difference between the two countries even though they shared a long history and are neighbours.
One major draw to me living in Kuala Lumpur is the local population here. I’m a Singaporean, and I love my fellow countrymen, but local Malaysian folks are just too friendly to ignore. I thought I would have a hard time socialising in KL, but I made friends so easily here! Whether it is at the baby fair, the queue for the restroom, at the supermarket even at a bookstore, people just chat you up easily and with no malice intent. It’s fantastic! I even ended up making friends from trading items in Carousell and Facebook! I have never experienced that in all my years living in Singapore. Singaporeans tend to keep to themselves and are warier if you do open up a conversation with a stranger.
Come on; this is pretty obvious. There is no safe place like Singapore (actually Vienna comes close). I do miss that I can wear shorts and tee, take a midnight stroll to the nearest 24 hours eatery without fearing for my life and safety. Whereas in KL, I’m usually home by 6 pm before the sunsets unless I am accompanied by a friend and escorted home to my doorstep. I don’t feel threatened or insecure, but I have learned even in Shanghai that Singaporeans have taken safety for granted, I know I had. Where else in the world can you find the latest iPhone or a laptop or a wallet unattended on a MacDonald’s table left by the owner for the purpose of reserving the seats as he queues at the counter for his fast food order?
There is no way of getting around using the public transport in KL. Yes, they have buses and subways, but they usually don’t end from point A to point B, your end destination. It boils down to really poor planning and not farsighted. Besides, the public transport is not safe and clean. It is no wonder that each family in KL have at least 2 cars. Uber and Grabcar’s businesses thrive in KL especially with regular patrons like me. In comparison in Shanghai and Singapore, it is easy to get around using the public transport and there is no need for anyone to drive on a daily basis. In fact, all my life in Singapore, I hadn’t felt the need to get my driving license. Simply because having a car is more of a want than a necessity.
You win some; you lose some in Singapore, a little country well known for its efficiency and productivity. Everything gets done fast and precise, but in exchange, the folks working the process is highly strung and stressed. It is a cold place where taking the time to smile and asking how is your day means another 1 minute of productivity cost. Most of us go through the mandated script of answering customers’ questions. No time for innovative and creative solutions, for a personal touch. Malaysians, on the other hand, have more warmth but they need to pull up their socks regarding efficiency! “I don’t know” and “I can’t help you.” often equals to their nonchalant voice subconsciously telling you “I don’t care.” It is the same answer you get even you escalate your problem 3 times above the hierarchy until you just give up. For good. The same attitude from government administration to banking to telco to consumables. So I learned to do what the locals do “Relax Lah.”
So speaking of “Relax Lah”, the life in KL is much simpler. Folks here in Malaysia are easily contented and go about life with each passing day. Singaporeans are cultivated from young to plan for rainy days and future. Since we started school, we worried about our grades and whether we can find a good job upon graduation. When we are in the workforce, we began to worry whether we are earning enough to afford to have a roof over our heads and to get married. Once we are married, we worried if we can afford to start a family. Once we have a family, then it’s our child’s education, parents’ medical care, our retirement… The worrying only ceases when you take your last breath.
Overall, I truly enjoy my time in KL, and I do miss home in Singapore as well. Both countries have its pros and cons; the best way is to focus on its advantages since you can’t change much of its cons except to whine and complain about it. To my friends and folks to love to ask me to choose between the two countries: I have only this to tell them – my home is where my heart is.
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