*chip on one's shoulder
idiom – the act of holding on to a grudge or grievance that readily provokes disputation.
See also: triggered
Editor's Note: Walter is an American writer based in KL and he is in love with Malaysia. He loves our country more than the most of us like rice and he doesn't hide it. So we thought, what better person to tear down any misguided preconceptions we might have had about our own country. It's time to remove the 'chips' from our shoulders. Starting with one of the biggest of all.
According to the Cambridge Online Dictionary, to have a chip on your shoulder means "...to seem angry all the time because you think you have been treated unfairly or feel you are not as good as other people.” Wikipedia further defines it as “...holding a grudge or grievance.”
I’m not here to give personal advice to anyone regarding any chip you might have on your shoulder because of some wrong your girlfriend did to you over the weekend or what your boss does to you every day in the office; I’m not smart enough for that. The chip I’m talking about is the collective “chip on the shoulder” of Malaysia!
Throughout my years of living in and loving my adopted country, it’s always amazed me that many Malaysians don’t have the most positive of views regarding their country.
I tell my friends back in the States that sometimes Malaysians “can’t see the forest for the trees”, meaning they look at the problems the country has and can’t get past those problems to see all the magnificent things Malaysia has to offer; to themselves and to the world.
My Homeland is the Gold Standard for Problems
I know all about looking past all the problems a country has and focusing on the positive. I come from America! We gave the world Donald Trump, for goodness sake! America, collectively, has more problems than just about any other place on earth. And yet, it is still one of the greatest countries of them all.
And Malaysia is one of the greatest nations, too! Malaysians need to stop trying to compare their country with other countries, because quite frankly, you can’t! Malaysia is unique in its own way. If America is the melting pot of the world, where cultures come and try to assimilate, then Malaysia is just the opposite.
Over the centuries, people from places like Sumatra, China, India and Europe and others who have settled in Malaysia have kept their own cultures, which has turned this country into the vibrant, colourful and fascinating place it is today.
Discarding That First Chip
So, my Malaysian and expatriate friends, the time has come to start chipping away at that proverbial chip on the “shoulder of Malaysia", and the first "chip" that needs to be discarded is this: Stop comparing Malaysia to our neighbours to the south. Yes, I’m talking about that compelling dot on the map, Singapore.
Whether it’s Kuala Lumpur trying to compare itself to The Lion City
or comparing the whole of Malaysia to Singapore, STOP IT! It can’t be done! I can’t even compare the United States to Singapore and come up the winner in a lot of categories.
Being Fully Developed is Not Always a Good Thing
Singapore has been a fully developed nation for decades now, while Malaysia is just a few years away from that lofty goal. As reported by CBS News
, Singaporeans have had to pay a hefty price, literally, for that status, as the Economist Intelligence Unit
’s study published in March of this year showed Singapore as the most expensive place to live in the world.
The ranking is based upon the study’s calculation on the prices of one-hundred and sixty products and services. Numbeo.com
reports that a three-bedroom apartment in the city-centre of Singapore will set you back an average of RM16,470 per month, while the same type of apartment in the KLCC area here will cost an average of RM4,487, almost four times less. If I took a job in Singapore making what I make in Kuala Lumpur, I could only afford to live out of my car! But then again…
I Can’t Afford a Myvi in Singapore
Based upon an exchange rate of RM3.08 for every Singapore Dollar, there is no way I could afford to own my five year old yellow Myvi in Singapore, much less a Toyota Corolla Altis. Website ValuePenguin.com
reports, with figures from April, 2017, that an Altis would cost RM323,394 to purchase, RM5,603 a year for insurance, RM1,913 for first year servicing, RM2,285 Ringgit for yearly road tax and RM7,210 a year for petrol. The total costs for a owning and driving a small Toyota in Singapore? A whopping RM340,405 (SGD110,521.10)! Now you know why Singaporeans clamour to live close to MRT stations! Malaysians (and Americans) love our cars as is evident by the more-than-occasional traffic jams in both countries. Having to give them up our cars due to the costs of ownership would be giving up a huge part of our freedom that is even more important to us than our Myvi’s and BMW’s. Just as important to someone who loves Malaysian food, I could buy over 46,000 servings of mee goreng in Malaysia for the same price as a small car in Singapore!
I Like to Watch TV, Not Be On It
Be careful of dropping a candy wrapper or smoking cigarettes in public in Singapore, as according to The Straits Times
report, that there are over 62,000 police CCTV cameras just in public housing units alone. There are even some websites, including Quora.com
that suggest that the number of CCTV cameras, both public and private, number well over one million on the island nation! There is no telling what the people who are monitoring these devices are seeing every day and I, for one, don’t want to know. I guess a lot of people make a living indulging in voyeurism.
I Like Disney World, but…
One of the reasons I love going to Disney World is to escape the “real world” for a few days; to enjoy a setting where everything is sanitised; from the cleanest of streets to little or no crime, to no problems with traffic. I refer to Singapore as a real-life Disney World, because Singapore is like that, too, but it’s not how the real world operates.
For me, the reality that is Kuala Lumpur is something that stirs my adrenalin like few other places on earth. Whenever I go away from KL, I always look forward to coming back to the true, authentic realness, the in-your-face grittiness and the cool and exciting craziness that is Kuala Lumpur. I guess I have a thing for reality.
A Fellow American Agrees with Me
An American acquaintance of mine recently started her first-ever backpacking trip through Southeast Asia in Singapore. She was so taken aback by what she thought of as the “coldness” of the place (citing Singaporeans that she thought acted more like unfriendly New Yorkers), an “unreal” setting for a city (saying it was TOO perfect, which took all the fun out of it) and the lack of taste in the food she tried (maybe too many noodle dishes?) that she almost decided to skip coming to KL.
Through her experiences in just a few short days in Singapore, she actually became worried about what she might encounter in Malaysia. After all, she felt as though Singapore was more like any North American big city than what a true Asian country should feel like.
Lucky for her, Malaysia did not disappoint! Her experiences throughout Kuala Lumpur and Penang were literally just the opposite of what she encountered in Singapore, and she too, like so many others, fell in love with Malaysia!
Even weeks after leaving our fair country and while she was in Thailand, she waxed poetically online about how much more she enjoyed the tastiness of Malaysian food, the friendliness of the Malaysian people and the diversity of Malaysian geography than she had in Singapore. A lot more.
I agree with my travelling friend. Malaysia is real. Real good. Really, really good. Kuala Lumpur is not constantly ranked in the “Top Ten” of the world’s most visited cities and Malaysia is not a top tourist destination for people the world over for nothing!
Of Trees and Grass
“Chipping away” at the collective “chip” on Malaysia’s “shoulder” will allow all of us to be able to stop long enough to not just see the trees, but the forest, too! You’ll be surprised at how your country will start looking to you, just as it already does to me, and just like it has to the millions of people from around the world throughout history that decided to be a part of this great social and cultural experiment called Malaysia!
I promise you, “the grass is not always greener on the other side”.
You may find Walter's books,
Finding Myself: The Adventures of an American in Malaysia and
Finding My World: The Further Adventures of an American in Southeast Asia and Beyond in MPH. E-mail your grievances to him, at firstname.lastname@example.org