Saturday, April 07, 2007

Please lah, get it right lah! - about Malaysia/KL

I stumbled upon this article about KL comparing it with other cities such as New York, Paris and Los Angeles, and thought I'd reproduce it here as it's such an interesting article. Refreshing.

Please lah, get it right lah!
The Star

WALKING around New York City in the United States for the last couple of days got me to thinking about perceptions and how countries are seen by others.

Growing up, I remember always being aware of how I am seen – not as an individual but more as part of a group. For example, the mid to late 90s Bangsar was trendy, fun and most of all affluent. Yet, for someone who has lived in the area all my life, I used to take offence – and perhaps still do – at that perception.

“Happening? Those pubs were built over empty land I used to run around at, you know?” and “Please lah, when my father bought the house, not even RM100,000?” were my defence lines when people spoke of Bangsar as the most happening area of KL or referred to it as a “rich man’s area”.

Aglow: A file picture of the Empire State Building in New York.

While I still stick to my defence, I now also realise how petty an argument it is. Why not accept it for what it’s worth? Yes, it is a “cool, happening place” (much less now but nevertheless) and sure, the price of property has increased so I suppose mum and dad are worth a little bit more than they used to be.

NYC doesn’t have such problems. I was just talking to my American friend a couple of days ago who asked me what I thought of the city. I said the thing that captured me most was how accurate the perceptions of it is compared to some other cities.

Take Paris, for instance, or even Los Angeles. The former is often labelled the city of romance yet, unless you’re atop the Eiffel Tower at night, it’s easy to fail to see how beautiful it really is.

Los Angeles, on the other hand, or more specifically Hollywood Boulevard, is not as glitzy as I imagined it to be. In fact, the street only becomes glamorous a couple of times a year when the red carpet is rolled out for awards shows right in front of it.

NYC on the other hand is exactly how it’s portrayed in the mass media. Television series such as Sex & The City and Friends have immortalised the city.

Remember how hard it was for someone even like Samantha to get a table at a restaurant? Or how the only way to get attention in the city is to pretend you own a Porsche (think Joey from Friends).

Even the cold nights in NYPD Blue where shifty looking people roam the streets, taxi drivers scream at each other and smoke comes out of the manholes are all true.

Of course, not everything is negative. Believe it or not, I was taken aback by the warmth of the people (even the ones who look like the conventional thugs), the efficiency of the city and mostly, the worldliness.

Which makes me wonder what they all think about me and my country. Ten years ago, when the Internet became popular, I remember chatting to many people online who were surprised by the fact that someone from Malaysia had Internet access.

“Don’t you guys still live on trees,” I recall one person asking.

Then there’s the “I can't believe you speak such good English.”

These people obliviously didn’t know I speak Bahasa Malaysia and Cantonese too and that the average Malaysian speaks an average of two to three languages.

I used to take offence but there’s also a part of me that feels that we can’t completely blame them. Most Americans, and I’m sure many people from other parts of the world, had little to refer to when it came to our country.

Yet, we grew up watching movies that told us again and again what these people were like.

Perhaps things are changing. More and more Malaysian movies are being recognised globally. Sure, it’s only to a smaller audience at film festivals but that sure is a start.

What would be nice, however, is if these movies continued to portray Malaysia as the country that it really is – with both the good and the bad.

Because that is exactly what made it nice for me when walking around, demystifying this city, figuring out what was real and what wasn’t. I’d like to think that soon, all visitors to Malaysia would be able to do the same.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...