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Malaysia, Decades Behind Hong Kong

Posted by Simon Templar On Tuesday, July 07, 2009

I was away to Hong Kong recently. This was not my 1st trip there but this little island of nothing never fail to amaze me. Hong Kong is actually pretty much like Singapore, but Malaysians have this 'thing' against Singapore. So anything said in comparison to Singapore will not be taken seriously.

Hong Kong used to be known as a country of rude people. If you had gone shopping there years ago, browsing and flipping through items have better led to a purchase. Or else you are gonna kena from the auntie manning the store. Waiters and waitresses were infamous for throwing dishes around the table. And talking very loudly too as well. But Hong Kong today has left behind their arrogance and poor manners. The people of Hong Kong have changed to survive.

Many attributed this character change to the 1997 crisis. Hong Kong was hit really badly then. They are a global financial hub and a financial crisis will undoubtedly hit them hard. Property prices came tumbling down. Tourism also took a hard hit. Businesses everywhere were failing and it woke the Hong Kong people up. A very drastic attitude change was required to revive the little island of dim sums. I don't know how the government pulled it off but in a very short time span, Hong Kong took a very sharp turn in the attitude of their people.

Today, walk into any retail outlet and you will be greeted with a big welcome - foon ying kong lam, chui pin thai ha la... That translates to 'Welcome. Please browse around.'. And all said with some spirit and a smile. All their sales people are trained to do that - regardless of if it is a designer boutique or plain street wear store. You may even get greeted a few times in a single store. And the service is excellent. The sales personnel go all out to make sure that you get your size. And they are more than happy to remind you that so and so items are on discount. And if you purchase so and so number of items, you get additional discounts. And when you walk out, you get thanked in abundance. And it doesn't matter if you had bought anything at all. As a consumer from Malaysia, this is indeed a very pleasant experience.

Here in KL, we get uptight sales personnel at designer boutiques who think that they are some god sent angel simply because they have on them an Armani uniform. Or when you walk into a more humanly affordable store, you get poor service, or sometimes no service, because you are a cheapo who should scramble through a pile of clothes to find that medium size t-shirt. Apparently we consumers in Malaysia owe these stores a living. Of course you stumble upon some nice helpful sales personnel but that's because your stars and planets have lined in the correct position on that lucky day.

How often have you waved your hands to attract the attention of the waiters to fill up your glass of water? I had in many occasions walked to the serving counter to serve myself. There is only so long that my right arm can hang in mid air. Not in Hong Kong. You will be surprised at how quick service is offered. There is a simple reason to that - the waiting staffs are attentive. They are on constant look out for what the customers require. And food is of good quality too. In Hong Kong where rental and wages are crazy high, it is not easy to do business. I think the restaurant owners in Hong Kong must have found the right formula to success - serving quality food. In a competitive environment, quality is critical to success. Yes, it is true that the prices of food is expensive but that's because our Malaysian Ringgit has low purchasing power. I have travelled quite a fair bit and I dare say that at parity purchasing power, Hong Kong offers excellent food quality at their prices. In Malaysia, we have to pay through our sorry arse to sample some top notch food at some fancy restaurants. And most often than not, even with your blood drained and after losing a couple of limbs, the food is still below acceptable level. You see, in Malaysia, we owe the business operators a living.

What about cafes? This is going to be depresing. Hong Kong cafes provide better services than many Malaysian restaurants. I had a meal at Cafe de Coral - a popular modern looking chain of cafes serving very affordable food. You choose from a large menu on a wall, place your order at the cashier and collect your food at the meal counter. Pack as it may be, the entire process is quicker than your average visit to KFC. The workers at this cafe works at extreme quick pace. How they are able to cope with this speed day in day out is a mystery. But I guess that's survival. I confidently say that our average Malaysian F&B workers will not survive at this cafe. And did I mention that the food is pretty decent too?

Oh and a little extra on Cafe de Coral which I was pleased. Because of the sheer crowd, getting a table may be a hassle. But fear not cause the workers are so quick that the moment a patron gets up, it gets cleaned right away. What a departure from our Malaysian practice of begging the waiters to clean our table. Remember, this is a fast food cafe. When I had to wave to the auntie to come clean my table, lo and behold, she rushed over to my table, apologised and clean the trays in a blink of an eye. Yes, she apologised. She even wiped the table with a clean cloth when food is placed on a tray. I was very pleased. This is some good service.

We in Malaysia need a major attitude change. How we are going to do it I don't know. And I doubt even if the man upstairs know. We are in such bad shape. We need to revamp our schools and education system. Our government needs to wake up. The world is changing but we are not. In a truly level playing field, Malaysia will falter. There has to be a stop to protect our people especially certain overly protected ones. It is about time Malaysians get thrown into the sea and start swimming. The world will not wait for Malaysia.

7 Response to "Malaysia, Decades Behind Hong Kong"

  1. Scott Said,

    well simon im afraid things wont much 'change' in good ol bolehland. heres a coupla reasons why most western countries (i include HK here even though) because tipping is fair standard if not mandatory. better service = better tips. infact most waiters earn much more from tips than wages.

    2. in bolehland (& indeed most of the region) waiters & service workers are considered low menial labor & are not 'worthy' of respect. rude & unreasonable patrons arent exactly the exception.

    3. low wages low wages low wages. did i mention low wages??

    in the fact of such odds, i seriously doubt that anything will much change in the foreseeable future. o btw as usual, our beloved gomen leads by example


  2. Da Maniac Said,

    Good to see you back in action Simon. I was starting to wonder where have you been.

    I cannot help but to agree with you. Having experience working for a company which prides itslef in service over and above the rest, I'd say that Malaysia's service stadards are way below par.

    It is true that the attitude has generally changed in HKG in the past couple of years. You actually can tell the difference.

    Scott: I agree that tips may affect the level of service but there are some good examples of western countries which do not encourage tipping i.e. NZ or Australia, where the attitdue of the staff are still better. Don't need to be in a restaurant or a boutique, even the supermarket check out staff are way above in their customer service mentality. Low wages should not be always equate to low service. It's all in the mentality.

    Malaysian's are a sheltered bunch indeed. The mentality has been groomed that way since young that the world owes us a living, cos the gomen knows what is 'best' for us.

    Welcome back again Simon. I miss your swearing tho! Haha!


  3. Good piece of writing. I'm a foreigner living in Hong Kong for the past 8 years and certainly I never run out of good things to say about this city.

    Wonderful observation on Cafe de Coral and other restaurant staff. They are fast, efficient and now more courteous than they were before.


  4. zewt Said,

    u tak suka.... u pigi hong kong lah... :P


  5. shhh Said,

    zewt, many people out there in malaysia behave EXACTLY like you. this is our country & no one can ask us to leave.

    Why can't you just say: we should improve, we can do it, or even we will try to emulate from HK/spore in terms of their first class services.

    Having a comparison with another country gives us space to improvise, we should be grateful for the author for even giving us this pointer.

    I don't know what attitude young people have nowadays.

    'U tak suka. u pigi hk la'.

    Bloody hell...


  6. Da Maniac Said,

    Shhh: I think Zewt was merely mimicking one of the jokers in this country. Knowing Zewt...Hahah!


  7. shhh Said,

    second read, ya hor. My bad, sorry zwet!


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