Culture Shock, Part 2

So here we are, a little more than 2 weeks into living in KL.  After the initial culture shock wore off — things like remembering to walk on the left side of the sidewalk or hallway and using the malls to do all of your shopping, including for groceries (read that post here) — we started to settle in to some normal routines.  Micah goes to work, I sometimes work (sometimes at home and sometimes from a coffee shop), I take an afternoon stroll, and sometimes I acquire ingredients for dinner or other necessities like cheese, bread, and wine.  We also try to plan some outing for the weekend, so I spend time figuring out the logistics of which train to take, what time to leave, etc.

Last week we started to think “yup, the shine has worn off,” before we realized it was really the next wave of culture shock and adjusting to our new environment.  I got annoyed at tourists for being at the mall (which is admittedly a tourist destination) where I buy groceries.  Seriously?  Why do tourists go to the mall?  Wait, better question: Who goes grocery shopping at the mall?!  People in KL do, that’s who.  You better get used to it, or get used to walking a little farther to the less touristy mall.  Micah got annoyed with everyone working on “Malaysian time,” which generally means they aren’t in a hurry to do anything.  It’s frustrating that transactions that we think should happen quickly take a long time, but we are the guests and we need to adjust our thinking.  We aren’t in Texas anymore, as it were.

When I realized what we were really reacting to, that it was really just more culture shock, we started talking about what else baffles us about KL.  By unanimous agreement, we are both confused about escalator behavior.  All of the malls are multiple stories, usually 6 stories, and each level is connected by escalator.  Micah and I grew up around escalators, they are nothing new or confusing to us, and they probably are fairly self-explanatory to a lot of Americans.  But apparently there are a lot of tourists here who don’t have much experience with them and therefore aren’t sure how to approach it.  This shocked me.  We came face to face with this realization when we were trying to grab some dinner at our favorite hawker market (in the mall) and there was a huge group around the top of the escalator to go down a level.  There was a middle-aged woman in a sari at the top of the escalator, apparently not getting on it and subsequently blocking everyone else from getting on.  I thought her sari might have gotten stuck in the rails, but I couldn’t figure out why no one had hit the emergency stop button and also why the security guard was just watching instead of helping.  Turns out she was just afraid to step on it.  Huh?

The other piece of escalator behavior etiquette that I can’t explain is people stopping at the top of the escalator.  I mean, right at the top.  They take that first required step off the stairs, and then … just stand there.  “Buddy, you know there’s about a million people behind you?  And you know that there’s going to be a pile up unless you take about a half dozen more steps?”  It seems like common sense.  I used to ride escalators for fun when I was little.  I’m familiar with what happens when you reach the top – you keep moving out of the way.  Apparently not everyone knows this rule.  The malls here are huge.  Did I mention they are big?  They are gigantic.  So people frequently need to pause and consider where they are going as it is very easy to get lost.  I get that, I need to get my bearings too.  But please either move to the right or the left while you do it!

Didn't bring your compass to the mall?  At least take a few more steps before trying to locate the North Star please!

Didn’t bring your compass to the mall? At least take a few more steps before trying to locate the North Star please!

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2 thoughts on “Culture Shock, Part 2

  1. azingsadain

    This is funny! I am a foreigner here in KL as well. Indeed in many Asian countries, malls are the thing! Almost everything is put into malls. I would know since I am from the Philippines which has one of the biggest malls in Asia and in the world. They put so many shops, shoe makers, dress makers, repair shops. It’s almost as if everything you need is there. So it’s only normal that people would gather in such a mall. It would become crowded and very confusing to go around to.
    One of the things I believe is the reason why malls are so popular in these areas is because nobody wants to stay outside for too long. Like if you just want to hang around or walk about leisurely, it would become too hot. You would sweat a lot and become sticky. That is very true in Saudi Arabia too.

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  2. Pingback: On Grocery Shopping | adventure pengembara

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