Dining out goes beyond merely feeling hungry and heading over to a place to satisfy that hunger. It is seeking out new tastes, new ideas and being together with the loved ones in an ideal situation in wherein new experiences are likely to occur.
More so than the food, dining out is about the trip and the company you keep.
Malaysians, in particular, like going out to eat, primarily because cities like Kuala Lumpur have much to offer in terms of diversity of cuisines.
From going to Temerloh for some ikan patin then going back to Kuala Lumpur, the experience is usually so satisfying that you do not really mind the three to four hour travel time.
Today, we examine some very important points about Malaysia's love affair with dining out and why food and the journey for that food is such a unifying aspect that it has become somewhat of a sub-culture.
The trip, not the destination
Dining out has always been a universal thing to do whenever people have some free time on their hands.
Everyone, from every age bracket, can come up with at least a few fond memories of inviting friends and loved ones to visit a restaurant in some far-flung location just to be able to taste the establishment's exclusive offerings.
For many, it has always been more about the trip. It can easily be speculated that people who accompany each other on the road, no matter the level of closeness these individuals might have before a particular trip begins, form a unique bond through the shared experience.
Cooking, or the lack thereof
Another reason being pointed out to be the cause of the popularity of eating out in Malaysia over the years is that cooking has become more and more a chore to many Malaysians.
This, in no way, implies laziness on the part of Malaysians, but more of a testament to the availability of numerous options.
Slaving away over a stove-or microwave to reheat that prepackaged dinner-has definitely become the less attractive option.
One reason is that more people are spending most of their time at work while another factor is there are more and more restaurants and dining establishments that offer not just great food but at agreeable prices popping up. Details about new establishments are also available of the Internet.
Hence, when there is a more convenient option, we tend to pick that option more often than not.
The average Malaysian spends up to RM700 a month on dining out but this may vary due to the actual earning capacity of specific individuals.
At RM700, you can get you a lot of things, and it is arguable that eating out on a regular basis is becoming impractical, especially for certain sectors.
A packed lunch to work can help cut down on food costs. Preparing your meals in advance and including the expense into your grocery bill goes a long way to minimising what you spend on food.
There are other ways like buying snacks in the grocery by the bulk because it is cheaper and not going for upgrades in restaurant meals.
Another instance is cooking a lot and saving the leftovers for a day or two to eat for lunch or breakfast.
More than just food
However, we need to remember the average Malaysian is paying for more than just the food ordered: we are essentially shelling out that amount for an experience that can be determined as priceless.
When weighed upon the time spent with friends, or even some enjoyable alone time at a favourite restaurant, it is hard to gauge whether or not we are paying too high a price for activities that, in the end, provide not just physical replenishment, but also mental, emotional, and at times, even spiritual relief.
If RM 700 a month is the price of regular nights of relative happiness, then that is obviously a good deal, and looking at the numbers, a price that most of us are more than willing to pay.
The dining out culture is becoming more widespread in Malaysia, but given the circumstances and benefits of being a part of that culture, it really should not surprise anyone.
The only danger is the possibility that you might be eating out too much. Watch yourself against that.
Eating out is great, so long as you do not go overboard with the expenses.
If your wallet cannot handle eating out every day, then schedule one food trip every payday or every month. You do not have to completely cut it out of your system-you only need to practice a little moderation.
So make sure to stay within your means, never forget to appreciate the opportunities to eat out, and all of this will definitely be worth it.
This content is created by Nazirah Ashari for the readers of The Star. Nazirah is Head of Content at CompareHero, the leading Malaysian financial comparison platform, aimed at helping Malaysians save time and money. Visit CompareHero here