Eating out in Australia eats up a chunk of change for average Joe

GEORGE TOWN: Fancy a roti canai and teh tarik for breakfast in Perth? That will be A$9 (RM27) for the roti canai and A$7 (RM21) for the tea.

In Perth, said resident Jerry Ch’ng, 52, such a breakfast would be a luxury for most Australians.

Ch’ng left Malaysia 14 years ago and is now an Australian who runs a cafe in Perth.

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In April, Ch’ng came back to Malaysia after many years for a holiday and found that “Malaysians are blessed with all manner of street food available cheaply at any time of the day”.

“It’s not that Australians don’t like eating out.

“Of course, eating out is a joy, but it’s just that it is so expensive in Australia.

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“There are no sugar, flour or cooking oil subsidies in Australia.

“Eateries must comply with many stringent by-laws, and that is a large capital outlay.

“The minimum wage for a waitress is A$24 (RM72) an hour.

“These add up to make eating out in Perth a form of privilege,” he said, adding that the A$9 roti canai in Perth looks exactly like the RM2 version in Malaysia.

Ch’ng said being previously Malaysian, he could see that the eating habits of Australians might give Malaysians some insights into how they could save some money.

“After migrating to Australia, I realised one huge difference about lunch.

“In Malaysia, wage earners want a steaming hot plate for lunch. In Australia, they wallop their lunch cold, whether it is a big sandwich or last night’s leftovers,” he said.He said that lunch at work for Australian wage earners was a simple affair of dinner leftovers, a thick sandwich, or large salads prepared at home with a can of tuna and water poured on it.

“Only the rich can afford bak kut teh or nasi kandar for lunch in Perth,” he said.

Before the phone interview yesterday, Ch’ng said he had just finished playing golf with a buddy and they ate at the club.

“We spent A$51 (RM153) for a plate of char koay teow and a plate of fried noodles with drinks.

“Maybe Malaysians think that is nothing for us, but it is not like that. Eating out is seriously a privilege and enjoyment in Australia. Not like in Malaysia at all,” he said.

He said in Australian primary schools, there are no canteens.

“From a young age, Australians are taught to bring lunch boxes. Bread, a slab of cheese, some fruits, a salad – that’s it.

“Maybe Malaysians can learn from this, because it will really bring down their food costs,” he said.

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