Yes, the grass is really greener elsewhere

  • Letters
  • Wednesday, 19 Jun 2019

WHEN I first heard the phrase “The grass is greener on the other side”, I wondered if it was really true and why. How could people who were born and bred in one country feel like another is somehow better than their own? I thought it was not possible.

However, after living in Austra­lia for more than a decade and observing the way of life there, I can sort of see this better “greenery” in small things that some might not even realise or just take for granted.

Head to a supermarket, grab yourself a bottle of milk and a loaf of bread, go to the counter (if you decide to communicate with someone instead of a machine at the self-serve counter) and present your purchases.

“Hi, how’s it going?” would be the first thing you hear from the person at the counter. This is the common expression used by Australians which basically means “Hi, how are you?”

It’s not that they really want to know or hear about your life story or because it is their job in customer service, but it has become a norm for them to say this when meeting someone. As you prepare to leave after paying for your purchases, you will hear the words “Thank you, have a nice day.”

When I returned to Malaysia for my annual long break recently, I visited a supermarket. As I approached the counter to pay, the cashier was not only talking (loudly) about her personal life with her colleague nearby but she also did not even look at me, what more greet me. I knew this was the norm here and I did not expect much, but a simple smile or “Hi” would be good enough. Their conversation continued throughout, mind you. When it was time to pay, I asked her for the amount as I could not see it from where I was standing. She turned the screen towards me and pointed out the price without saying a word. There was no smile either, just a serious face as if I owed her a million dollars.

As she returned my money, nothing was said to me as she continued talking to the other cashier. Even her head was turned towards her colleague while her hands were returning the money to me.

Imagine getting this kind of service from someone when you are having an especially bad day. It felt like I was intruding upon their conversation even though I was not in the wrong.

When this happens, I would usually say “Terima kasih” or “Thank you” sarcastically out loud. Some would get the hint but others would not.

I do not think it is that hard to open your mouth to say thank you or just give a smile. It is simple things like this that can set us apart. If we cannot apply small gestures like these in our daily lives among our own people, who would?

We should not accept this sort of behaviour as normal or “Malaysia like that one lah.” No, Malaysia should not be like that.

Don’t get me wrong; not everyone is like that, but I have encountered a few of these people. I love my country, the people, food and everything about it, and I am proud to call myself a Malaysian. Malaysia is always home.

I believe that with the right approach, we can make small changes to be able to stand tall and proud in the eyes of the world. “Dream big, start small, act now,” (Robin S. Sharma). The grass should not be greener on the other side.


Perth, Western Australia

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