It is my fifth year in Malaysia since I returned from Singapore and Australia after a long stay for educational and entrepreneurial purposes. If I wasn't writing this article, I probably won't realise that it has been such a long time since I moved back home too. How time flies.
I moved to Singapore when I was 13 years old and living alone made me a very independent person today. Singapore is safer and is regarded as a more advanced country compared to Malaysia. I was forced to grow and had the opportunity to handle various administrative works at a very young age. I had to register myself to a school, apply for a visa with the governmental bodies, make appointments for health checkup as well as pay and manage my bills and pocket money all by myself. Sometimes, I learn my lessons the hard way especially when I have to sort out my accommodation with multiple rental agencies because some just don't work out.
I managed to do all the responsibilities above smoothly not solely due to my independence but mainly due to the efficient processes which were already well implemented in most Singaporean companies and working culture. Any application that I needed to go through were all well documented with crystal clear steps and checklist. All I had to do is to follow them before making the submission and I think that's pretty straightforward.
Later on, I moved to Australia, another highly progressive country like Singapore and of course, has a similar structure except the only difference is that Australia also comes with fantastic customer services. They serve everyone professionally even if you are not their customers. I still remember the time when I needed to buy a food processor when I was into baking back then. I stepped into one of the biggest home retail shops and apparently, they do not have the brand that I was looking for. Instead of telling me 'no, we don't sell this brand', the shopkeeper introduced me to the other home retail shop that offers products of the brand. Besides that, another wonderful culture that I have experienced in Australia was greeting and expressing thanks generously. For instance, the first time when I was using a public bus in Melbourne, everyone would say 'thank you' to the bus driver before they alight. To think about it, shouldn't you thank them for sending you to your destination safely?
Anyway, greeting seems to be like an awkward thing to do in Asia. I always say 'hi' to someone I walk past in the park and say 'thank you' loudly to my servers in the restaurants and shock will be evident on their faces as they look at me as if I was some sort of alien. But don't worry, they will get used to it eventually and then return my greetings too.
Moving back to Asia from Australia wasn't very comfortable for me in the first few months. Perhaps, the term I should use is 'reverse culture shock' as it took me a while to readapt to the local culture. The culture where I can't get any straight answers about a process or procedure for any application, can't seem to find more relevant information online about a business or an application nor can I receive frequent friendly greetings from servers and shopkeepers. Some of the people I met were so laid back and lack professionalism yet most people seems to be fine with the standard.
No, I am not accepting such standard. Why should I? I am most probably going to live in Asia, especially Malaysia, for a long time or even forever. It is only my loss if I don't try to build the environment that I want to live in.
Many Malaysians like me are really lucky to have the opportunity to experience different cultures in foreign countries. Many Malaysians like me have a dream to make our country a better place. We are connected deeply to the root of our motherland and see the opportunity of growth. The perks of living in a developing country are abundant as there are so many things that you can do, try, explore and change. Believe that you can and you just have to do it.
I still remember all the emails that I have received personally when my partner and I were running a cabling business in Singapore. Back then, we were the only cabling business selling retail cables online with a professional e-commerce site in Singapore. Majority of the other businesses were either selling their goods in a traditional way such as door-to-door sale or list their products on popular online marketplaces such as Gmarket, eBay and Gumtree. We find those platforms good for advertising and promotion purposes but when it comes to the operations or customer service, they aren't the best. Many customers contacted us to show their appreciation towards our quality of customer service and some even said that they were surprised to receive such quality service locally. What we did wasn't anything special and we were just doing our job in a more professional level. With the online website, we managed to include all details of our products with high definition photos and customers' reviews so that our customers know exactly what to expect. They can purchase the goods anytime they need and even receive it the next day because we insist on delivering everyday even if the volume of orders is not high. With the usage of software, we get to send the goods to our customers with little to no errors and even make complex tasks easier to understand. Hence, we can get more things done in a lower cost as we do not need to hire any experts to understand and work with our software.
These experiences are priceless and helped us to find distinct ways in smoothing our business operations as well as understanding the importance of professionalism in both company image and the ability to deliver great customer service. I think that even small companies should practise high levels of professionalism since day one.
To all Malaysians who are reading this, especially ones that had the chance to live overseas and returned back to Malaysia, I hope that you too, have the ambition and aspiration to help Malaysia grow towards a modern and efficient country.