After three months living in Kuala Lumpur I am planning to return to Turkey for a couple of months before returning here to our apartment on 51st floor, overlooking the city. Therefore it seemed a good time to reflect on what I had learnt from my time here.
The first thing that I discovered very quickly was that people in South East Asia have much smaller personal spaces than in the west. Ar first I thought that people were rude not to move further away when passing, but I soon realised that they were happy to pass people in much closer proximity.
I also learnt that my work was not likely to suffer from the move. Already I have writing work that will easily occupy me for the next few months. I also discovered that I would still be offered long term contracts if I wanted them. When I declined, they still offered short-term work.
I have already discovered a lot about the various races that occupy this city. It is interesting to note how various races get on despite their different cultures. Indeed, celebrating other race’s cultures seems to be the norm. In fact, any excuse for a celebration seems to be the overriding culture!
The one race that seems less likely to integrate is the expat community. Whether it is historical, or whether they still hanker for the Empire, this is the one group that seems to integrate less than the others.
Kuala Lumpur has a wealth of cultural activities and plenty of interesting sites to visit, but the real treat is the range of food on offer. I reckon that, if you cannot get it here you cannot get it anywhere!
I also learnt more about our lack of green habits in the west. For the first time I have had to separate out items for various recycling bins in the residence. Amazingly, only about a mug full of waste does not go into one of the recycling bins each week. I probably should have known better before, but I certainly understand much more about waste now.
Health was another thing that impressed from an entrepreneurial point of view. Not only do they have good hospitals with the latest equipment, they also have clinics where hospital doctors serve some time each week. More importantly, these are made accessible by putting many of them in shopping malls.
I have already mentioned the driverless trains that allow you to travel around the city for very cheap fares. As a way of relieving traffic in the key central areas, the town provided a series of overlapping free bus services that get you to most of the commonly visited locations.
But, as a businessperson that constantly looks to the future, it is the technology that impresses. Here it is becoming all-enveloping. It has become such an integral way of life that even grandmothers and grandfathers on the monorail can text with two hands faster than most western pensioners can type.
In an era where remote controlled vehicles are likely to become more prevalent, I ride regularly on a light railway network that is driverless. I use technology to get into and out of the station without any human intervention and announcements on the train are triggered remotely. As a consequence, all trains run on time with a nine-minute gap between trains.
Cinemas are also totally human free, with tickets bought on line, and access to the cinema screen activated by a ticket on my mobile five minutes before the picture starts.
Malaysia’s Uber equivalent, Grab, is the transport of choice for many because it is cheaper than taxis, comes with a fixed price and can be summoned directly from your mobile telephone. Moreover, Grab has extended the model of finding a car for you to delivering takeaway, to in-town deliveries and even finding you a plumber, an electrician or a cleaner.
Grab is also just one of the businesses working with government to deliver the cashless society. As people convert to using applications such as Grab to pay in shops and restaurants, the government is incentivising them through adding one-time cash amounts to their accounts.
Everywhere one goes there seems to be the use of technology. Even our vacuum is an Artificial Intelligence robot that can sweep and mop and which can learn room layouts without human intervention. It can even be activated by a mobile telephone provided you have an Internet connection wherever you are.
I suppose that my overriding impression over these last three months has been of a multicultural society that has learnt to coexist in harmony, that celebrates life to the full and that is already looking to overtake some of the so-called leading countries.