2 years of expat life here in Kuala Lumpur. And yes, another 2 years!
Here are a few things I’ve learned so far:
1) You should take off your footwear before entering a house. If you’re wearing socks, be sure it’s of the same pattern and color. And it doesn’t have a hole. Especially when you’re visiting your girlfriend’s parent’s house. (Countermeasure: Say that you’re into J-Pop fashion). And if you’re not wearing a pair of socks, make sure your toenails are clean. And your feet don’t stink like hell. (Countermeasure: Say that the aroma of the neighbor’s cooking is making you feel hungry. Or fart to cover the stink of your feet. It has been scientifically proven by the US BFAD and the US Dental Association that fart molecules will absorb the rat smell. The smell of fart is more favorable than the smell of a dead rat.)
2) Don’t draw an imaginary rectangle using your fingers to ask for the bill. The waiter will give you the dessert menu or the wine list. Instead, scribble onto thin air with your imaginary pen. To make it appear more sophisticated, act as if you’re taking your imaginary pen from your pocket, and before scribbling, remember to take off the cap of your pen. Make sure that the person watching you doodle onto thin air knows that your pen is MontBlanc.
3) Ask for tomato sauce. Not ketchup. If you ask for ketchup, they will give you soy sauce. Better yet, go to McDonalds and get packets of ketchup. And just like rubber, put one or two in your wallet or bag in case of an emergency.
4) Bikers are kings. Even if you’re driving a BMW 7 series or a Ferrari Enzo in the KL thoroughfares, the bikers are still kings of the roads. Give way to them all the time, like the damn VIPs in a motorcade. Before cutting to your left or right, ensure that you rotate your eyeball 180 degrees to get a full lateral vision. The side mirrors only give you a limited view. These bikers are like hyenas which appear suddenly out of nowhere. Remember, if you hit them, you get more damage than they can get.
Try to deflate your alpha-male ego once in a while and learn from the episode in the National Geographic or the Animal Planet about the lions. The lions, being the kings of the jungle that they are, still know when to stoop. In that episode, the lions were feasting on a water buffalo when a pack of hyenas gate-crashed the banquet. The scared lions flee the scene with their catch not even half-eaten. These hyenas are dangerous and fierce despite their diminutive stature. Actually, it just occurred to me that the hyenas were making noises like the revving of motorcycles (with the pitch one or two octaves higher).
5) You are not legally and morally, even spiritually, required to tip. In some countries, tipping on top of the service charge is obligatory. In Malaysia, no. Locals would even scold you for tipping. And even if the 1 or 5 sen coins are going to make your wallet bulge, take all of it and save it for the Buddhist monks asking for alms in Jalan Alor. But before giving money to these monks, make sure that they have their ID -- the colorful woven bands which they give away in exchange for alms (and make sure you give them at least 5 RM or else they will pray for your eternal damnation). Lots of con artists are shaving their heads and wearing orange robes just to get easy money.
6) When taking a cab, be sure to have small change to pay for the fare. If your fare is 6.50 RM and the smallest bill you have is 10 RM, say goodbye to your 3.50 RM. The cab drivers are good actors. They would feign groping all over their body to look for change, and then they would tell you how hard life it is for a cab driver. And then you would cry and emphatize with the cab driver and give all the money you have in your pocket and wallet.
7) Iced Tea is different from Iced Lemon Tea. From where I come from, we just order iced tea and we get a refreshing lemon iced tea. But here, order iced tea and you will get tea with ice--literally.
8) Condition your sense of smell (only after intensively training your digestive system to become stronger). When taking the bus, train, taxi, the lift (especially) and even when walking in crowded places, remember to inhale vehemently. Hold your puke up to the esophagus' level only. If the puke reaches the vicinity of your throat or tongue, swallow it back as if your life depends on it. This exercise will buff up your digestive system and give you back your appetite. Once you feel that your digestive system has "six packs", then be a more well-rounded person by painstakingly conditioning your mind that the combined aroma of a million rotten onions and decomposing corpses smells like my Dunhill Blue perfume.