“Malaysians are unfriendly!” scoffed the Englishman.

“Oh?” I said.

Perhaps I knew the reason why he thought this.

“Maybe the people you met weren’t Malaysian,” I said. “The ones you met in the restaurants and eateries were probably foreigners from Bangladesh, Myanmar, Pakistan and the Philippines. They’re not likely to be happy working in Malaysia with poor pay, bad conditions and missing their families. We, Malaysians, are actually very friendly.”

“I didn’t know you had so many foreign workers.”

There may be as many as 5 million foreign workers in Malaysia and, unless you’re a local, you can easily mistake them for Malaysians. I wonder how many other tourists shared the same thoughts about these “unfriendly Malaysians”. Of course, I’ve met friendly foreign workers too, but they seemed to be in the minority.

“We’re multiracial,” I said. “So we’re very tolerant to foreigners and those of other cultures. So we’re mostly very friendly. And, of course, we speak English too!”

“Yes. That’s a real plus.”

“It is.”

But then, as I took my leave, with all the stuff going on in Malaysia, I wondered how friendly we would continue to be.

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