July 6, 2008

#17 Being Late

Been waiting long? Get used to it. You've just been a victim of Malaysian timing. While other countries and cultures might have their own standards for tardiness, Malaysians definitely take the cake for being off time all the time.

While it may be customary sometimes to wait for your friends or acquaintances, Malaysians have set new standards for being consistently late. In fact, if you should make an appointment with a Malaysian, be there 30 minutes or one hour later than the time you actually scheduled. Even if you are a foreigner, Malaysians expect you to know their coded version of timing.

This problem with punctuality permeates Malaysian culture to the point that phrases such as "I'm on the way, on the way!" and "Nearby, almost there" are the most commonly heard sentences in and around the country. Malaysians will be late for job interviews, work, movies, dinner, periods you name it. However, there is an exception made for occasions that pertain free gifts or goods of any nature. These events normally evoke the early bird in Malaysians.

Given the perpetual dilatory of Malaysians, one would expect valid and even original excuses. Yet, the conciliations remain the same; traffic, work, bad directions, traffic again (both sides of highway). But what even Malaysians don't know, is that they are really late because subconsciously they enjoy the knowledge that they are the center of attention and that people are waiting for them. It makes them feel good to know people anxiously await their presence and they will milk every last possible second until they arrive (once they do, they will feign a profusely apologetic stance). By doing this, they create the illusion that they are too important to show up on time because they are busy juggling the hundreds of other events in their lives. This constant lateness lowers punctuality expectations and on a day that they actually turn up on time, their friends will be ever so grateful to them for it ("It's so thoughtful of you to show up AND be on time today!").

Malaysians also secretly revel in the fact that they have gained leverage on others because they were waited for instead of waiting for ("Yes!! I made them wait for me, suckers! I have the upper hand"). Being late is also a refined skill, like arriving late for dinner (to skip the small talk) just as the food is being served. This gives them great pleasure and allows them to personify the term "fashionably late" (although this is an oxymoron for most Malaysians).

9 comments:

synical said...

The three words you never want to hear from another Malaysian: "On the way".

neoh said...

this is malaysia cultural, always said ' on the way, another 1 min, another u-turn will arrive'...

Anonymous said...

Nowadays they sms "OTW"

B.H. said...

OTW, BTW.

All the way.

hafiz238 said...

:) This is an interesting observation on Malaysian culture. The worst is when they said they are on the way when they are still at home....

Chong Yew said...

dudes, it's the same if not worse here in Singapore. The Koreans aren't too particular of the time as well. I've been there. trust me.

Anonymous said...

A young female interviewee arrived for her appointment in my company ONE HOUR earlier than scheduled. She did not get the job. Management cited "unable to adapt to company culture" as the main reason for her failure.

M'sia's great.

starwish said...

haha yeah, its worse in Singapore. If we're meeting at 1pm, I actually mean 2pm.

Su said...

I thought this should be #1. Seriously, when I think of Malaysians (I am one), I think of "being late" first, rather than "studying abroad" (although I have been studying abroad for the bulk of my life).

This is such an annoying habit of Malaysians. Even those who live outside Malaysia (whom I've encountered in three different countries on three different continents) still insist on being late and always give the excuse that we are on "Malaysian timing".