Can you believe that after seven months since my return to you, people are still asking me why I came back? Just last week at breakfast an auntie asked me “Why don’t you continue working there? Malaysia economy and politic is so bad now, stay in New Zealand better.”
You’d be surprised how many people have asked me this question. Funnily enough, most of them either haven’t been to New Zealand or were just there on a short holiday. I never understood how someone can automatically assume another country is better than their own when they haven’t actually lived in that “better” country.
I guess every country is amazing when seen through Tourist Goggles. If they had seen the homeless people and property inflation during their New Zealand holiday, they might think differently. One in every 100 Kiwis are homeless, living in some really dodgy towns way off the tourist route. I’ve met some of the homeless and minimum wage earners and I’ll tell you this, their anger towards their government is as real as ours.
Actually, if you think about it, it’s not that surprising that people ask me to go become a New Zealand resident. Just look at the number of people who have left you. Now go count the number of people who are trying to leave you. I’ve met one too many Malaysians in Auckland who have given up on you to become proud holders of a coveted New Zealand passport. They’ve lost so much hope that they don’t think their votes would make any difference. At least in New Zealand, their voice still matters.
It’s not your fault, Malaysia. You are gorgeous. You’ve given birth to a nation of foodies and passionate children who will never give up the good fight, no matter how many times they get arrested. It’s those people managing you who are discrediting your good name. It’s a shame; you are worth more than your missing RM2.67 billion.
Do you hear that ringing sound? The Brain Drain Alarm is real. But I’m hitting the snooze button on my alarm for now. As much as I loved New Zealand, and I really do adore it, I am staying put for a while. I won’t lie, I turned down a couple job offers for you.
Why? Well, there are a few reasons why I chose to return to Malaysia.
Firstly, I was really craving for some good bak kut teh.
Secondly – and I think a lot of people forget about this – you have so much potential. Let’s face it, you’re a baby with a lot of maturing to do. There are park benches in England that are older than you!
There’s so much development in your young industries right now, the startup ecosystem for one, that I find it such an exciting time to witness you go through puberty. There are plenty of work opportunities out there for those who are hungry and willing to work. Admittedly, the salary may be less than the minimum wage in New Zealand, but the opportunity for growth, experimentation and impact are electric.
If you were wondering, I am currently at a very uncomfortable kebab stall in the middle of a mall typing this away on a Friday night. Malaysia, you taught me to become a tireless, hardworking machine to never stop reaching until I achieve my successes. The work culture in New Zealand may be a million times better (read: dramatically better work-life balance), yet my gut tells me that it is more possible to achieve my goals here than if I were to enjoy my dream life in New Zealand.
I’m not sure why my gut says so. Maybe it’s because the work culture in New Zealand is so laid back that my Asianness repels it like a plague. I’m only 26 and have only just started building my career. At this stage, I want to be surrounded by a community with more drive.
It could also be because of the bamboo ceiling; the unconscious bias in the workforce against those of us who are yellow in white man land. I’m not saying this just to make you feel better, Malaysia. I’ve actually had friends who were sidelined because of their skin colour. They tell me they had to work harder (as if they haven’t already) to get to where their peers of equal or less expertise are. Well, if I’m going to be treated as a second-rate citizen there, I might as well be treated as a second-rate citizen back home.
But then again, I am telling you all this from the life of a single, young 20-something hungry for growth. I don’t blame other Malaysians for leaving you. It’s tempting; life overseas can be better especially if your priority is quality of life, legal equality, better money, better social services, and better education. Geez… Now that I saying this out loud, why am I still here?!
You can call me an “idiot” though I much prefer the term “blindly optimistic”. For now, I am young and foolish enough to be able to afford some discomfort. After all, when you love something, it’s hard to give up on it just like that. You have some problems that we need to sort out, nonetheless I’m proud to be your anak.
I would, however, consider retiring in New Zealand. No offence to you, but it might be nice to have a little change of scenery after maybe 50 to 60 years of toiling here. I think it would be lovely to experience life in a four-season country rather than a tropical country for once. Spend some chilly winter evenings curled up by the fireplace instead of moaning that it feels like I’m living in a fireplace might be a nice change of pace.
Don’t worry, no matter where I end up in the world, I would never give up my passport. I will always keep my proud joy to say that three little words the people in your office don’t say often enough: “I am Malaysian.”
Read about my life in New Zealand :
Why I Quit My Job And Flew To New Zealand For Half A Year
How Did 9 Months Travelling New Zealand Change Me?
I Fell In Love With Hiking In Malaysia After Hiking In New Zealand
I’m dedicating meimeichu.com to honest travel stories that’ll teach and inspire. If you like traveling through my stories and photos, do follow my personal Facebook and Instagram profiles where I share more of my life.