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Stating The Obvious

Posted by on 18 May 2008

In my 15 years’ stay in Malaysia, one of the things that I noticed about Malaysians — especially the Malays — is how they like to ask or state the obvious.

Scenario 1: It’s 6 pm. I pack up my laptop, lock my room and walk towards the lift with my laptop bag and handbag in tow. I pass by one of the staff, who’s still working at her desk. She smiles at me and asks “Puan nak balik dah?” (Are you going home now, Ma’am?”) .

Scenario 2: It’s Saturday morning and I just get back from the nearby pasar tani (farmer’s market). I open up the car boot and unload fish, vegetables, tauhu (tofu) and fruits, which come in plastic bags of various colours and sizes. (Note: Had I shopped in Tesco, Giant or Carrefour, the bags would have been printed with the hypermarket’s name.) Our neighbour, who’s weeding her garden, waves hello and asks “Baru balik dari pasar ke?” (Did you just get back from the market?).

Scenario 3: It’s a Sunday and I’m with the twins in a nearby playground. The twins are dressed exactly alike (same shirts, same jeans, same colour), sport exactly the same haircut and, to strangers, they look exactly alike. A woman who’s keeping an eye on her baby looks at them, smiling, then turns to me and asks “Diorang kembar ya?” (They’re twins, right?).

So if you’re in Malaysia and find yourself being asked a question with a very obvious answer by a local, please resist the urge to retort with a sarcastic reply. It’s simply the Malaysian way of being polite, making small talk or initiating a conversation :)

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