What do families do in Malaysia?

I have been in the UK for over 15 years now. That’s almost half my life spent here. It is only through holiday in Malaysia that I get to have a feel of what families generally do in Malaysia. Particularly ever since my siblings started having children.

Bringing up children in Malaysia is very different from bringing up children in the UK. If both parents have full time job, it is not uncommon to send their babies to be care for by carer or nanny. And I don’t mean sending them to day care. The babies in fact don’t even sleep with their parents at night. So parents only get to see their babies for a couple of hours a day at most on weekdays. This also means that babies in Malaysia stay up later than those in the UK. And that is again very common in Malaysia. I find this kind of arrangement fascinating. Is it in the knowledge that babies don’t have much memory at such age that parents do not mind staying away from their babies? Or that they just don’t want their babies to affect their sleeps and disrupt their life style etc. Some families get their stay-at-home maids to care for their babies as well. But increasingly it seems, at least for those who can afford to do so, that they will hire a separate nanny for caring the little ones, on top of the maids they hire to do house chores. In so doing the parents can continue to live the lifestyle like before they have any children. This to many can only be afforded by at least the upper middle class in the UK. Whether this is really an affordability issue I’m not very sure. But from what I can see is parents in the UK tend to or are more willing to spend more time with their children than those in Malaysia. At least that seems to be the case among my circle of friends and acquaintances anyway.

Ok so the Malaysians get to live their life on weekdays in particular. But what about weekends? On weekends they still like to spend time doing what they like to do. And shopping is one of their favourite pass time. It’s difficult to blame them because Malaysia is very hot in the day. Apart from air conditioned shopping malls there are not many other places for families to hang out. They may go to parks in the morning or evening. But parks in Malaysia are not as well equipped with children play items as in the UK. And they often look jaded due to the scorching sun in Malaysia all year round. Since public funding is scarcer than in the UK, these play items are also less well looked after or maintained.

Eating is another national pass time. Malaysia has plenty of choices when it comes to food. You can eat in hawker stalls or fine dining type restaurants. Speaking for Malaysians of Chinese ethic origin, they normally go to Chinese restaurants which are typically not children friendly. Everyone sits together at the big round table and tuck in. Kids menu is unheard of. And children will play with whatever they find and normally that means plates, bowls, chopsticks and what have you. This is fine if you do this once in a while, and go somewhere more children friendly occasionally. But no it is almost always adults oriented on where families go.

In addition, when parents want to go out, to meet friends, or just more private time for themselves, they can conveniently leave their children with their grannies, because family is tighter in the Far East. Whereas here the Brits don’t often live close together, let alone in the same house when they have their own family! When they go on a vacation, they leave their children behind too. This is tempting no doubt if given that kind of option. But it can be so much fun if the whole family can travel together.

Some parents don’t seem to appreciate that children grow very quickly. Once they get older they may not want to travel with you or to be too close to you any more even if you threaten them. And children are most innocent when they are young. So so much fun just to be around them. Ok not all the time as they can be a pain sometimes too, throwing tantrums, selfish and stubborn. But often the joy you get outweighs the pain you endure. If I were you I will treasure the moments the best I can. No one knows what life can throw at you next.

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