From Malaysia to the United States

| Opinion | 31 Aug 2016 | Asia Samachar |


By Harvin K Deol

They say you never know what life is until you move out from your comfort zone. “The hardest thing to do is leaving your comfort zone. But you have to let go of the life you’re familiar with and take the risk to live the life you dream about” (Arigo).

This time last year, I was getting ready to leave home to embrace a new world far away from a place I call  home, Malaysia.

To be honest, it is not like I am new to changes or living in a new country. I have always been blessed in experiencing new adventures in life. From leaving for college and studying in Australia for a couple years to living in a rural area far away from home for more than five years (thanks to my teaching days); pretty much have given me the experience I need to know what to expect when being far away from home.

I won’t deny though that there is nothing more calming and safe in the comfort of your own home surrounded by familiar faces you call family. However, there is nothing more adventurous and intriguing than being thrown into somewhere new and different to what you have been grown to be accustomed to.


When people think about migration, the most prominent aspect that comes to mind is the stories filled with challenges and feeling of ‘homesick’. Your entire world changes when you move to another country. Things you thought are normal and acceptable to you may no longer apply. Not everybody thinks like you do, or does things the way you have always done it. Even rules and social practices you thought were painfully obvious may turn out to be the total opposite. From miles instead of kilometers, pounds instead of kilograms, to Fahrenheit instead of Celsius, month before the date (yes, you have to write the month before the date, I am still getting a hang of it), to struggling to pay the cashier because every single dollar looks the same and you miss the bliss of having some colors in your wallet and the list can go on and on.

When you first arrive in a foreign country, everything is like a dream. The first few months would be a ‘honeymoon’ where you act like a tourist and whisk here and there, taken to admire the cultural diversity, eat great food and talk to people who most times are nice to you because they want to make a good first impression. Even though you are lost in this new joy, your senses are high in alert and you notice every single thing that is different from your country and to what you are used to.

It is not until you stay for a couple of months that you get a feel for what it is really like. The transition from a regular ‘tourist’ to now becoming a ‘permanent resident’ is like increasing the temperature of your heater (yes, can’t live without one during the winters; oh how I miss the good old tropical weather) until you feel the sweat.

It’s not always bad and eventually you start to accept that there are things that are different, that are way better and then there are things that are different and not so good, but that’s okay because not everything is like what you expect.

After the exploring, learning, having fun, ups and downs and my fair share of culture shocks; I think I can now say that the United States is slowly turning into my second home (Malaysia is still home and where the family is, always).

I still remember when I first arrived here and was taken aback (at a store) being conversed to in Spanish. Apparently, it is accepted here in California to speak Spanish so much so that it is officially a second language for all formal and informal occasions. It was also amusing to watch and hear people I encounter expressing their shock and disbelief in my English proficiency.

I am amazed how less some people know about Asia, in general, and especially Malaysia. I am even astounded by a few who don’t even know where Malaysia is until I point out Bali and Thailand. Talk about ignorance and lack of world knowledge. But I never get offended mind you. I take this as a golden opportunity to educate those who need to know a few things or so (I guess that’s why they say a teacher will always be a teacher…I swear I heard that somewhere).

I feel both United States and Malaysia share a great deal of similarities and a good number of differences. We always think that the grass is greener on the other side. Although there may be some truth to it but in actual sense this is written to mean that what may seems better than you have is not entirely true. Malaysia today is at its best as compared to the years it has taken to develop.

When I traveled to countries like Indonesia and Singapore, I realize there is so much potential in Malaysia that if given in the right hands of governance, the country will achieve its peak beyond words.

But we can’t have it all even though that is what we often hope for. I can’t name anything that I have here in the United States that you won’t find in Malaysia; be it Starbucks, Subway, Coffee Bean, Sephora, Bubba Gump, H&M, Forever 21 and countless of American products and restaurants that you can find in Malaysia easily. On the contrary, if only I can find one good mamak restaurant or even a good ‘teh tarik’, I won’t mind to fork out the money and the effort for that search.

Each country has its uniqueness and don’t be fooled each country has its flaws and corruption. You think Malaysia is worse of? United States is struggling to find a suitable candidate to run for presidency, fight against mass shooting and reduce racism within the police force. Amidst all this, what matters most is how much are the people willing to do in order to make a change and a difference for the betterment of their nation?!

I will end by quoting from one of the best Presidents of the United States, in my opinion, John F. Kennedy: “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country”.

With that I wish you ‘SELAMAT HARI MERDEKA’. Stay united, Malaysians!

Harvin-Kaur-Deol-columnist2Malaysian-born Harvin Kaur Deol is a former English teacher, who now lives in Los Angeles, California. She writes for passion and this is her special entry for Asia Samachar in the spirit of Merdeka.


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