Saturday, February 14, 2009

Living in Sydney vs Kuala Lumpur

After living in Sydney for approximately 2 years, there is a considerably marked difference between the two in terms of culture and lifestyle. One of the striking few examples would be the unpredictable weather in Sydney which can be extremely annoying eg: rainy cold weather with winds at the speed capable of destroying your umbrella and putting you at high risk of being blown away (hence it is advised that umbrellas are utterly useless in Sydney and one should opt for a more handy raincoat) in the morning which suddenly evolves to a clear, bright sunny afternoon. Another would be that shops close by 5pm except on Thursdays when they do open until 10-11pm which is another big nuisance especially if you suddenly have to do a crucial errand such as retrieving a parcel from the post office. However, thankfully Coles supermarket open until 12am daily which is a big relief for office people and students who finish late in the evening and are ravenous from a hard day's of work/study and would just like to whip up something simple for a meal. A lot of my friends initially survived on instant noodles, bread, jam, cereal as restaurant/cafe food is darn expensive (1 bowl of noodles costs approximately
AUS $ 8.00) so in reality, it is a lot more cost effective and less straining on living expenses if you know how to cook. Plus Coles, Woolworths and the infamous ALDI (which is by far the cheapest supermarket) constantly have grocery items that are marked down or discounted. You can save a lot if you are a good cook and have adequate culinary skills eg: ALDI sells 1kg chicken drumsticks for $3.49. However, the portion sizes of food in restaurants/delis/cafes are at least 2 times larger than in KL so you can imagine the flabberghasted look (and possibly delighted) on a newcomer in Sydney when he steps in a Chinese restaurant and orders a plate of fried rice to find a humongous plate of Hong Kong fried rice immersed in chunks of chicken, peas, carrots, corn, garlic piled the height of a mini Egyptian pyramid. The choice of food in Sydney is quite commendable as there is a variety of food available ranging from Japanese, Vietnamese, Thai, Lebanese, Asian, Indian, Western, Mongolian, Middle Eastern etc. But if you are Chinese and have lived in Malaysia nearly all your life and often crave for foods similar to the one back in your hometown, you would have to become accustomed to mainly Hong Kong Chinese food, Indonesian and Northern Indian food. Note for a fact one of my friends actually thinks Sydney food is better than back home (he is extremely fond of Kingsford sweet and sour fish and chicken hor fun from Honeywok restaurant and butter chicken and rice from any Northern Indian restaurant/cafe and Mcdonalds double quarter pounder which caused him to complain later in the year of his undesirable weight gain). Speaking of food, the main diet of an Australian consists of bread, bread and more bread. Oh and definitely throw in a couple of steaks/ribs/veal/lamb chops although not many Sydney-ians like pork. That's why bakeries such as Baker's delight and Brumby's do exceptionally well and I must admit, their buns/pastries/pizzas/muffins are by far a world of a difference as compared to the miserably, hollow and often sparse meat filling buns back in KL. They are tastier and definitely leave you feeling full longer including the white or wholemeal bread available from supermarkets. It is considered the NORM to see someone passing you on the street taking a bite from a 6 inch Subway sandwich or anything bun-like. Also, in Sydney you get a more extensive range of health/diet foods which is a pro if you're BMI is considered overweight or you're suffering from hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, diabetes and other chronic illnesses that need modifications to your diet. I mean, just step into Coles and you'll be amazed to see that every food item in the supermarket has nutritional packaging on it including fat, carbohydrate, sodium content etc and a wide range of non fat, low fat, 99% fat free, extra light items. Even Mcdonalds and other fast food restaurants offer healthier alternatives such as lean deli sandwiches, salads, yoghurt. It just goes to show that Sydney people are a lot more health conscious. I'm not just saying in terms of diet but even exercise; a lot of people subscribe to gyms, fitness centers and even wake up at 5:00am to go for an early morning jog. Oh and do try the dairy products in Sydney, they are really yummy especially the chocolates, ice-cream, milk and biscuits which is one of the reasons why there are still a lot of overweight people in Sydney and it's the occasional treat for an average person to indulge so often in a pint of Ben and Jerry's Chunky Munky/Chocolate Fudge Brownie ice cream which I've heard many of my friends claim that its by far the best ice-cream on the planet.

In terms of culture and lifestyle, people in Sydney eat their dinners by 6pm and go to bed by 9pm to wake up the next morning at 6am. This would be considered abnormal for a Malaysian who is used to mamak-ing until 3am. However, a wonderful aspect of people in Sydney is that they are more hospitable, considerate, polite and helpful (well the majority except for a few racists). The handicapped and elderly people living in Sydney will benefit a lot from the hosptilality expressed by the people in Sydney and that includes the average pedestrian crossing the road. In KL, one has to duck and avoid the traffic for fear of being knocked down by an unforseen vehicle (even when there is a pedestrian crossing road/lane). Also, the health system network in Sydney is superior compared to KL and hospitals/clinics/health centers offer the best available medical treatment that is up to date and highly specialised. In KL, you only get paediatricians or obstetricians/gynecologists but in Sydney you can find paedetricians specialising in endocrinology or O&Gs specialising in infertility or highly intensive care obstetrics. I also find most GPs in Sydney to display a more caring attitude towards their patients (as opposed to the 5-10 minute consultation with our local Malaysian GP who just simply nods every now and then and prescribes the neccessary medication). They not only spend at least 45 minutes with their patients, it is vital that they are allied with a team of health professionals for every patient which can consist of a dietitian, occupational therapist, social worker, podiatrist, psychologist etc. During my GP term, I could really admire the good rapport and trust built between my GP and his patients which is why many of the patients are more compliant with treatment and are more willing to discuss other issues that are affecting their lives which can be non-medical.

In terms of entertainment and recreation, a lot of Sydney folks prefer outdoor activities. In KL, a normal Malaysian would spend their Sunday strolling away happily in a shopping center where he or she will shop. eat lunch, catch a movie, take tea, shop and have dinner. That is why shopping centers in KL are like mini-cities; you can practically live inside them and be completely not starved of food, shops and entertainment. Sydney-ians love their beaches on the other hand which is why beaches are packed everyday with surfer dudes, teenagers, tourists and even veterans. (Hint: Bondi Beach). I find a lot of youths in Sydney also partake in a wide range of sporting activities and to name a popular few would be footie, hockey and tennis. They're a lot more competitive in nature as well which is why a lot of international students are very malu when they are asked by a local to have a game of tennis for fear they will not live up to their standards. They take their sports quite seriously unlike the Malaysian who just wants to kill time whacking a few shuttlecocks in the hopes of fullfilling their once a week exercise regime to compensate for the daily morning roti canai's and nasi lemak's.

Also, if you are living in Sydney or any part of Australia for awhile, you might have to become accustomed to their strange accent or slang. Like almost everyone in Sydney even a random outsider will greet you as 'G'day mate'. And after staying for another month or so, you'll realise that some words such as 'How's it going?' is another form of greeting and that is common for anyone to use the phrase 'No worries'. Females are also addressed as 'darl' which I guess is short for 'darling'. Beware that people in Sydney are also more verbally expressive and it is not extraordinary to witness a stranger on the street cursing or swearing like a madman and then a few minutes later reverting to his/her normal calm self. In Malaysia, this person would be be dubbed as having a psychiatric illness or just emerged from Tanjung Rambutan as Malaysians tend to be more introverted. It does have its pros though and I find that a lot of patients are able to express their symptoms well with good descriptive phrases and give a more thorough history. For example, if you were to ask 'Where is the pain and could you describe the pain in your forehead for me?' to a Malaysian patient, their reply would be just 'sakit kepala'. Its advantegous for a clincian and for an inadequate medical student such as me to better arrive at a clinical diagnosis as an Australian would even go to the lengths of describing the pain as 'sharp/stabbing, radiates to the left eye, severity of 8/10' etc.

I guess to elaborate further on the differenes between Sydney and KL will probably take another post but these are just the main ones that I feel I have come across and has affected me in some way or another. To sum it up, if I were to choose between living in Sydney and KL (not taking into account the higher living expenses in Sydney) I would have to vote for KL as it has been my home for the past 21 years of my life. I always find comfort and solitude when I am back home in a familiar environment (I am quite a homely person) and around the people I grew up with which are basically my parents. I often get homesick for a week or so if I fly back to Sydney alone. After all, 'home is where the heart is' and if you have always loved your home and wake up each morning enjoying even the aroma of your bedroom, then that is the place where you should spend your entire life at.


  1. very interesting. i do agree with u on most aspects of your article. there is no place like home.but sydney is also a lovely place to live in