Culture shock is a dead term in our Malaysian dictionary. As my wise husband aptly puts is, “culture shock” went out the window years ago when we fervently brought Astro into our living rooms. May I add, the term further perishes into obsolescence with the ubiquity that we now call the Internet. Malaysia is no longer a “third world country”—whatever that means—but a developed country (albeit being behind Singapore, Indonesia, and Thailand). Thus, I’m going to be frank here: there is no more escaping from the reality of sex, drugs, and booze, unless you live somewhere deep in our rainforest with no immediate means to access the outside world.
I am tired of people making assumptions that the recent news of our students going “astray” abroad was caused by culture shock. My guess is that who they are, and who they have become, is merely the result of western infiltration into our living rooms since the early 1990s, mixed with their eastern upbringing. I am not saying it is either right or wrong, but it has nothing to do with supposed “shock”. Perhaps by being away from home, away from the shackles of miscommunication, this new-found freedom finally provides these young adults with the opportunity to experiment with the alternatives that they have known of all along. They are not shocked by western culture; if anything, they are shocked by how similar their friends and classmates are compared to the people back home.
To the parents and teachers that talk about westerners like they know them from the back of their hands, I have a few questions: Do you know what your locally-studying Muslim children were up to last weekend? Can you for certain tell me that they have not once tasted a drop of alcohol? Or that they don’t have drugs hidden behind their headboard in their dorm rooms? What do they do at their so-called innocent birthday parties? To further prove my point that culture shock no longer exists in our Malaysian vernacular, I dare you to take a stroll through KLCC, or MidValley, or One Utama, or Pavillion, and tell me that the girls you see are not dressing exactly like the western idols they look up to. Again, I’m not judging, but simply sending a friendly reminder to stop using culture shock as an excuse.
Don’t treat the symptom, treat the disease.