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Cultural insights – Southeast Asia

First impressions about New Zealand.
Cultural differences between New Zealand and Southeast Asia.
Travelling as a Muslim.
Things to improve to accommodate people from Southeast Asia.

Your first Impressions about New Zealand

The moment I arrived in New Zealand it was surreal, like wherever I turn to there were sheep everywhere and it’s really hilly as well unlike where I was from. And it’s just so beautiful.

I am from a city of over 12 million people so arriving here I felt like the whole world was mine because there wasn’t so many people around.

The people are quite friendly. Lot of people say hi along the street which people don’t do at home.

It’s much more picturesque than where I’m from, because Singapore is a very urban country.

The weather, because in Indonesia is always warm and sunny and in New Zealand it could change like in seconds. Like in a day we can have rain or cold and sunny. And so I have to be prepared all the times.

My first week in New Zealand was quite hard because I wasn’t prepared to hear you know the accent. The accent is different so sometimes it’s a bit hard to understand Kiwi English.

If you don’t speak English then you might be a little bit harder to communicate. I had like a mini culture shock because obviously everything was very different. I thought it just like peaceful sheeps natures. I didn’t know there is a heavy drinking culture here.

What is different to home?

In Malaysia, we would socialize over food but here most likely we socialize over drinks. We are sort of like a Muslim country and alcohol is, we don’t see people drinking alcohol on the street. We love festivals like celebrating so many festivals like Deepavali, Chinese New Year, Hari Raya Idul Fitri yeah.

I do miss the warmth from home and certain conveniences like we have so much like street food vendors everywhere and is so cheap and it’s really available anytime. So you never really have to cook for yourself. Whereas here, unless you make your own food you are going to go broke very fast.

Compared back to Singapore, the food is expensive but it’s so much bigger portion than Singapore yeah.

How easy is travelling as a Muslim?

When I say Indonesia I’m not sure if they even have a mental image of where that is on the world map. I mean people probably don’t know that it’s the largest Muslim country in the world for example.

I’m not afraid to say that I am a Muslim because people are very open-minded and they don’t have any issue with that. So I feel like home to be here. We prefer that they cook pork and beef or chicken separately. But we’ll never know in here how they cook the chicken and if the beef is halal or not. So it’s kind of difficult for me.

I do avoid pork if I can so if I know what’s inside any dish it’s good for me just to you know in advance that there’s no pork or lard inside. But for myself personally I don’t seek out halal food actively when I’m abroad coz I’m aware that it’s not something that’s readily available in lots of places.

Before we pray actually we have this absolution like we have to wash ourselves and it’s really difficult to do it in in New Zealand. I think if they could have a prayer room it would be really nice because sometimes it’s really hard when you are going out and then you have to pray and there is there’s no place to pray.

Even if it’s a multi-faith room you know a place where you can just go back and do your prayers according to your faith I think would be very good for a lots of people.

One thing to improve upon: New Zealand is more it’s difficult to get around if you don’t have a driver’s license and if you don’t have a car.

Medical aid it should be readily available just in case there’s an accident. So what I’ve noticed, if you’re in the very far place, the medical aid comes 20 minutes time or 15 minutes time. It’s gonna be too late.

Be more responsible in keeping the University, so that other tourists like us be able to use it more comfortably.

Some places they could improve a little bit on the customer service. You know maybe to be more a little bit more helpful.

More smiles on the people serving you is better will make you feel welcome. Well it will make you feel at home at ease. When someone smiles it really means a lot as it shows that you are opening your hearts to us and welcoming us in a community. In places like hostels, I think especially from my country will want to have gender separate bathrooms. Like they wouldn’t want to have mixed bathroom between men and women.

People from the Philippines are very family-oriented. So it’s important to note that when you’re organizing tours it should be able to accommodate all sorts of age groups so from kids to the grandparents. So it’s very important because people from the Philippines really like to travel with their families. So it’s nice if everyone can enjoy the tour.

At one of the hotels in some part of New Zealand they were quite racist. I would say quite racist because he gave me the glare like he didn’t give to other customers but he glared at me because I felt like it’s because of my colour.

I think it’s better if people talk to you or ask you where you’re from rather than just assume. I’ve had experiences where people say things like konnichiwa, and I’m not from Japan. You know like our first language is English so everybody speaks English and don’t assume that you know just because we’re Asian we don’t speak English. Just speak a bit slower if you do have that Kiwi accent.

One thing to improve upon

Welcoming international tourists it’s not just about representing your own culture but also about accommodating different types of people.

The way people behave maybe differently but it is not because someone is bad. It’s because they have different culture and if we could understand each other’s culture it will increase our tolerance I think. When you know someone’s culture you just instantly click with that person.

If I meet someone who knows about Singapore I would feel really excited to talk to them just because they know so much more about my country but like in that way we can converse and share. You want a New Zealand experience as well. I don’t think you want people to change, maybe just a greeting if they can say a few words. Someone actually knows where my country is on the map.

At least if you just know the name or at least where it is on the map you know it just makes me happy really.

It feels really good when someone will greet us in our own language. Like saying how how are you, ‘Kumusta’ in Filipino and that feels good. At least they know something about your culture. And we’ll do the same as well.

Cultural insights – Southeast Asia