Falling in love with a city is very much like falling in love with a person: it has very little to do with logic, and everything to do with subjective sentiment. There’s no use trying to explain why one face makes your heart go giddy-up, while another one leaves you cold, that’s just the way life is. When I first came to live in Kuala Lumpur, some four years ago, it was for work, not personal reasons.
But while the job turned out to be a considerable disappointment, my new home proved to be quite the reverse. What surprised me, was how few of my colleagues felt the same way I did about KL. Many of them were outright haters. According to them, KL had no history, no culture, rubbish public transport, terrible drivers, cheating taxi drivers, overpriced booze, stifling weather … you get the picture.
While there was more than a kernel of truth to each individual complaint, as far as I was concerned, together they never added up to a convincing case against KL.
Sure the public transport system leaves a lot to be desired, but you soon find ways to make it work. The weather could do with being a little less hot, but without the heat, al fresco dining would be an occasional treat, not the norm. And of course it would be great if KL drivers stopped to allow pedestrians to cross the road, but running for your life to avoid being run over is great exercise.
More importantly, the haters appeared to ignore, or not even see, the long list of good things about the city: the wonderful food, the friendly people, how much greenery there is, the ethnic diversity, the widespread use of English, the vibrant nightlife, the overall quality of life, to name just a few.
For nearly a year and a half, I led an increasingly unsustainable double life. I was thoroughly miserable at work but remarkably content during my time off. My wish to remain in KL became the biggest factor in putting up with my job. And then I had a moment of clarity: leaving my job did not mean I had to leave KL — well, apart from visa runs every three months that is, and even they are a good excuse to travel in the region.
KL is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. But despite its flaws, or even partly because of them, it’s a place I have come to love. I hope you do too.
By Pat Fama
Last updated on 2nd September, 2014.