By Bob Morshidi
There’s this stereotype we Asians have about Westerners, especially Australians: They are lazy.
This may be true, but I spent half a decade in Australia. I was not one of those Malaysians who went to another country to just stay with other Malaysians. I’ve worked, lived, befriended and socialised with Australians, and this is my conclusion:
Westerners are lazy, yes, but they set out the best way they can be lazy. By working smart and starting young.
Mind you that these are stories told to me by friends and colleagues. It might not be how all Australians live, just in general.
They Start Early
In Australia, you could start working when you’re 14.5/15 years old. Due to your age, you’d get a percentage that a legal adult would get. Say a legal adult was to get AUD20 an hour, as a 14-year-old you’d get 70% of that (or AUD14), and every year the amount would increase until you reach the age of 18 when you’d get the full amount of wages.
To incentivise this, the parents play a hand by actually charging you rent. It would be small, say $50 a week (yes they get paid weekly. I’ll get to that), but the parents would enforce it by ensuring privileges like TV and the internet was taken away. The parents would also ensure that their teen is self-sufficient. If they wanted a new phone, they’d have to work for it rather than buying the phone for the teen.
Most parents would then do the smart thing of opening a separate bank account and putting the “rent” money in it, gifting it to the teen when they turn 18. Thus the teen would then have money to buy a car or a deposit to move out of their house ($50 x 52 weeks x 3.5 years. You do the math.)
5 PM Is 5 PM
Unless you were to work a part-time job and covering the shift of someone else, rarely was there ever a time that Australians would work over-time. Sure this was on a case-to-case basis. Lawyers preparing for a trial or working for events meant that overtime is not only needed, its part and parcel of the job.
However, if it was 5 PM, workers would be out of the office. They would ensure that all work was done there and then because they didn’t want to bring work home. They wanted to go to the pub, have dinner with their families or go to the gym. The work is forgotten the moment you step out of the office.
They would also ensure professionalism by not replying to work e-mails before 9 AM or after 5 PM (unless it was an emergency). That sort of discipline is respected, even by their clients who realise that the worker can’t be pushed around.
They Make Everything Readily Available At Home
After coming back to Malaysia, I had to get used to the “going out” culture. In Australia, one tends to plan out their weeks. Clubbing and going to a bar isn’t usually done on a whim. People tend to stay at home because they make it as nice as possible. They’d have a barbecue station, a swimming pool, and if you could afford it, a built-in stone oven to make your pizza.
If they wanted company, house parties aren’t just the norm, they’re beloved. At the end of the party, people help clean the house and it (usually) looks good and new.
(On a side note, Malaysian’s have this horrible habit. If 10 people are out, and nine people are drinking, the one person who doesn’t drink will hear these words, “You’re not my friend, izzit?”. I find that infuriating. In Australia, if someone didn’t drink because “I’m driving/I don’t drink/some other reason”, the westerners respect that. No wonder we have so many drunk driving crashes. Respect the people who don’t drink.)
A nice home means you won’t want to stay at your office when it’s not necessary to.
Minimum Wages Are Weekly/Fortnightly
In the UK, some parts of Europe and Australia, wages are weekly. This means that every worker on minimum wage wouldn’t stress too much about money, compared to Malaysians who worry by the 20th of every month. This carefree attitude increases productivity because your mind isn’t thinking where your next meal is coming from.
The Pros Of This Work Lifestyle
People don’t look down at you for working retail.
- I met this man who owned two Ferraris and a Lotus sports car. He was the nicest kindest man, always staying to chat with me when I worked at a petrol station. I asked him why he was so nice to me. He said “When I was 16 I worked at this very petrol station. Who am I to be rude to you? I was you.”
He’s a Professor of Dentistry at the University of Western Australia.
Our young start learning the value of money early.
- Being forced fed reality sounds horrifying, but I met a woman who was 21 years old and owned and rented out two houses as a form of side income. The sooner the better.
Less need for foreign labour
- For those who complain about Malaysia using labour from Pakistan and Bangladesh at our petrol station and convenience stores, letting our youth work would satisfy them and cut down our need to import labour for these jobs.
Our kids get out of the house early.
- Divorce numbers could go down because after 18 years you can look at your wife/husband/cat/dog/turtle without your child screaming at your ear.
The Cons Of This Work Lifestyle
Asian parents would worry about grades
- Because somehow in 2021 that’s still the most important thing in life. I failed two papers during SPM. I now teach your children. And I’m quite good at my job. Grades at school don’t matter as much anymore. Grades at university do.
The impossibility of the implementation of new wage structures.
- Whatever party decides to introduce weekly wages, good luck to them. Even though it’s good in the long term, Malaysians are short-sighted and would immediately react negatively, especially if they’re business owners.
- This is only feasible if the minimum wage reflected the cost of living. Let’s face it. Unless you’re middle-class or above in Malaysia, you struggle.
I think this should be done. We can’t have a society of pampered children who grow up into becoming stressed out adults. I don’t think that’s a healthy future for us.
By The Way
I’ve recently opened my YouTube Channel, and turned one of my previous articles from New Malaysia Herald into a video. Have a watch, do like and subscribe so I can win the YouTube algorithm game, and if you want to support or sponsor me turning more articles into videos, you can be my patron and Buy Me A Coffee. Patrons get extra rewards like being able to discuss and choose the next videos I’ll be working on.