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Are Malaysians friendly? 7 surprising findings from the Malaysian friendliness survey

[Ed’s note: this article was originally published in March 2017, but we’re reposting this because 30th July was… Friendship Day?! There’s such a thing??!? Anyway go hug your best friend and say that their ketiak busuk.] 


So a coupla weeks ago, our friends at Grab announced that they were launching their latest service, GrabShareIf you haven’t heard, it’s the first on-demand car-pooling service in Malaysia where you can share a ride with a stranger while getting up to 30% off your total ride. (Available in Klang Valley for now.)

If the app calculates that dropping you off is the most optimised route, then the driver will drop you off first, then the other guy.

The driver will drop you off first, if the app calculates that it’s the most optimised route.

There’s a maximum two-stop guarantee and tolls would also be charged fairly if both parties are in the car. You can even use the system to your advantage – ride with one friend at a discounted price for the same booking, as long as you two share the same pickup and drop-off locations. But of course, do expect to share the ride with another party.

Now when we first heard about GrabShare, we were naturally skeptical… Malaysians to SHARE a ride? Sure or not? In fact, are Malaysians even friendly in the first place? Or are we only friendly to Mat Sallehs?

So we decided to run the Malaysian Fren-liness Survey 2017 to find out the answers to our questions! Before we get into the results, some preliminary info:

  • 3,500 respondents
  • Majority were from Selangor, followed by Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Sarawak and Perak
  • We had respondents from every state, but do discount Kelantan and Perlis as they had has than fewer than 20 people
  • Survey ran from 17 February – 1st March 2017

Ok paham? Lesgo!


1. Only 4% will ignore you if you don’t have enough money to pay your train/bus ticket

Have you ever queued up to pay your parking/bus/LRT ticket only to realise that you’re short of cash? Would anyone help you, or would people immediately think you’re part of a syndicate trying to con people of money?

WAH. Damn semangat! Or maybe that's the CS gas.

“Bang, boleh tolong tak? Tak cukup 60 sen la…”

Turns out, Malaysians are not just friendly – they’ve got warm hearts too! 52% would give you their spare change (only if it’s RM1 or less), and 42% would give you the money regardless of how much your ticket costs. Only 3% would politely say no, 1% would pretend you no speaking Englesh. (Remaining 2% chose ‘none of the above’).

We think the parking machine is trying to tell us something... Photo from Twitter user adrianlimcheeen

We think the parking machine is trying to tell us something… Photo from Twitter user adrianlimcheeen

But the same can’t be said if your car got stalled in the middle of the road, tho. Majority (42%) would drive away as they believe someone else would help you. 28% would avoid you like bad body odour cos takut kena rompak, and 5% would stop if you’re hot. But thankfully, a healthy chunk (25%) would stop and help – without hesitation. 


2. More Malaysian women would smile in a lift… and more men would avoid eye contact

We asked, what wouldja do if you walked into an elevator with people in it? The most popular answer was to just smile (62%) but second to that was to avoid eye-contact completely (27%). Only 11% would say hello or ‘Good Morning’.

Totally not staged by CILISOS interns

Totally not staged by CILISOS interns

We found that more women on the other hand preferred to smile. In fact, in many other instances, women seemed to be bigger smilers than men. (Figuratively la.) In more gender-related news, here’s what else we found:

  • Slightly contradictory to whatever we just told you, more men (67%) actually considered themselves friendly as compared to women (61%)!
  • More women (80%) found it important for cashiers to say ‘Thank You’ as compared to men (74%).
  • More men (55%) would prefer having a good conversation with their Grab or taxi drivers. More women (52%) preferred basic greetings like hello and tengkiup byebye.
  • More men are drawn to hotness though. Only 2% of women would stop to help a stalled car if the driver was hot as compared to men (8%)… and more men (16%) than women (6%) would help someone in need if he/she was hot. Tsk tsk!


3. There are less unfriendly Malaysians (36%), but they’re also the most bising on Facebook

When we first published the survey on our Facebook page, we had many users making negative comments about how they’re unfriendly, how they’d rather not be talked to… and naturally this made us a bit disheartened with our impending results. Malaysians so ganas and anti-social meh?

vocal unfriendly people 2


So at the end of our survey, we were pleasantly surprised that Malaysians who identified themselves as ‘unfriendly’ were only the minority (36%). The rest (67%) considered themselves ‘friendly’… but we barely found anyone shouting about that on Facebook.

In fact, in a separate question when we asked if they agreed that ‘Malaysians are generally friendly’, majority of our respondents also said ‘yes’ (53%). The remaining 28% said ‘yes but only to Mat Sallehs/tourists’ (28%), and said ‘no’ (19%). So from both questions, it’s safe to say that most Malaysians think of themselves as generally friendly… very different from what it looks like on social media. 🙂

4. Please, please, PLEASE don’t make conversations in public toilets. Almost nobody (3%) does that!

Or at the ATM (3%).

Or while you pump petrol (6%).

Or in the lift (11%)!

When we listed out various places where respondents would choose where they’d strike a conversation with strangers, the above 4 were the least selected choices. And it’s a no brainer also la… Two guys shi-shi-ing side-by-side with their junk out is really not the ideal place to talk about petrol prices.

It takes two to make a thing go ri-ight

Just…. no. Image from reddit user ausernameitis

So all these aside, where are the preferred places for Malaysians to chat a stranger up? Other than obvious social events like a convention (67%), party (58%) and weddings (42%), seems like we also like making talk on a plane (38%), while hiking (29%) and in hospitals (25%).

Malaysia's movement control closed down all schools. So why hasn't Singapore done so?

Actually right, we don’t necessarily need to be chatty at any of these places to be considered friendly. Even if you’re in a closed and confined place, like in a GrabShare or the condominium lift, all you ever need is a warm smile. Science calls it the world’s most powerful gesture – not just because it has the highest positive emotional content, it actually stimulates your brain “in a way that even chocolate […] cannot match.”

Just.... make sure your teeth are clean.

Just…. make sure your teeth are clean.


5. More Selangorians (22%) have more problems talking to people than KL-ites (16%)

We’d love to do more comparisons by state, but it wasn’t very fair considering our sample sizes from state to state were like from longans to watermelons. So we compared two of our highest respondents by state – Selangor and KL – to sniff out some differences.

Not much to sniff about tho, since both states are pretty similar in many ways. However when we asked respondents on why they wouldn’t strike a conversation with a stranger, we found that more Selangorians (22%) had social anxiety as compared to KL-ites (16%).

Pretty much.

Pretty much.

Now if you don’t have social anxiety, just know that it SUCKS. All sciency-wiency definition aside, having social anxiety is like turning into a potato when you meet someone new. There’s an excessive and completely illogical fear, and you find your palms sweaty, knees weak, arms heavy, you could even vomit your mom’s spaghetti.

P/S: We compared Sabahans and Sarawakians here’s something else we found. When cutting into someone else’s lane during a jam, more Sarawakians would raise their hands to say thanks! 


6. The younger the respondents, the more shallow the conversations

You know that feeling when you have a good, enjoyable conversation with someone?Well those don’t come often, but when they do, they’re usually darn memorable. So we asked our respondents if they’ve ever had a conversation like this, and we found an interesting trend:

memorable conversation

Green bar means ‘yes’, blue bar means ‘no’

As it turns out, the older you are, the more quality conversations you would have experienced. There’s a sound reason for this too: young fellas are maybe a bit more lansi or paranoid, cos our data also showed that the younger our respondents, the less likely they’d strike a conversation with a stranger!

strike conversation

Green bar means ‘yes’, blue bar means ‘no’

Which is true la we guess… if you go to pasar malam, you’ll see all the makciks and pakciks chatting like old friends, padahal they’re strangers bonding over kangkung prices. But that unfortunately doesn’t happen much among youths. Not sure if social media addiction has anything to do with it, but having a young adult say hello to another young adult is more rare than a Dragonite on Pokémon GO. We may be incredibly connected in the virtual world, but it really isn’t anything like real-world bonding.

7. Malaysians don’t really care about race, social class and religion when helping a stranger

It’s 2017, and today, there is more than enough hate to go around. From the Great Wall of Trump to Malaysia’s very own Red Shirts, you can’t help but wonder where our humanity is headed towards. If we got robbed in an unfamiliar place, with no friend in sight, would anyone come to our rescue?

So imagine our surprise when a majority of our respondents responded overwhelmingly positively to being kind and helpful to others. In various questions we asked,

  • only 1% would ignore a lost tourist,
  • only 0.5% would pretend not to understand if you needed spare change to pay for your ticket,
  • and only 8% would look at your race, 5% at your social class, and 3% at your religion before helping you.

It truly warms the heart that Malaysians do and can restore our faith in humanity when it matters most… like that time we read about this total bro who helped a stranded woman during rush hour morning traffic. He stopped his bike and asked her to pass him some money so he could buy petrol for her. Here’s what he said right before he left:

“You tunggu saya, I mesti balik punya.” (Wait for me, I’ll surely come back.)

Click to read more stories of Malaysians who restored our faith in humanity

Click to read more stories of Malaysians who restored our faith in humanity

After 25 minutes of waiting, she was down with doubt and disappointment. But all of a sudden, he appeared right in front of her and helped refuel her car using a half-cut mineral bottle as a funnel. :’)


Malaysians are generally a lot friendlier and kinder than we thought


“Eh bro, lebatnya misai you! Hu hu hu.”

We realised that our preconceived notions were wrong as we analysed the data from our survey. Okay, granted that these are answers that we received from our survey and may not necessarily be true in real life, but we can hope that they’ll be enacted when the opportunity presents itself.

One of the things that we didn’t tell our dear survey takers is that we actually were secretly looking for the unfriendlier ones. Why? Cos Grab is gonna let them try GrabShare for FREE, so we can find out their experiences on the friendlier side of Malaysia. (Update: Read about their experience here.)

And for the rest of you, why not start by sharing a ride with a stranger? If you’re going to be sharing limited space in an LRT, bus or a lift, try sharing a car ride.  If you’re gonna try this new service, just remember – you don’t have to strike a conversation to be friendly… a warm smile can go a long way. Maybe even longer than the ride itself 🙂

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