Thursday, November 22, 2007

It ain't wrong to be different

I have mentioned Mark Penn, the American polling analyst, plenty of times on my blog. His book which I am reading is Microtrends. Microtrends are to be differentiated from Megatrends, because they are not mainstream culture (yet). America has a population of 300 million, so even 1 percent is equivalent to 3 million people. And in many cases, their numbers are rising.

In the first chapter, Penn writes about single women. According to Penn, there are more women than men in the States, and there are more gay men than lesbians. As a result, many women simply can’t find the Mr. Right. (Heck, how come there are more men than women in Malaysia )

In another chapter, we learn of American vegetarians. The United States is not a Hindu/Buddhist country. The vegetarians refrain from eating meat mainly for health reason or out of love for animals.

Then there are the New Luddites – people who say no to technology. They have been on the Internet before, but are now offline. Don’t laugh. I absolutely wish that I don’t get calls from my co-workers during weekend.

One of the most shocking lifestyles is LAT – Living Apart Together. It refers to committed, long-term couples who don’t live together for various reasons. Some of them are young and new homeowners who don’t want to give up their newfound independence. Others have children from a prior marriage, and avoid introducing a new spouse to the family.

Note that Penn didn’t judge these people. He didn't say being single is bad, or all of us should eat meat. He was merely bringing them to the attention of policy-makers and marketers. Americans generally respect liberty of others.

Not so in Asia. Our societies value conformance. If we live a lifestyle different from that of mainstream culture, we must be terribly wrong. Or we are freaks.

In our society, marriage is seen as a duty. It is sacred. Being single is unacceptable. I know of several bloggers who are troubled when their relatives and friends question them, “When are you getting married ar?”

I have backpacked several times in South-east Asiaall by myself. Many people asked me, “Why do you travel alone? Don’t you find it boring?” They are, of course, Malaysians. Along my solo trips, I have come across countless of Westerners and Japanese who did exactly the same thing. (See my answer here.)

Be yourself . Respect choice of others. It ain’t wrong to be different.


  1. It's true that sometimes I also felf the pressure of the so called "values" in our society. And this sometimes prevent me from trying new or explore alternatives. Somehow, now I'm slowly learning to live my own way!!!

  2. kai,
    If you feel the pressure from the society, you should avoid 'adding' to it. I mean, respect choice of others.

  3. Interesting post, KS. To each his/her own. A former colleague of mine does not own a car even though he can afford one many times over. At last count, they had four children. They use the taxi on their outings. Their life is simple and with little luxuries, as we know them.

    I always thought Malaysia has more girls. Now, that's a pleasant surprise!

  4. happy,
    Where does your colleague live? My cousin lives in Singapore. He also doesn't own a car. Of course, public transport in the island is efficient. When he comes back to Malaysia, he would rent a car.

    Census of Malaysia shows that there are more men than women...

  5. yeah, it aint wrong to be different. I am a princess what. Wukakaka... period.

  6. My former colleague - he was in KL all that while of more than twenty years. He has relocated up north to take over his dad's business. Not sure whether he's got a car now but knowing his views he would still not own one, by choice.

  7. princess,
    You are a princess, but I am from a lowly class wor. But I guess I still can be different, right?

    It is really surprising that a resident of KL choose not to own a car...