What’s more surprising than a traffic-free Monday morning rush hour but equally as welcome? Finding out that our fair city of Kuala Lumpur was voted second-most friendly city in the world by Big Seven Travel, an international travel portal with a substantial following (one and a half million readers, just under 500,000 followers on Instagram).
While pole position was taken by Canada’s Vancouver (aka, the set of “New York City” for several television shows), Malaysia’s capital came right behind, out of a total ranking of 50 global cities.
“Malaysians are naturally friendly and nice to strangers, and Kuala Lumpur is the best example of this. The easy-going temperament of locals and their friendliness towards visitors means that it’s easy to make friends here. KL is a top spot for both tourists and expats,” wrote the portal.
Interesting. Intrigued over how foreigners saw us, Coconuts KL did a quick check on our fellow city-dwellers, sharing the good news, and finding out what they thought of it.
“So, do you think KL is actually friendly,” we asked one KLite.
“Friendlier than cities like London, for sure. It depends – you’re asking a local, and I start out as friendly, so I think people are friendly back at me.”
Fair enough. Malaysians are quite pleasant from the jump, unlike some cities, where one might be greeted with an eye roll when asking about the specials.
We spoke to another friend, who is leaving our shores soon for a #24 ranked Singapore.
“Who is #1?,” they asked.
“Vancouver,” we told them. “Must be all that kush.”
“Yeah, Malaysians are friendly,” said our soon-to-be-departed countryman.
“If we’re so friendly, why do we have so many road rage issues?,” a visibly scarred Coconuts KL asked.
“I think Malaysians are more friendly towards foreigners more than each other.”
“Kinda like putting out the nice plates when you have guests?”
“Well, it’s deeper than that. Bangladeshi and Myanmar nationals come here, and learn fluent Bahasa in months, and nobody gives a shit. An expat learns three words in BM, and they become celebrities.”
Another friend on our WhatsApp hit list echoed the exact sentiment: “We are super friendly. To white people.”
As some see it, Kuala Lumpur is a great place to go for a certain type of visitor.
We hit up a former KL resident, and asked her what she thought of the ranking.
“I was baffled when I saw it,” she told us.
“People are friendly in KL when you get to know them. The social scenes are quite cliquey, and difficult to get accepted into without an insider friend.
“When it comes to the general friendliness of the city, I’d rank it fairly low. Definitely lower than neighboring cities I’ve spent time in, like Singapore, Bangkok, even Saigon.”
She concluded: “I don’t know who was doing the data for that report, but clearly they are biased. I wonder if they got paid off by a Malaysian government official?”
Ah, you can take the girl out of Malaysia, but you’ll never take Malaysia out of the girl.
“I think if the travel website was a Southeast Asian portal, the ranking would be way different,” said our Singapore-bound friend.
Kuala Lumpur was the only Asian city, along with Taipei (4), to make it into the ranking’s top 10, with Bruges, Belgium (3) and Hamburg (5) rounding out the top five.
Other Asian cities included Chiang Mai (11), Abu Dhabi (13), Muscat (18), Siem Reap (20), Singapore (24), Tokyo (28), Jaipur (35), Guangzhou (38), Colombo (44) and Ho Chi Minh City (46).
There you have it folks, an incomplete survey, to match a travel portal’s own limited survey of how friendly we actually are. Yes, kinda, but don’t get too deep or you might find out it’s only for some.
This article, Kuala Lumpur gets voted second-friendliest city by travel site, but are we actually that nice?, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company. Want more Coconuts? Sign up for our newsletters!