The Need for Cleanliness: A Lesson for Malaysians

by Rahim Said

Recently I had the pleasure of visiting Shanghai, a city that sparkles with cleanliness.

It’s not just the government’s effort but the citizens who chip in, ensuring their environment remains pristine.

This stark contrast to Kuala Lumpur made me ponder the cultural attitudes toward cleanliness in public spaces in Malaysia.

A recent incident brought this issue into sharp focus. A Malaysian father was shocked to find an additional RM5 charge on his food bill for a “messy table” at an eatery in Kuala Lumpur.

His meal, which included salted egg kailan, an omelette, and sweet, sour and spicy sea bass, already totalled RM55.

Taking to social media to express his confusion, he questioned the fairness of being charged for a messy table, especially when dining with a young child.

The reaction on social media was swift. Many advised him to report the incident to the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs (KPDN). While his frustration is understandable, it’s essential to consider the broader context.

In places like Family Mart, subtle reminders encourage customers to clean up after themselves: “A clean table makes a happy day. Be considerate. Kindly clean up after yourself. Thank you.”

McDonald’s and KFC (incidentally boycotted by many Malaysians nowadays) also ask patrons to bus their trays. These small steps help maintain a clean environment and set a standard for public behaviour.

Malaysians need to embrace this culture of cleanliness, not just in restaurants but everywhere, including public toilets.

It’s not just about avoiding extra charges; it’s about fostering a sense of communal responsibility and respect for shared spaces. Cleanliness should be a collective effort, and it starts with small actions from each individual.

If we aspire to see Kuala Lumpur shine as brightly as Shanghai, we must adopt these practices. Let’s take pride in our surroundings and ensure that every public space reflects our best selves.

Dr. Rahim Said is a human behaviourist and regular contributor on digital media platforms. He is a professional management consultant, a corporate trainer and an executive coach specialising in coaching of senior executives and individual entrepreneurs with the purpose of modifying their behaviour in the pursuit of their cherished missions. (The views expressed by our columnist are entirely his own)