KUALA LUMPUR: Kuala Lumpur, the third-rudest city in the world? No way, said Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, disputing a Reader’s Digest survey of politeness in 35 cities.
"We can question the tests used in the survey because I understand one of our attractions to foreign tourists is the friendliness of our people... we are very tourist friendly," he said, adding that the survey gave a negative impression of the country.
Reader’s Digest used three tests in the surveyed cities: Dropping papers in a busy street to see if anyone would help; checking how often shop assistants said "thank you", and counting how often someone held a door open.
The rudest cities were in Asia, where eight out of nine cities tested finished in the bottom 11. Mumbai in India came off worst, while New York was rated the most courteous.
Najib said he did not think that most people would agree with New York’s ranking.
Nonetheless, the DPM urged Malaysians to address negative perceptions of the country.
"We should work towards changing this image, regardless of whether it is based on reality or perception," he said after handing over a cheque for RM32,000 from Takaful Insurance to S. Sarimuthu, the father of National Service trainee Theresa Pauline, who died on June 11 of a viral infection.
Culture, Arts and Heritage Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim also disputed the survey.
"Malaysians are known to be very friendly, accommodating and outgoing in helping others. I just do not know which part of courtesy this survey was referring to," he said.
Still, Rais said he accepted the survey findings as a challenge.
"I take this as a challenge and this message must go to every Malaysian so that we can further improve our image. We will analyse the report further. It is very easy to criticise and condemn but not easy to say ‘thank you’."
KL SECOND IN ASIA IN COURTESY POLL
KUALA LUMPUR: The same Reader’s Digest survey that ranked Kuala Lumpur the third rudest among 35 cities puts us on a better standing in Asia.
Kuala Lumpur came out as joint second — with Taipei and Mumbai — among nine Asian countries in the test to measure how often a person held the door for someone.
It was fourth in Asia for helping someone pick up papers dropped in a busy street in the city.
In the test to measure how often shop assistants said ‘thank you’, Malaysia was sixth in Asia.
Contacted in Hong Kong, Readers Digest Asia’s editor-in-chief for English Language edition, Jim Plouffe, said the tests were chosen to measure the different forms of courtesy in urban environments.
"For instance the test of dropping the papers was to measure empathy for someone in trouble," said Plouffe.
Regarding the door opening test, he said: "We wanted to see if others around those who held the door would be affected by the gesture and follow suit."
Testing shop assistants’ habit of saying "Thank you" was to see if urbanites had the basic everyday politeness, said Plouffe.
"We wanted to know if urbanites can live side by side as neighbours while a city continues to be more urbanised," he said.
He said the areas covered in the KL survey included shopping malls, streets and business centres in KLCC, Bukit Bintang and Gombak during on and off peak hours over a period of two weeks in March.
At least 70 researchers went out to the cities in a female-male pair.
STILL ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT, SAYS TOURISM D-G
KUALA LUMPUR: Tourism Malaysia director-general Datuk Kamarudin Siaraf said Malaysians were a courteous lot but there was still room for improvement in this sector.
"I believe that all tourism personnel are courteous but they can still improve on their smiles, saying their good mornings and hellos more," he said when contacted.
However, he did not agree with the Reader’s Digest finding that Kuala Lumpur was the third-rudest city in the world after Mumbai and Bucharest.
Kamarudin said as far as he was aware no Malaysian study had been done to gauge the level of courtesy in the country.