You walk past an ‘ang moh’ in a neat business suit on the street. Do any of these thoughts come to your head?

“Omg, white guy! He must be earning a lot. I wonder what high-ranking position he’s in.”
“Ehy, ang moh, why you come here and take all our money?”
“Wah, here got ang moh. Must be a big company doing very well.”

There seems to be this perception that foreigners (particularly Westerners) are treated favourably in Asia.

I mean, there are companies in China who ‘rent’ expats as nothing more than a face, a status symbol. The rationale is that having these “fake” employees or business partners means that their company has prestige, money and international business connections.


But does white-worshipping exist here in Malaysia? In this day and age?

Do expats with the same qualifications as you get paid more to do the same job? And if they do, is it really because of the colour of their skin?

As it is a big professional faux pas to ask your foreigner colleagues how much they get paid, we took it to our fellow netizens to find answers!

According to some Lowyat forum members, expats don’t necessarily get higher pay, but they do get more benefits.

“We have quite a number of expats where I work. The salary scale is wide enough that a Malaysian can and does have salaries similar to expats…What differs for the expats are the benefits e.g. their RM15k housing allowance, and their US$25k per child per year school allowance.” – Tishaban

Another forum member shared a case of an ang moh fresh grad getting about the same range as a local fresh grad. The difference is that his rent and transportation are paid for by the company.

This comment was supported by others stating that their “salary would be almost similar but they get extra benefits like housing, child school expenses, transportation.”

This seems understandable considering ang mohs would have more expenses, at least initially. Having to set up their new life here, renting instead of owning a home already, getting a new car, and registering their children at international schools. They would then have to fly hours and hours to balik kampung once in a while, and save to relocate home in the future, where costs of living are usually higher.

raining money

So, no… This isn’t what it looks like for them.

Those on the /r/Malaysia subreddit suggest that in the case of ang mohs getting paid more, it is to do with how much they are able to bring to the company. As @pisaicake so wisely points out, “The universal rule of pay scales is that your pay is proportionate to how irreplaceable you are.”

Whether true or not, there is a perception by some that ang mohs are more productive, open to criticism, new ideas and teamwork. They also have more worldliness and heart in their work.

In the words of @mocmocmoc81, “Generally, [ang mohs] tend to be more self-initiative and their work ethics is not as ‘tak apalah’ as the locals.”

Another redditor supported this point with an honest admittance that a German would do a better job than his own, beloved father.

“The German would likely have more diverse experience, he would be very punctual, and he would work late every day if the project was behind. He would take it personally and constantly worry about the project until it is complete on time and on budget.

My father, I love him and he is a degree holder with domestic experience, is still very Malaysian. He would be a bit late on everything and not stress about it, take long lunches, if it’s raining this is doubled. He would also take off for every holiday and time and budget would be fluid. He is very used to a system where there are no serious consequences for being late or over budget.” – @new22003

It seems that people are still split on the matter, but at the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter if you’re an expat or not. What matters is how much value you can bring to your work. Think about “How could I get paid more?”, your choices might be more varied that you think.

Perhaps instead of wondering how much other people getting paid, we always focus and aim to do our best and get rid of the stigma of us being all ‘tak apalah’ and prove that Malaysians are equally skilled and competent – that’s unless you know for sure that your pay is purely based on gender, race, or religion – then you really shouldn’t be working there in the first place.

Have your thoughts about this topic? Tell us in the comments!

cheers to that

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Posted by Crystal Chong