[Learn Malay] Lesson 5: Shopping

When you’re in Malaysia, you might want to do some shopping for souvenir. Okay, you may not need to be able to converse in Malay when it comes to shopping. We’re all familiar with “haggling” by way of a calculator.

At markets where prices are not clearly on display, the vendors might show you the price on their calculators, after which you’d key in the price you’re willing to pay on the same calculator. And so the bargaining begins.

Haggling is not the only activity involved in shopping. In fact, I hate haggling. If I feel that I’m being ripped off, I just walk away not buying the item. I don’t really NEED that anklet. But if I like something and I think the price is fair, I won’t haggle just to bring the price down by USD1. I think haggling is a tourist’s favorite pastime in Southeast Asia, encouraged by travel guides that preach haggling. I often disagree with anyone that says it’s okay to haggle because many tourists have been misled into thinking that they’re always being ripped off left, right and center. Whenever I saw a tourist trying to get an old lady selling bracelets in a Thai night market to reduce the price of a bracelet reduced by USD1, my heart broke a little.

Of course, besides haggling, there are many other aspects to shopping. Shopping in Malaysia does not necessarily mean shopping in markets. In fact, we don’t have as big a night market/weekend market culture as in other Southeast Asian countries to the north. Most shopping in Malaysia is done in malls.

Among the more popular malls in KL are Suria KLCC, Pavilion, Mid Valley Megamall and 1 Utama. Of course, the sales assistants in these malls can speak English.

If you are looking to buy souvenir, you’ll be looking at Central Market and Chinatown and buy from smaller shops and stalls. The sales assistants in these places might be able to speak English to cater to tourists. However, if you find yourself wandering off the beaten track and chance upon a sales assistant who doesn’t speak English, here are some words and phrases to help you with your shopping:

  • Ini – This
  • Itu – That
  • Berapakah harga barang ini? – How much does this thing cost?
  • Ada saiz/warna lain? – Do you have this in another size/color?
  • Lebih/Kurang – More/Less
    • Besar – Big
    • Kecil – Small
    • Mahal – Expensive
    • Murah – Cheap
  • Warna – Color
    • Merah – Red
    • Hitam – Black
    • Biru – Blue
    • Hijau – Green
    • Putih – White
  • Saya mahu yang ini. – I would like to take this one.

For more explanation, please check out my video:

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