Today I want to hand our blog over to our good friend Peter who reports on his experience in paying bills in Malaysia. Here is his story:

Today I went down to the management office in our condo building to pay the water bill that rolls in every couple of months, it is usually about 20 Rm per month (about $7). I had not paid for a while and had a bill for 44 Rm, I thought it might be 60-80 depending on the dates and how long I had let it slide. I arrive, and the very nice lady takes my bill:

Part 1: she goes clicky clack on the key board, looks at my bill, looks at the screen a few times, clicky clack….she says” that will be 542 ringgit and 50 sen.” (about $150.00)

Me: that does not seem possible; it is usually about 40 ringgit!

Part 2: clicky clack on the key board, looks at the screen, looks at the bill, gets out a calculator, clicky clack, prints a bill, gets out the calculator again, looks at the screen; “that will be 241 ringgit and 50 sen”

Me: That still seems a little high, can I see the bill?

Part 3: male colleague comes in, they chat in Bahasa, he looks at my bill, looks at the screen, she clicky clacks the key board, they chat some more, he grabs the calculator and crunches some numbers and shows me the value: 142 ringgit.

Me: I think that is still too much, can I see the bill?

Part 4: I get the bill, compare all the different charges (some my landlord pays), circle things in ink, compare to what I have paid, ask a few questions

Part 5: I hand the bill back over the counter, the calculator comes out again, and a third total shows up that I gladly pay: 1 ringgit, 40 sen. (50 cents Canadian)

Is this surreal, or just a cross-cultural jamboree?

Welcome to Malaysia!!