Where do you live?

In an interview with one of my favourite bloggers Gretchen Rubin, economic development expert Richard Florida said that: “As I explained in my book Who’s Your City?, the place we choose to live in is the single most important decision we make. It has a profound impact on the jobs we have access to, our career path, our social networks, the people we date, family and lifestyle choices and ultimately the wealth we accumulate as well as our overall happiness”.

I absolutely agree with him. Living in Shah Alam (in Selangor, Malaysia) has indeed had a profound impact on various aspects of my life.

I landed (and accepted) my current job when I was living in Shah Alam because, as a non-driver, I was confident that I would make it to work on time as I needed to take only one bus to work.

I don’t think my early courtship with my husband would have lasted very long if we had lived in different towns (I know Shah Alam is a city but to me it feels more like a town).

I have lived in Shah Alam since my late teens — first as a student, then as a working adult and later as a married woman. Naturally, I have developed an attachment to this quiet town.

Sure Shah Alam can be buzzing with activities if it wants to. It’s unbelievably jammed up during football/soccer matches, Sunday mornings due to the farmer’s market, Friday prayers because of the beautiful mosque that we have and also during Ramadhan because people from other towns know that they can do great Raya shopping at PKNS Shopping Complex and the other malls in the vicinity. Besides that, TV3 still tapes its entertainment reality shows at Plaza Alam Sentral. That’s a crowd puller too.

The shopping malls here may not have a lot to offer in terms of high street fashion and entertainment — we don’t have any cinemas — but it is still crowded on weekends.

And we have beautiful parks here for picnics with the family, for exercising, for cosy dinners dates, weddings and indie music showcase.

80 per cent of the time, the traffic here is bearable. I don’t know about the industrial areas of Shah Alam but the (noise and air) pollution levels at the residential areas here are pretty low.

The rent here is not cheap, though. As a small town with at least three major tertiary institutions, houses and rooms to let are snapped up like hot pisang goreng (banana fritters). I was really amused to see this room to let advert (that I saw in UiTM Shah Alam a few months back) which listed washing machines and wifi Internet connections among its basic amenities to attract new tenants. Back when I was a student in the late 90s and early 2000, we would be very lucky to even have a tv or phone line at our rented flats. Heck, we would be blessed to have our own personal computer at the time, let alone a laptop!

Times have changed, and so have lifestyles.

Shah Alam today is filled with middle-class families with money to spare — maybe more so than before. Although I had lived in Shah Alam longer than my husband has, I have only started mingling with born and bred Shah Alam residents through him.

Through them, I get to see a different side of the town. The youth of the town can be very liberal in their outlook and lifestyle. This is an affluent suburban where the kids go to the nearest town to have fun because they have the allowance and the car to get there. A majority of them don’t attend the public universities in town either because they don’t have the grades to qualify or they feel like an outcast and fit better in the private colleges. Their parents earn enough to make it possible for them to switch colleges “in case things don’t work out”.

But people from other towns have a lot of misconceived notions about this town and its people. When people tell me that they feel the people here are country bumpkins, I just laugh because it could not be farther from the truth.

I think it’s a great place to live in but I do worry about raising teenagers here. Bored suburban kids can get into a lot of trouble. Having said that, I think that generally, the 21st century has become a complicated time to raise a family, no matter where you live. Kids get abducted, purses get snatched, new born babies abandoned on a daily basis.

So I guess what’s more important is not where you live but how you live (your life). As the lyrics to that Dionne Warwick song goes:

And a house is not a home
When there’s no one there to hold you tight,
And no one there you can kiss good night.

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