Five signs that the ‘old normal’ has returned to Malaysia

·6-min read
People enjoy an evening out at Dataran Merdeka in Kuala Lumpur. — Picture by Firdaus  Latif
People enjoy an evening out at Dataran Merdeka in Kuala Lumpur. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

KUALA LUMPUR, May 16 — For more than two years, Malaysians have adjusted to changes in our everyday lives and adopted what the government has termed the “new normal”: social distancing, wearing of face masks, disinfecting our hands and saying goodbye to some activities.

Almost every activity that involved social interaction was either prohibited or diminished to the point that they were no longer enjoyable, forcing many to avoid them altogether.

Here are five things/events that have returned now that we are transitioning into the endemic phase of the Covid-19 pandemic:

Beauty testers

For the last two years, many resorted to digital or virtual makeup testing done on mobile phone apps as physical testing at beauty counters were not allowed..

“That was definitely no fun at all, not being able to try out the texture of an item I wanted to buy. Yes, you can try colours but different skin textures require different makeup product formulation, and you would never be able to know which brand suits your skin unless it’s something you buy regularly,” said lawyer Azura Ibrahim, 30.

Azura said she is excited to head to cosmetic counters again as makeup testing is allowed now.

“I don’t mind trying out makeup products again, but I hope there is a way the cosmetic stores can still maintain a certain safety precaution for example, not allow direct application on skin,” she said.

For marketing executive Melissa Lai, 25, she feels that she is not ready to hit the stores for anything that requires direct contact.

“For now I will just stick to my regular brands, since I’m familiar with their texture and colours.

“But this is my personal preference, I’m not judging others who are comfortable with heading to stores.

“I’m just not ready yet, as much as I miss going to cosmetic stores to try out new products,” said Lai.

Weddings galore

In 2020, makeup artist and wedding planner Rachel Chun, 37 said she had zero bookings for weddings and by the middle of 2021, her business was really struggling to survive.

The co-founder of Pretty Little Things said business only began to pick up at the end of last year, and to date she’s fully booked.

“We’re fully booked until the end of the year, except for a few more slots left to be filled.

“We’re really happy to see bookings coming in again despite having to still adhere to standard operating procedures (SOP)... our clients have been very accommodating and understanding,” said Chun.

She added that since the number of guests is determined by respective hotels and event spaces, all of the wedding events have been manageable.

Chun, however, said she had been forced to raise prices for certain items such as decorations that involved fresh flowers.

“That is out of our hands as not all countries have their borders opened yet and certain countries still have problems with shipment.

“Due to that, there is still a low supply of fresh flowers versus the high demand right now, although the situation is improving,” she added.

Sunway Velocity Hotel does not offer wedding banquet services but its brand marketing and communication department representative said they have received many enquiries for weddings.

“(From this we can see) bookings are starting to pick up. Although our hotel doesn’t have this service, we received quite a lot of enquiries.

“It’s good to see that business is back,” she said when contacted.

Return of In-store events

Lit Books in Petaling Jaya announced recently the return of in-store events.

“Hosting literary events is something we’ve done since we first opened our store in December 2017, as it is part of our mission to engage with the reading community at large in literary discourse.

“It became something that our customers looked forward to, as the discussions are often thought-provoking and insightful. During the pandemic, we did do some virtual events, but it was just not the same,” said Elaine Lau of Lit Books.

Even before this major easing of restrictions, Lau said there were customers asking when the bookstore would start hosting in-store events again.

“We held out for a long time as we felt the time just wasn’t right yet. But now with the nationwide Covid-19 cases at an all-time low, and life has basically gone back to normal, we feel comfortable hosting in-person events again.

“Having said that, however, we’re keeping our events small — 30 pax. We used to have events with 50 to 100 people in attendance, but that won’t be the case anymore. We’re also mandating masks, and hand sanitisers are available for all to use,” she said.

Patrons enjoying their dinner at the Ipoh night market. — Picture by Farhan Najib
Patrons enjoying their dinner at the Ipoh night market. — Picture by Farhan Najib

Late night suppers

For the past two years, that quintessential Malaysian activity — hanging out at the mamak in the wee hours — was forbidden.

However, the return to meals after 10pm has helped finance executive Mohd Farid Hamzah, 27, when he clocks out late from work.

“These restaurants were my only option for a late dinner whenever I finish work late. In 2020 and 2021, it was stressful to work late nights, and cooking was not an option as I just could not make time for it.

“After a long day at work, I really enjoy just a simple meal before I head home and these restaurants were perfect,” he said.

Leona Marie, a sales executive, 25 said, mamak restaurants were somewhere she could catch up with friends over a simple meal, or even just a glass of teh tarik.

“It was something I looked forward to during the weekends, and when we could not do it, I felt like I lost a big chunk of my social life.

“There was no means of meeting friends, and we definitely can’t meet each other before 8pm (the time restaurants had to close during the early days of the pandemic),” she said.

The morning breakfast buzz has also been a pleasant sight, Loo Teck Sim, 28 said.

He was worried that by the time these mamak shops were allowed to operate again, they may no longer be in existence.

“I’m glad that my favourite breakfast place is busy again , we no longer have to eat in so much fear knowing that most of us Malaysians have been vaccinated,” said Loo.

Finally reopening

The National Security Council’s (NSC) Negative List, which prohibited certain activities and businesses during the Covid-19 pandemic, was abolished from May 15.

Most entertainment centres such as karaoke, pubs and nightclubs that have been closed since the start of the first movement control order (MCO) in 2020 are now allowed to reopen.

Trade group coalition Industries Unite has appealed to the government to allow pubs and nightclubs to reopen under the National Recovery Plan since October last year.

It estimated that at least 150,000 to 250,000 jobs were at stake.

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