It is a truth nearly universally acknowledged that alcohol can bring both joy and pleasure to meals, festivities, and socializing. (Coffee can, too, as does excellent food and good company, but none are the focus of this post.)
Malaysia is a Muslim country and devout Muslims avoid alcohol. As a result, we really didn’t know whether we would have access to decent beer, wine, or liquor while living here. As a coworker and friend at my school in Rochester put it, “All other things aside, what are you going to drink?” Mitch is a craft beer snob, an attitude I have definitely acquired under his influence. Unfortunately, we seem to be in the very tiny minority here, perhaps comprised entirely of the two of us. My expat coworkers are American, Canadian, English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh, and Australian so there is clearly a drinking culture present. We’ve already been out for drinks, in fact, which meant drinking Tiger out of tiny glasses full of ice so we wouldn’t actually need to taste the Tiger. Like all mediocre beer, it was better that way.
The upside of having expat coworkers with expat customs means that “Where the heck do you find good alcohol here?” is a perfectly reasonable question, just as it would be back home. I was surprised (that’s been a theme lately) to find out that Tesco (basically the British version of Wal-Mart) is the best place in town to purchase anything that can be purchased in terms of libations. I’ve heard rumors of duty free prices somewhere, but no one’s been able to find that outside the airport.
We finished orientation a little early today so Mitch and I decided to take a cab to the Tesco Extra (think Wal-Mart Supercenter) a couple miles away to check it out for ourselves. We were rather pleased with our findings.
As soon as I saw this, I knew it was all going to be okay. This is not to say that I need to drink; I grew up in a household with wine and learned to appreciate alcohol for what it is – an excellent complement to food. However, creature comforts do matter when one is thousands of miles from home. Creature comforts don’t necessarily come cheap, though. Alice White at this store in Seremban, as you can see, is 49.99RM. That comes out to about $15. The same bottle of wine would cost around $7 back home. Ouch.
The liquor selection was decent. Not bad, not good, but decent. They had something of just about everything one would need to stock a respectable bar. The shelves on the left had a respectable whiskey selection, too. Mitch is also a whiskey snob, a sentiment he shares with my dad, and he classified the whiskey selection as the best of all the liquor, but nothing impressive. Whiskey aside, they had Jose and Beefeater and we’ve seen Bombay Sapphire elsewhere (in little bottles with big price tags) so I’m satisfied with that. Again, prices were at least twice what we’d pay at home.
Finally, there was the beer. This is the most disappointing of all. We drank mostly beer at home and now we need to adjust to drinking less beer because it’s expensive and not nearly as good. Paying high restaurant prices for average beer is not a habit I feel like starting.
Notice the “Tidak Halal” signs on the shelves – “Not Halal.” (That’s like putting a “Not Kosher” sign on shrimp or bacon. Anyone who cares already knows.)
Regardless of the alcohol situation, the real reason I’m here is to teach. We visited the school yesterday and there is a lot of construction left to be done. When it is finished, hopefully sooner rather than later as we have students starting on September 17, it will be beautiful.
Someone go to Roc or Old Toad and have a good, strong stout for me, please!