Last weekend, I had to attend a wedding ceremony in Singapore and it was my first time driving into the island. I chose the Second Link to avoid the busy Causeway at Woodlands. As VMY 2007 is just a few days away, I think I should highlight my experience especially for the attention of the immigration department.
As we were passing the Malaysian immigration checkpoint , a young officer was there to check our passports. I was shocked to see the sleepy, tired and cold look which he had on him. Worse was the way he communicated. I could not understand what he was trying to say even if it was in simple Bahasa Malaysia because he was to tired to say it properly. When I wanted to get a clearer statement, he sounded angry.
Just a few hundred metres away, we came to the Singapore immigration checkpoint and what a difference. A nice, smiling young man at the counter welcomed us. He was so warm and kept us captivated with simple communication on the number of people in the car (there were five adults and three kids in my Waja) and where we were heading. He was at the same time doing his job going through our passports. He was more than helpful when I had a few questions on the Smart Pass and other payments that needed to be paid.
To tell the truth, we were wondering what was wrong with our countryman at the Malaysian counter! Then on our way back , again at the Singapore side, a young lady greeted us at the booth. She was full of smiles and exchanged a few words about our trip before sending us off with a cheery 'Come again!'.
Then we reached our side and another young man was in the booth. Again we were welcomed with a heavy, sleepy, tired-looking face. And worst of all, he was smoking in the booth. There were no smiles and definitely no room for any exchange of pleasantries. I was asked to fill in a form for my maid and when I returned to the booth, he was still happily smoking in there.
What impression are we giving about our country? There is no point wasting public funds for VMY if we have such people welcoming our tourists at the boarders. Excuses such as 'bored' or 'doing the same routine everyday' should not be excepted as that is the nature of their job. We have to accept that the very first impression we give is vital to make our guests feel welcomed and happy.
I think the immigration department has to take greater responsibility in not just making sure VMY is a success but that all locals and foreigners passing through at all times are made to feel 'Malaysia is the Best'.