Back in the 2000s, I used to write public service announcements (PSAs) for money. Encouraging people to drive safely, buckle their seatbelts and learn how to zipper merge were all part of my job. A fairly rewarding endeavour that made me feel good and also had me listening intently to local radio stations to hear the fruits of my labour.
Even though my PSA creation days are over, I still enjoy listening to what people need to be reminded about over the airwaves.
In Malaysia, they love their PSAs. In fact, there are more PSAs than paid commercials on the radio. And while a few of the announcements are about driving, most are about other, more random, aspects of life.
Here are a few that have caught my ear and how they translate to a Westerner.
- Staying positive on social media will make your life awesome. (Translation: Don’t criticize the government on Facebook or else!)
- Remove the location from your photos before you post them online. (Translation: There are a lot of creeps out there. Be careful.)
- Manage your time wisely and don’t procastinate. (Translation: Malaysians are never on time, but they want to be…someday)
- Be careful on escalators. They can be dangerous. (Translation: There are more malls than people in Malaysia. That means lots of escalators and lots of injuries.)
- RSVP to parties and make sure to attend. (Translation: Lots of parties and not enough time. See: Time management PSA.)
- Practice common courtesy (Translation: Malaysians think they are rude. But in reality, they haven’t been to Taylor Field after a Rider loss on a hot Saturday night – which makes them all look like Mary Poppins.)
- Be less annoying and more people will like you. (Translation: Don’t be a prick. Wise words for us all to live by.)
There are hundreds more, but those are seven of my favourites. While none of them tackle the actual problems in Malaysia (taking down every tree in sight, corruption at the highest levels, a growing religious fundamentalist movement), they do all push people towards a higher purpose – which I respect greatly.
And who really listens to practical PSAs anyway? We don’t want to change our bad ways. We just want to think about being a better person and then move on to the next party or escalator.