We saw numerous Jobs Offered signs – written in English – in Kuala Lumpur. At first, we thought there are so many opportunities for working travellers looking to earn a few ringgits to keep them on the road longer in the region but quickly came to realise that the signs are in my language because our colonial past here provides a ready-made means of communication in a country with considerable ethnic diversity.
Workers from outside the country were nonetheless very common. Many jobs at the lower end of the scale were taken by temporary workers from Bangladesh. The first person to welcome us to the country, during a rest stop on the bus journey from Butterworth to Kuala Lumpur, came from Bangladesh while one of the staff at Eclipse Guesthouse told us of his intent to work in Malaysia for the next five years before returning to his homeland. Another of the places we stayed employed an Iranian on reception.
Western backpackers can get into the act too, providing they don’t mind working for local wages or for room and board. Two of the four places we stayed in Kuala Lumpur offered casual work, though the owners of both guest houses made it clear to us that when it came to landing work in exchange for room and board it is a case of being in the right place at the right time.
We offered both these owners the opportunity to advertise for staff for free in the Jobs Abroad Bulletin. Both politely declined as they were not currently hiring and prefer to recruit from the ranks of those staying with them, but neither minded if we mentioned them in this piece I am writing now
Wah, the owner of PODs, told us he had employed someone in the past who had stayed at his hostel, while Willi, who at the time had three guest houses dotted around the Chinatown area, had backpackers taking care of his business at both Birdnest and Birdnest 2 (there is only one Birdnest now – in a new location from when we stayed there). We ourselves could have earned 50RM if we were prepared to help clean out a space into which Willi was hoping to expand his premises (if I remember correctly).