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October 2010
Outdoor Living in Malaysia


1 Malaysia may be a relatively new campaign but the values it champions have long been a source of pride among Malaysians. I think we’ve just forgotten about them. I mean, just a few decades ago, people were building unity and creating a sense of acceptance before those words were bandied about by politicians. It was not uncommon to see housewives chatting about this and that over the fence, friends of all races getting together at the park, or families sitting with friends and neighbours in their gardens having a durian feast.

I believe we got it right back then not because of clever television commercials about unity, or because values have changed. We just require more face time. In our growing urban culture where connectivity is the buzz word, people are ironically getting less and less connected.

We need actual time spent talking, bonding, or laughing with people. Not over the Internet or Facebook. Not through SMS or letters. We’ve got so lost in all the new media today that we’ve forgotten the real power of simply connecting with people face to face.

And what better place to start than at home, with our own families, or across the fence with our immediate neighbours.

Nature holds immeasurable wonder for kids but more than that, allowing them interaction with nature at an early age builds in them a healthy respect for life and the environment.

There are a few modern gated townships in Malaysia where the developers have realised the inherent value of neighbourliness and thus created homes that emphasised the outdoors. When you have a beautiful lawn and neat hedges without fences, with spacious sidewalks and lots of green lungs, it’s difficult to resist going outside to enjoy the fresh air and make new friends.

A visit to such a township where it seems people of all races are friendlier with each other almost makes me wish I lived in such a place. But then I realised, Malaysians used to enjoy such a happy lifestyle – in the kampong for instance. Why do we need to live in expensive upscale neighbourhoods in order to enjoy great living at home?

The idea that unity begins with being good neighbours is not unique to Malaysia. If you ever visit countries such as Australia, New Zealand or the UK, where people are passionate about their gardens, you’ll find the same friendly atmosphere in neighbourhoods.

This is one of the great benefits of outdoor living. In essence, it simply means making your garden an integral part of your home, a place where you spend quality time in. And the logic about getting closer to people is simple – if you have a beautiful garden, you naturally want to spend more time there, and the more you’re outdoors, the more you’re meeting people instead of being cooped up indoors.

Creating a garden culture

If space permits, you could even host yoga sessions in your garden with your friends and neighbours. Creating such activities around nature not only enhances the quality of your life, but may also build your reputation as an innovative host.

There are plenty of books, articles and information about gardens and gardening, all describing the A to Z of everything related. But what is it about a lawn with some nice shrubs and garden furniture that is able to lift our moods and bring out the best in us? What is this intriguing appeal gardens have over people?

In the end, it’s all about pleasure from nature. Sitting on a chair in an air-conditioned room can never compare to the tranquillity or contentment that comes from sitting on a chair outdoors, under a clear blue sky.

Imagine cuddling up with your loved one out in your garden, under a canopy of stars, snuggled up on a cool timber decking lined with pillows, the light breeze carrying the scent of aromatic candles, and sounds of gushing water gently muted by plants hiding your little nest from prying eyes.

Or imagine having tea and kuih with your neighbours on a beautiful evening in your lush garden, catching up on the latest gossip.

Outdoor living encourages you to come back to nature. It frees you from the artificiality of day to day concerns, and to simply take your time, especially in connecting with people.

The reverse is also true. If you separate yourself from nature, you’ll find yourself becoming more and more alienated and disillusioned regardless of how many hi-tech gadgets you have. You might tend to be more involved in material gains, losing sight of what really matters.

Now, having a garden is not the same as having an outdoor living room. Don’t create a lavish garden just to show off. It’s quite pointless to have a nice garden but with a sign that says ‘keep off the grass’. Also, don’t turn your garden into an indoor room by covering up the garden with artificial ceilings, or tile the area. If you view nature as just mess and chaos, ultimately, you limit the pleasures that nature can give you.

Remember, outdoor living is not an expensive secret held by high-end developers. Whatever home you have, it is within your means to create a better quality of life for you and your family just by investing in your garden.


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