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Different Strokes for Different Folks – The Generation Gap

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By Ili Aqilah, Nantini Krishnan & Tan Mei Kuan

We are all human with similar physical characteristics but each of us is unique. Just like the saying, “Different strokes for different folks”, everyone has different goals, priorities and dreams. Ipoh Echo talked to a number of Perakeans from different generations to get insights on how they see the world. Given that each generation is characterised by different experiences that shape their perspectives and behaviour, we sought to uncover the generational differences in answers to a set of questions that Ipoh Echo sent its team of reporters to ask.

“Each of us is a unique strand in the intricate web of life and here to make a contribution.” – Deepak Chopra

We met some of the baby boomers, those who were born between 1946 to 1964. Born after the World War II, baby boomers are so called because the birth rate around the world spiked up after the war. Ipoh Echo also chatted with those who were born between 1960s to early 80s, known as Generation X (Gen X) and is statistically the generation who received the best education system among all. Next came the sophisticated and technology-wise Generation Y (Gen Y), babies born in early 1980s to the early 2000s and of course the current generation, Generation Z (Gen Z) who will soon be the future leaders of the world. Do these generations share the same opinions? Ipoh Echo sat with them to find out.

1. How do you see your future in this country?

Baby Boomers: Half of the baby boomers think that the future is bleak due to poor leadership, poor management of scarce resources, intolerance, rising cost of living, and rising crime rate. The other half is not worried because they think that the future is bright as long as the status quo is maintained. Plus, there is still much potential left which has yet to be exploited and tapped. A 64-year-old full-time housewife told Ipoh Echo, “I am living my life one day at a time without thinking much about the future. However, things are progressing quickly and there is definitely hope for the future.”

Gen X: Generation X has mixed opinions on the future in this country, some see the current job market as unpromising and offering poor compensation, while others see it as an opportunity to create new markets. Below are the opinions of the respondents;

A:  I think this country would have a brighter future if corruption can be eliminated.

B: Malaysia is a wonderful place and there will never be another place to be called home. I might go overseas for a few years to gain some knowledge and wisdom, but I will certainly come back to my home.

C: The honest truth is that Malaysia is no place to build a career. Racism, racial inequality is the reason.

Gen Y:  Some of the older Gen Y have set their eyes into settling down and having their own family as most of them have already started working and have their own vehicles. They believe that now is the perfect time to enter a new chapter in life and start becoming adults. A different point of view emerged from the younger generation of Gen Y where they have not yet established a toehold on their careers or future. Most of the young Gen Y have just finished their tertiary level education and are entering the workplace and starting to hold bigger responsibilities such as paying for education loans and saving money for travelling.

Gen Z: Living as a successful adult with fancy cars and big houses were some of the answers given by the youngest generation upon answering the question. Although they can’t still figure what the future may hold, the majority of them agreed that Malaysia offered a bright future.

“I haven’t figured it out yet. But I will work hard to achieve my dream,” said Syakirah, aged 12.

2. What are the things you can contribute to this country?

Baby Boomers: Baby boomers believe that their experiences could be utilised and also optimised for the betterment of the country. They are definitely not over-the-hill yet! Some plan to be active in charity and NGOs dealing in social issues after they retire.

Gen X: Gen X wishes to contribute to the country by doing any social service that can contribute towards development and progress of Malaysia.

A: My vote as a citizen. Every vote counts. All of us contribute in terms of personal income tax and GST implemented in our country.

B: It’s all about knowledge. I will try my best to reach out to as many people as possible and ensure they are informed of the opportunities that are in Malaysia and the world. Many times we see a big mass of people living in a self-confined shell. We need to break that.

C: Education, I will try to educate people to tap their talents and use opportunities to the best. These people will develop other people. And this will be my contribution to Malaysia.

Gen Y: They are young, full of energy and have a lot to offer to the country. Gen Y is slowly making names around the world with their own talents. Take Natasha Zainal, 26, as an example, who was among the winners of the International Poetry Competition or Concorso Internazionale di Poesia in 2014, “I never expected to win, but it was good to put Malaysia on the map,” said the young teacher.

Gen Z: Gen Z is still trying to figure how they can contribute to the country and it is clear that it isn’t their current priority. While some managed to list the things they wanted to do such as building new skyscrapers and becoming a well-known professor, others choose to go with the flow and prefer to enjoy the time being young and free.

3. Asked about their goals in life and how are they going to achieve it.

Baby Boomers: A 67-year-old retired florist disclosed to Ipoh Echo, “I just want to be happy and healthy. It is that simple.” Some are forever young at heart as they wish to travel and experience different cultures. Meanwhile, one thinks that he does not have that many goals left as whatever he has aspired for and dreamed of have been achieved. Hence, he is now a satisfied man, both morally and also mentally.

Gen X:

A: My goal is to reach out to as many people as possible and at the same time, be the best of what I can. It’s going to be hard to juggle both, but hopefully I’ll achieve it.

B: My goal is to be the best of what I can be. I will capture the opportunities that knock on my door and try to make the best of it.

C: As a reporter and also as a photographer my goal is to open up my own newspaper company someday and for that I am still gaining working knowledge in my current company.

Gen Y: There were mixed opinions when this question was asked of the Gen Y. For those who have found their dream job, they wanted to travel as often as they could and to do so, they planned to earn as much as they could to afford the trips.

However, there is a group of Gen Y who are still trying to figure out what their life goals are and of course there are those who have set their eyes on settling down.

Gen Z: Engineers, doctors, firefighters and detectives were among several ambitions dreamt by generation Z. It was a delight to know that even though they are still young, they managed to figure out how they will achieve it. Pursuing studies in overseas universities like Caltech, Ivy-Leagues such as Brown, Princeton and Harvard, and several who mentioned a prestigious university in Malaysia, are their way to achieve their dreams.

4. What is the best thing about Malaysia?

Baby Boomers: Responses relating to food and the people of diverse culture reign supreme for this question! In addition, they love the weather and the peace in Malaysia.

Gen X:

A. Food

B. Natural resources

C. Multiracial nation

Gen Y: Up and coming art scenes, good food and having most of the families members staying here has become the best things about Malaysia for the Gen Y.

Gen Z: Like all the other generations, Gen Z agreed on Malaysia’s beautiful sceneries and assorted delicious food being some of the best things about Malaysia. In fact, it was the reason why some of their parents chose to settle here.

5. If you have the power, what changes would you like to see in Malaysia?

Baby Boomers: For this question, Ipoh Echo received mostly politics-related answers. For instance, they would advocate a more inclusive and transparent government which preaches equality and fairness to all Malaysians. Other answers include improving the public transportation system, the education system, crime fighting, facilities for the physically challenged and safety in Malaysia. Interestingly, one baby boomer told Ipoh Echo that he would surely turn back the clock to the good old days!

Gen X: Gen X have a variety of answers for the changes they would like to see in Malaysia such as:

A: I will focus on getting our own people to work on the resources we have in our country.

B: I wish to change Malaysia into an Islamic country as Brunei,

C: Eliminate corruption in this country to make better lives for the next generations.

Gen Y: Generation Y is loud and not afraid to share their opinion on the changes they can bring to the country. While most wished to bring some changes in the political field others believe that although Malaysia is still far behind in becoming a world class country, nevertheless is improving.

Gen Z: Their eyes shine on hearing this question and Gen Z is not shy to talk about the changes they want to bring to this country. Some of the answers received included wishing Malaysia to have our very own space launch station. Quoting them, “The world is moving forward with high end and advanced technology, it is about time for us to have our own rockets,” said Fong, 10 years old.

6. Ask if they would come back to work in Perak?

Gen Y: Whether they are currently working overseas or just finished studying, returning back to their hometown is definitely on Gen Y’s mind. “I’ve been living in Kuala Lumpur since I pursued my studies till now, I’ve been planning to return home to Ipoh and stay with my parents once I am financially stable,” said Damia, 24, who believed it is her turn to take care of her parents.

Gen Z: Majority of the responses did not want to return to Perak (their hometown) and work. “Ipoh will be my hometown, a place where I will visit my parents on the weekends but not a place for me to stay,” added Sanjif 13 years old. Surprisingly, most of them choose to stay with close relatives like uncles and aunties but not with their parents.

In short, it was clear that each generation shares different views and hopes. Which in our opinion is a good thing for the future of our country.

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Tan Mei Kuan

Tan Mei Kuan graduated with first-class honours and book prize from University of Malaya majoring in languages and linguistics (English). She is proficient in both written and spoken English and Malay. She is also conversant in Mandarin and has knowledge of Japanese and Korean languages. Mei Kuan has been on the Dean’s List for three years running. Having written for the campus newspaper and residential college magazine, joining Ipoh Echo has helped utilise her writing and language skills. In her spare time she enjoys running (races).

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