I don’t know if it’s because I’m a tourist in this country but it seems like national pride is really a thing in South Korea.

Today, we went on a free walking tour along the Cheonggyecheon stream. The guide was a retiree who was a First Lieutenant in the army.

Based on my previous experiences of free walking tours, a tip is usually expected. In South Korea, they don’t want a tip. They’re just happy to share the history of their country with visitors.

Even in restaurants, owners will ask where I’m from and whether I like Seoul. “Yes,” I tell them. “Seoul is great!”

And they’ll say thank you as if I’ve paid them a personal compliment.

Just before I left Kuala Lumpur, I was at an event for F&B people and there, we talked about how the industry isn’t growing as fast as it could because we don’t have the right consumers.

We also aren’t telling the right stories.

So much of what I see here has similar equivalents in KL and what makes these places attractions is good copywriting and positioning.

A craft market becomes a “design lab” where people can talk to “the artists”. A market where raw meat is sold becomes a must-visit spot. A hypermarket is on almost every tourist’s to-go list.

Malaysia has some of the best national parks in the world, in terms of biodiversity. We have markets and street food and bars. We have islands that have some of the best diving spots.

And yet, because we’re trying to emulate everyone else, we don’t know how to be proud of ourselves. We don’t know how to tell our own stories.

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