Did you know that the phrases ‘First World’ and ‘Third World’ were initially coined during the Cold War to identify nations according to their allegiances? At the time, ‘First World’ nations referred to the United States, Western Europe, as well as their allied countries. ‘Second World’ countries, which is a term less used now, consisted of countries such as the Soviet Union, China, Cuba, and other countries from within the Communist bloc. Then finally, ‘Third World’ countries referred to nations that were attached to neither side.
As for the modern context, ‘Third World’ now typically refers to developing nations that are underdeveloped, or have substandard conditions in certain regards as compared to more advanced nations. And over time, the term has even been used in a derogatory manner to cast aspersions on to countries to connote inferiority.
American woman impressed with Pavilion, points out M’sia isn’t third-world
However, an American tourist travelling through Kuala Lumpur has recently caught the attention of locals over social media, after she had uploaded a video of herself in Kuala Lumpur, with the hopes of disputing and dispelling the long-standing misconceptions that Americans have about Malaysia being a ‘third-world country’.
Filming herself walking into Pavilion Kuala Lumpur’s main entrance, travel and lifestyle content creator Tiffany Werner addresses her American viewers with a question as she pans her camera around the popular mall.
“For all of my people in America that think I’m in some third-world country, does this look third-world to you?”
Sounding impressed by the mall’s architecture, especially with regards to the sun-drenched atrium, she claims that America doesn’t have malls that were quite like Pavilion.
“Does this look third-world country to you? We have nothing like this where we’re from!”
M’sians discuss over the use of the term ‘third world’
Her video has since gone viral, with Malaysian netizens claiming that Americans were too insulated and rarely knew what life is truly like in other countries beyond their own. Invariably, this has led to stereotypes such as Malaysians living on trees to persist.
One has pointed out that Malaysia offers subsidised public healthcare and maternity leave, while America does not.
However, some have argued that Malaysia’s third-world denomination doesn’t shy too far from the truth, as only Kuala Lumpur appears to be metropolitan, while many parts of Malaysia continue to languish with poor infrastructure. Netizens even point out that the grandeur of local shopping malls shouldn’t be used as an indicator for how developed a country is.
One netizen says that by definition, Malaysia is a third-world country as second world countries no longer exist after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
Others have also joked that if the tourist was already impressed with the size of Pavilion Kuala Lumpur, then chances are she would be floored by the sprawling expanse of 1 Utama Shopping Centre in Damansara Utama.
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