salt vs sauce

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Salt has become my big problem here.
I only use it on french fries, but its mandatory!
So the first time i ate fries here, i grabbed the 3 holed shaker, that luckily was on the table, and poured a lot of it to my fries… Only to find out that it was pepper. On my fries!
I got to make this mistake a couple of times already, cos we’ve got out brain formatted to “3 holes = salt; 1hole = pepper”.
Of course this as a logic here, cos Malaysians hardly ever use salt like we westerns do. They use plenty of herbs and spices, that give an amazing taste to their food, our food is kind of plain for them. Pepper and chili though, they use a lot, thus the 3 holes for the pepper.
But this is hardly the best story regarding problems with salt in Malaysia. When salt isn’t on the table, and i want to request it, that’s when i have a serious problem!
This serious problem even made me learn how to ask for salt in malay: “Buggy saia garam”.
So, imagine this, i’m at a restaurant, order some fries, and then request the Waiter salt:
Di: Could you bring me some salt, please?
Waiter: Ah???!
Di: Some salt please.
[I use my mimics skills and do the gesture of putting invisible Salt on the fries]
Waiter: Ahh! Sauce!
Di: No, salt. ‘Buggy saia Garam’
Waiter: Ah??
Di: In malay is ‘Garam’.
Waiter: What is the english word?
Di: Salt.
Waiter: Ahhh!!! Sauce!!!
Di: No. SALT! Garam!
[Waiter panics and runs off]
[I stand still on the chair looking at the Waiter running off, and calling another Waiter]
Waiter 2: Yes Miss?
Di: Could you bring me some salt, please?
Waiter 2: Sauce!
Di: No, salt. ‘Garam’
Waiter 2: Ah??
Di: In malay is ‘Garam’.
Waiter 2: What is the english word?
Di: Salt.
Waiter 2: Ahhh!!! Sauce!!!
Di: No. SALT! ‘Garam’!
[Waiter 2 runs off. And brings Chili (sauce), Ketchup, Mayonnaise, Pepper, sometimes Sugar, and then finally Salt!!]

I guess that being a western, of course i would ask for salt in english, so they probably think i’m speaking weird english!
After talking to some locals about this common episode, they explained to me that most Waiters are not Malaysians, and that even they have to speak english most of the time.
So thats why they don’t understand my perfectly good Malay!

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