Tiffany Werner told Insider she pulled her kids out of school so they could travel the world with her and her husband.Tiffany Werner via TikTok
Tiffany Werner went on a $1,600 trip to Malaysia during a series of travels she made this year.
She went viral on TikTok for posting a video addressing preconceptions about Malaysia.
Werner told Insider she thinks some Americans are wrong about what some countries in Asia are like.
Tiffany Werner visited Kuala Lumpur on a six day tripTiffany Werner via TikTok
The video was intended to show people what Malaysia was really like.
Tiffany Werner with her family.Tiffany Werner via TikTok
Werner told Insider she used the phrase “third world,” because her friends from Mississippi have used that term to describe the places she was traveling to, although she said she does not particularly like the term herself.
The phrase “third world” originated during the Cold War as a way to describe countries that were not aligned with either the Soviet Union or the US, and then evolved into a catch-all term used to describe non-Western countries, according to History.com.
Related video: How durian, the ‘king of fruits,’ sparked a land battle in Malaysia
Many contemporary historians believe the term is outdated, and some have opted to replace it with the phrase “developing countries,” although some outlets have reported that there are disagreements among academics about this term, particularly because several non-Western countries have a higher GDP than countries in Europe.
“I feel like a lot of Americans, at least the people near me, really don’t know how people in other countries live,” she said, explaining that she made the video to show people who may not have traveled much what it was really like.
In 2019, Forbes reported that in a survey of 2,000 Americans, 40% said they had never left the country. Various outlets have also reported that American people are less likely to travel abroad than citizens in most other countries.
It was part of a series of TikToks showing all the things that surprised her about Malaysia.
Werner documents her family’s travels on Instagram and TikTokTiffany Werner
Werner started traveling with her husband and two children last year and has since pulled her kids out of school so they can visit and learn more about other countries.
The family of four ended up in Malaysia in early June, as they were looking for a place to go for a short stay while trying to get their visas renewed for Thailand, where they were previously staying.
Werner told Insider she knew very little about Malaysia before she landed there, and filmed more than 20 videos of herself as she visited places and tried new cuisines in Kuala Lumpur.
Her content filmed in Malaysia now has more than 3 million views.
On her trip, Werner was particularly impressed by the shopping malls she saw in Kuala Lumpur.
Suria KLCC shopping mall.Tiffany Werner via TikTok
Malaysia is well-known for its “mall culture,” and there are over 20 malls in Kuala Lumpur, according to travel website WonderfulMalaysia.com.
While Werner does visit shopping malls back in the US, she told Insider she felt malls were designed in a nicer way in Malaysia than in many parts of America.
“I’d walk into a mall and just get chills all over my body because of the way it looked. I felt so excited,” she told Insider.
Werner also said that Malaysian malls, in which there are sometimes digitalized maps that provide an exact route of how to get from your current location to a particular store, were particularly impressive in comparison to many American malls.
“The new technology that Malaysia has just far outweighed my deepest imagination,” she said, adding, “It was fancy and fabulous. I mean, first class.”
Several malls had huge indoor playgrounds for kids, and one had an indoor rollercoaster, Werner said.
Werner filmed an indoor rollercoaster in Times Square Mall, KLTiffany Werner via TikTok
Werner told Insider that she visited Times Square Mall in Kuala Lumpur and was “blown away” by the fact that there was an indoor amusement park, which included a rollercoaster that twisted around the inside of the mall.
The TikToker bought two tickets for her children to ride it, and said it was a drastically different experience for them, as there aren’t many child-friendly activities for them to do in their smaller town of McHenry, Mississippi.
“If you go on Google Earth and look up where I’m from, you can see how sheltered my children were, and how much better all the fun stuff here that is literally at their fingertips,” she told Insider.
In another mall, Werner found a giant sandpit, ball pit, and bouncy castle that local children were playing in, and filmed it on TikTok. “If I was a kid, I would be going crazy,” she said in the video.
The food-court system was new to Werner, who said she felt like she could find anything she wanted to eat in a single place.
Werner visited the Central Market food court in KL.Tiffany Werner via TikTok
There are many indoor and open-air food courts in Malaysia, where vendors set up stalls to sell different dishes and cuisines.
When Werner visited Central Market food court in Kuala Lumpur, she said, “I was impressed by the fact that you could get anything you wanted, really.”
“If you wanted Indian food, Italian food, Chinese food, it was all there,” she added.
She also told Insider she felt like there were more restaurants dotted around the city than she was used to seeing, with many of them staying open 24 hours a day.
“It was like we couldn’t eat enough,” she told Insider.
Malaysia has a food-delivery service that’s similar to Uber, which Werner was not previously aware of.
Grab is a food-delivery and travel service founded in Malaysia.Tiffany Werner via TikTok
Before Werner traveled to Bangkok, she was not aware that Thailand, and certain other countries in South East Asia, have a delivery and car service called Grab, which works in a similar way to Uber and Uber Eats, and was founded in Malaysia in 2012.
Werner ordered a variety of food dishes through Grab delivery and had a picnic with her family, filming it and reviewing the service on TikTok.
In her home town, Werner does not always have access to Uber or a cab service that can deliver food, and she said that when she ordered a Grab in Malaysia, she was impressed that the food arrived within 30 minutes and was delivered directly to her door, even though she was staying in a high-rise building.
“It really did show that they work so hard and put so much care into it. I mean, even the drinks were wrapped up well,” she told Insider, adding that it surprised her as she was used to feeling like “half your coke is going to be all over the place and the french fries are going to be cold by the time the order gets to you.”
Werner learned about history and culture from a new perspective in Malaysia, she said.
Werner visited the King’s palace and the National Monument in Malaysia.Tiffany Werner via TikTok.
Before arriving in Malaysia, Werner said she imagined most people would be Buddhist, much like Thailand, so she was surprised to learn that the official religion of Malaysia is Islam, although other religions may also be practiced freely, according to the Malaysian consitution.
Visiting locations such as the National Monument to honor those who died during Malaysia’s fight for independence, and the National Palace where the monarch resides, helped her to learn things about the country that she did not learn during her years in education.
“Every country has its own history, and it’s been a great learning experience to find out about these cultures for myself,” she told Insider, adding that she wanted her children to not just learn about history from an American perspective.
Werner hopes to return to Malaysia and is glad she spoke out against misconceptions about the country.
Malaysia in on the UN’s index of ‘developing’ countries for 2022.Tiffany Werner via TikTok
Looking back on her viral TikTok about Malaysia, where she challenged people who might refer to Malaysia with the disputed term, “third world,” Werner said, “I like opening up hard conversations, and I’m glad it got such a good response.”
According to the United Nations list of country classifications for 2022, Malaysia is officially a “developing country,” but it is not on the UN’s list of “least developed” countries in the world. In 2020, Forbes reported that Malaysia is investing resources into becoming part of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, a collective of developed nations often referred to as the “rich countries club.”
Werner she would love to return to Malaysia for a longer trip, saying, “I don’t know why some people still use the term ‘third world,’ but they need to check themselves because this place is amazing,” she said.
Malaysian commenters said they were glad that the video addressed common misconceptions about their culture.
The Petronas Twin Towers in Malaysia.Tiffany Werner via TikTok
Many commenters under Werner’s video told the TikToker that they were from Malaysia, or had Malaysian flags next to their usernames.
These commenters agreed that some people seem to have misconceptions about what life is like for many residents in Malaysia.
“Unfortunately… some people still think that our houses are on trees lol,” one comment with 138 likes said.
Other commenters said they agreed it is wrong for people to refer to countries using the term “third world,” and that they thought people should visit a country before making judgments about it.
Werner wants to continue to travel and experience new cultures with her family, documenting it on TikTok.
Werner said she wants to return to Malaysia.Tiffany Werner via TikTok
Since leaving Malaysia, Werner has traveled back to Thailand and is currently staying in Tbilisi, Georgia, where she films content about her experiences and journeys.
“I’m happy to spread joy and an awareness of different cultures,” she told Insider, adding, “I hope to encourage people to get out of their box, basically.”
Werner said she wants her content to inspire viewers to “go see different people, different places and different ways of life.”
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