Coronavirus: Malaysian men in shopping muddle amid lockdown

Man looking at fruit in a market Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The many varieties of food for sale can make for confusing choices in Malaysia

The Malaysian government's decision to allow only "the head of the family" to leave the house to shop, as part of measures to suppress the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak, has had unintended consequences.

Some men are unexpectedly finding themselves responsible for the grocery shopping and suddenly having to distinguish between bewildering varieties of vegetables, spices and herbs.

"Govt allowing a man to shop unsupervised? Disaster," was the immediate jokey conclusion of one woman on Twitter.

Several men concurred, however, expressing their anguish on social media.

One Facebook post of three men scrutinising pieces of paper in a supermarket aisle has been shared more than 30,000 times, with poster Muzaffar Rahman saying the shopping felt like "a treasure hunt", with everyone checking their lists several times.

Image copyright FACEBOOK/MUZAFFAR RAHMAN
Image caption Muzaffar said he was impressed his wife had listed items according to the supermarket layout though

"The real meaning of panic buying is when the husband as the head of the household has to go and buy groceries on their own. Adding to the panic is when the husband has never had to recognise what ginger, galangal, turmeric, Chinese celery, spring onions or chives are," joked another Twitter account.

Several men certainly admitted to being confused.

"I felt dizzy trying to work out which were mustard greens, which spinach, and which pak choi," said another Twitter user. "Then there were many kinds of cabbages - the long ones, the round, the short."

Another just listed his many possible choices on being told to buy red onions: "Rose onions, big onions, big Indian onions, little Indian onions, Myanmar onions, Thai onions, Indonesian onions".

Image copyright TWITTER/@IZZHARNAZRI
Image caption "Which is the celery!" asks this tweet with almost 20,000 likes. "They all look the same."

One said he had no trouble with the shopping list until faced with the variety of menstrual pads on offer.

'I was a bit shy about taking out the list'

Saidatul Akhmar Yahya, a 37-year-old banker told BBC Monitoring she normally does the shopping, and that her 30-year-old brother Amirul Shafiq often comes along to help.

As she was working from home this week, however, she gave him a shopping list, which included "green beans" - dried legumes she intended to use to make a sweet soup for tea.

But he returned with long beans. "I am speechless and keep on laughing, in tears," she said.

Amirul said his sister had briefed him on each item but, at the supermarket, "I was also a bit shy about taking out the list... because I saw a few other men also struggling, searching for the items on their list." He just remembered he had to buy beans.

Image copyright SAIDATUL AKHMAR YAHYA
Image caption Amirul Shafiq said he would leave the shopping to his sister next time

He also wound up taking an hour and a half to finish the shopping instead of the usual half hour. "She kept on asking me why I was so late."

"The stare of death"

Another man recounted being asked to buy a piece of galangal and returning with 1kg of it: "The stare of death the missus gave is unforgettable".

Other users helpfully suggested he plant the remainder to ensure an ongoing supply at home.

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But help is at hand for those new to grocery shopping.

One state government and a supermarket have shared infographics labelling groceries and parts of a chicken.

A chef has posted a video with advice on choosing fresh fish, and another popular post on Facebook has advised men to make sure their phones are fully charged before leaving the house, so they can consult their wives while shopping - just maybe not on speaker.

"One of these remote shoppers got scolded by his wife over the phone when he was on loudspeaker... wrong carrots."

Reporting by Tse Yin Lee

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