Living in Malaysia
Culture and Environment - Malaysia
Malaysia is a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic country which appreciate its diversity. In the world we are living now there is certainly an increasing trend towards creating a strong national identity with an emphasis on homogenous culture and society but Malaysia is rejecting this trend. Malaysia always has been a multi-dimensional country and appreciating other culture and values is certainly at their cores of Malaysian belief system. Government of Malaysia also encourages and maintains policies that helps maintaining the peace and cultural equilibrium in the states. In Malaysia the various races are cheered to preserve their ethnic names and languages and also practice their respective religions. All of these has lead Malaysia to become an exciting multi-cultural country. The tolerant culture of Malaysia is certainly apparent in any festive occasion. There is certainly no shortage of festival in Malaysia thanks to many culture and religion that exist in Malaysia.
Malaysia has some of the most public holidays in Asia. Festival origins may be tied up to one certain religious or cultural groups but all the groups certainly take advantage of any chance they can find to celebrate. You will see multi-cultural aspects everywhere you look, due to the multi-racial nature of Malaysia and it is most obvious in Kuala Lumpur, one of the biggest multidimensional cosmopolitan in the world. The diversity also extends to the food. Kuala Lumpur is a hub for a massive variety of Malay, Indian, Chinese and other world class cuisine.
Now a day where ethnic and religious tension is skyrocketing in various parts of world Malaysia is going to the opposite direction. Malaysia truly is very unique in the sense of its culture. People of different religions and backgrounds blend with no trouble together and they respect and live with each other tranquilly. The result is a remarkable combination of individuals, food, customs and culture.
Malaysians are usually a very cheerful and merry people, nevertheless most of them will not stand bad manners and impoliteness. Demeanors are important in this country. So saying "thank you" and "excuse me” whenever you are interacting with people will be appreciated by the people. Like most Asians, the people here can be a little introverted and shy. But don’t let that discourage you to start a conversation. Sometimes you will find an outspoken person with whom you can have an discerning conversation about Malaysian or world issues. Don’t forget to tell them how lovely you find Malaysia is and you will certainly be gifted with a heartwarming broad smile. You will also find a lot of foreigners living in Kuala Lumpur.
Majority of the Malaysian population are Muslims and a large part of it are practicing Muslims, so you will see a lot of ladies with headscarves (Hijab). Try not to stare to much as it is considered rude in Malaysia. However, in Kuala Lumpur, expect some stares everywhere you go, as many residential consider "people-watching" the ideal activity to pass the time.
The biggest Racial groups of Malaysia is Malay. Most Malay are Muslims and they are faithful to their religion. They are also friendly and welcoming.
Don’t be afraid of Muslim as they are is huge misconception about them. Media are often quick to portrait all Muslim as terrorist but that are definitely far from the truth. If you give yourself the chance and overcome the media stereotype you will find that they are normal people like most people around the world. Muslims have own tradition and rules and Malaysian Muslims bring their own favor to it. Nevertheless, they follow the basic rules of Islam like praying five times a day, maintain a strict dietary requirement like the Jews. You need to be careful about what kind of food you give it to them. Make sure that they are Halal (think of it as an Islamic version of kosher).
The second largest race are the Chinese. Malaysian Chinese mainly live in the urban areas and are mainly involved in business and commerce. The Chinese are predominantly Buddhist, Christian or free-thinkers. Though there is a trend emerging as some Chinese are converting to Islam. Indians are the third major race and they live all around the states. Indians follows Hindu, Christian or Muslim (Mamaks) but majority are followers of Hindu religion. The Hindus and Buddhists also have their own dietary requirements. Checking dietary requirements is the norm in Malaysia and it is quite expected. So make sure to check with each individual before offering them food. In addition to these three races, there are many other races in this multi-racial country, such as the Iban, Dayak, Bidayuh from Sarawak and the Kadazan, Bajau, Murut from Sabah.
If you want to visit any place with religious significance, then you should wear conservative cloths and make sure that you remove your shoes before entering the place. The same goes for when visiting any private home. Keep your voice down when you talk in the places of worship. The rural area is generally more conservative than the urban area so it’s always a good idea to dress conservatively while visiting the rural areas. You will find rural Malaysian will be more helpful towards tourist who dress moderately.
Kuala Lumpur and Penang are two of the most favorite cities and these two cities are also the hub for biggest variety of cultures in Malaysia. You will often find a friendly-and-maybe-nosy taxi driver/tour operator that usually starts up a conversation with the sentence. They can certainly give you important information about Malaysia.
The official language of Malaysia is Bahasa Malaysia which is standardized Malay language. There are reportedly 137 living languages in Malaysia. But fear not most Malaysia most Malaysian can speak English and English take preference when starting up a conversation. The bulk of the Chinese and Indian populations who lives in the cities and city people can speak a mixture of languages. Food is hugely important in Malaysians life as they regard food as the ambassador of a culture. You will find all sorts of local and foreign food in all the big cities in Malaysia. Reflecting the attitude towards their food you will find a huge variety of food if you were to land yourself in a food court. All the world class chain fast food and western food center like KFC, McDonalds, Starbucks and Pizza Hut can be easily found and don’t forget the taste the local delicious snacks you can find in the local street food center.
Malaysia is truly a dream place for food adventurers. But no matter what don’t forget to enjoy the local cuisine especially the nasi lemak, chicken rice or fried kuey teow, and chapati or roti canai a try as they are considered the ambassadors of local culture. You wouldn’t able find the same taste as original local food in other parts of the world no matter what the Malaysian restaurants around the world tell you.
In the East Coast and the North side of the country most of the people lives there are the Malay people. They are religious and shy people who are passionate about their own religion and politics so it’s a good idea not to jump to a random conclusion and start a conversation about religion or politics. The people here are generally less outgoing compared to those in the larger cities. As usually it’s always a good idea to dress moderately when travelling through these parts of the country.
Majority of Malaysian are Muslims and Islam is the official religion. But Malaysian government make sure that other people of religion are not discriminated for their religious values. Malaysian people enjoys all the religious festivities together. On Friday, there would be an extended lunch break for Friday prayers. Avoid doing any official business during this time because except for some essential services all services come to a stop. In some states, the weekend is Friday and Saturday, so offices open on Sunday instead. Our advice is do not keep your important work for Friday instead enjoy the unique site of Friday prayers that are most uncommon scene in most western world.
Other things to remember is that unlike America Malaysia doesn’t have a gun culture in their country. Unless you have a license for a firearm in Malaysia you are not allowed to possess any kind of firearm. Malaysian are also very strict about illegal drugs. Drugs like heroin or marijuana are considered illegal and anyone can face even death penalty for involve in drug business.
Malaysia is located between 2 and 7 degrees north of the Equator. There are two major geographical region of the country – one is Penisular Malaysia to the west and other is East Malaysia to the east. To the north of Peninsular Malaysia is Thailand while its southern neighbour is Singapore. The East Malaysia consists of the Malaysian states of Sabah, Sarawak, and the Federal Territory of Labuan. Peninsular Malaysia is separated from the East Malaysia by the South China Sea. East Malaysia share a common border with Indonesia while Sarawak also shares a border with Brunei Darussalam. Malaysia diverse landscape also carry a diverse range of plants, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish and mammals, some of them are rarest among the world.
As Malaysia is located near the equator the climate of Malaysia remain hot and humid throughout the year. The annual rainfall varies from 200 cm to 250cm and the temperature remains on average 27 °C (80.6 °F) throughout the year though higher elevation experience a slightly colder temperature ranging between 15°C (59°F) to 25°C (77°F). Malaysia has two monsoon winds season, one start from April to September and other is from October to March. Mountain range throughout Malaysia also affects the climate of the country as the hill slopes of Sarawak inland area experience an annual 500cm rainfall throughout the year. Malaysia also face two different kind of climate in its two main geographical regions. The penisula’s climate is inflicted by wind from the mainland and the East side is more susceptible to maritime weather.