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10 Quirks and Traits of Malaysia and Malaysians

Updated on December 16, 2016

Malaysia, Truly Asia

During Merdeka (Independence), phrases like “proud to be Malaysian.” are commonly heard.

But what are we proud of and what makes us truly Malaysian? In a nutshell, it is our food, culture and language. Roti canai is quintessentially Malaysian and so is the suffix lah.

As our country celebrates its 57th year of independence from the British, let's look at some of the things that make people makes them proud to call themselves Malaysians.

1. Food

When the common greeting among Malaysians is sudah makan? (have you eaten?) and people are willing to travel for hours just to get good food, you know you’re in the right place. Malaysia’s food is a melting pot consisting of Malay, Chinese and Indian influences in its cuisine. There are numerous mouthwatering delicacies ranging from asam laksa, roti canai to nasi lemak and char kuey teow. It is said that "When it comes to food, all conflicts and arguments are put aside."

Laksa is a popular spicy noodle soup in the Peranakan cuisine, which is a combination of Chinese and Malay cuisine.
Laksa is a popular spicy noodle soup in the Peranakan cuisine, which is a combination of Chinese and Malay cuisine.

2. Language

When there are 3 races in a nation speaking 3 different languages, the interaction between people leads to formation of new words. Malaysians love learning words from other languages and knowing another's culture and history.

Don't be surprised to hear a Malay speaking Chinese fluently, or vice versa. Most Malaysians are bilingual or multilingual, making us a favourite among employers.

There is also a habit of adding suffix lah to a sentence. As Malaysians put it, using lah puts an extra oomph or emphasis to what one is saying. In a conversation, it is possible to use 4 different languages or dialects in the same sentence and yet still be understood by others.

3. Religious Diversity

“I get to celebrate and experience different festivals, and dress up in the traditional attire of the different races. It also means more holidays!”- Amelia John Selvarani

Visitors to Malaysia often comment on our religious diversity - people of different faiths and beliefs are able to live together harmoniously. Malaysia is a country where a church, mosque and temple can be located within the same locale or neighbourhood.

Growing up in this multi-racial and multi-religious environment, most Malaysians are mindful of their behaviour conduct to avoid offending friends of different faiths. For example, during the month of Ramadan where Muslims fast, it is only polite to avoid eating and drinking in front of Muslim friends; most would know not to serve beef to Hindus, etc.

These sensitivities to others’ religious beliefs is what makes religious diversity so interesting in Malaysia.

Lord Murugan Statue is the tallest statue of a Hindu deity in Malaysia and second tallest statue of a Hindu deity in the world, only second place to the Kailashnath Mahadev Statue in Nepal
Lord Murugan Statue is the tallest statue of a Hindu deity in Malaysia and second tallest statue of a Hindu deity in the world, only second place to the Kailashnath Mahadev Statue in Nepal

4. Modernly Traditional

Malaysia’s buildings and architecture are a mix of both traditional and modern. Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia, is known for the 2 iconic skysrapers - the Petronas Twin Towers. At the same time, KL’s streets remain peppered with well-preserved pre-war buildings that showcase it's history and culture - while moving forward, Malaysia has not forgotten its culture, heritage and history.

The Petronas Twin Towers
The Petronas Twin Towers

5. Our rich heritage

History is not limited to a boring subject we learn from textbooks - its influence is visible in multiple aspects of our daily lives. There are two Unesco World Heritage Cities in Malaysia; George Town in Penang and Malacca.

Over a period of time, the interaction between different cultures have fostered the formation of a new, combined one.

Cultures such as the Peranakan or Straits Chinese are unique to this region, as are practices like the "open house"
Cultures such as the Peranakan or Straits Chinese are unique to this region, as are practices like the "open house"

6. Friendliness

In Malaysia, strangers are addressed with a warm ‘auntie’ or ‘uncle’ or ‘kak’ and ‘makcik’. Most Malaysians are quick to smile and always eager to help a lost tourist, from the noodle seller to the taxi driver.

7. Malaysia's Stability and Peace

Malaysia's geographical location protects the country from most major natural disasters. It is located on a seismically stable plate which minimises the direct risk of earthquakes and volcanoes, is partially protected from tsunamis by surrounding landmasses, and is a rare target for typhoons due its strategic location outside tropical cyclone basins.

While people in other parts of the world live in uncertainty of natural disasters such as earthquakes and typhoons, Malaysia has long been shielded from catastrophes and conflicts. This makes it an attractive destination for investments and tourism.

Malaysia, a great tourist destination.
Malaysia, a great tourist destination.

8. Beautiful Scenery, Attractions and Destinations

Running the gamut from natural sites to historical sites to modern shopping malls, Malaysia has it all. For those who prefer natural scenery, in Sabah and Sarawak, there are pristine islands such as Pulau Sipadan and Pulau Gaya, while Mount Kinabalu, the tallest mountain in South-East Asia is a Unesco World Heritage Site. It’s also no secret that Malaysians are obsessed with shopping, as seen from the dozens of well-furbished shopping malls (and counting!) in the Klang Valley.

Rawa Island in Malaysia
Rawa Island in Malaysia

9. Our achievements

Few things can unite people like sports. When supporters and players come together, they put aside differences like race or beliefs.

Malaysia has many talents in various fields, from the acting chops of Datuk Michelle Yeoh to the squash prowess of Datuk Nicol Ann David.

Clinching Olympic medals.
Clinching Olympic medals.

10. Internationally Recognised

There is an increasing number of international events being hosted in Malaysia such as the Formula 1 in Sepang and the Redbull Air Race in Putrajaya.

Events such as the George Town Festival in Penang aimed to promote the humanities and arts in Malaysia to tourists while Floria Putrajaya has attracted millions of visitors.


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