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Malaysia is a multi-ethnic, multicultural and multilingual society which consist of three major races; the Malays, the Chinese, and the Indians. They are once immigrants who are brought in as workers by the British. The tribal people who lived in Malaysia long before the existence of the three races are known as the Orang Asli which means “Original People”; they populate the East Malaysia more in Sabah (Dayak, Iban, and Bidayuh) and Sarawak (Kadazan) in our current era. There are also other immigrants and expatriates races like Indonesian, Europeans, and etc. Among the three races, the Malay population is the largest.
The people in Malaysia lived in harmony in relation with each other, in business, in marriage, and even sharing food amongst themselves in someone’s wedding dinner or “kenduri”. The Malaysian flag also known as the “Jalur Gemilang” consist of 14 stripes which represents 14 states in Malaysia, the colours are red (courage), yellow (royalty), white (honesty and integrity), and blue (unity and harmony of the people).
National anthem: Negaraku (My country)
National Car Company: PROTON, and PERODUA
National newspaper: The Star, The Sun, Berita Harian, Utusan Malaysia, Sin Chew Daily, New Sabah Times, Rengah Sarawak.
Due to the multi-language environment, the English language in Malaysia has evolved into a creole with its own phonology, and grammar. In Malaysia the language spoken by the people are their own mother tongue language however, there is a mixed language called ”Manglish”. It is an unofficial English based language with words originating from Malay, Mandarin, Hokkien, Cantonese, and Tamil. Manglish means Malaysian English or sometimes Malglish or Mangled English; a unique dialect of English spoken in Malaysia.It is not taught in schools nor in the newspaper, on the streets Manglish is just "Malaysian English". The “Lah word”; in Malay, 'lah' is used to change a verb into a command or to soften its tone, particularly when usage of the verb may seem impolite. Examples like “come here”; sounded harsh and commanding, but if it’s like “come here lah”; it encourages you to go there, so the Malaysians implement this idea to improve the politeness of one’s word.
When you step into a Malaysian’s house, they will normally invite you in with a warm welcome. They will serve you with some drinks and titbits, of course to appreciate them, just take it or at least a small piece or sip. After your visit, they will walk you out the door.
The Malay Culture
The Malays, made up of more than 60% of Malaysia’s total population.
Typical Name: Muhamad (name starter meaning praiseworthy) Zulkifri (real name) bin (bin stands for “son of” and bte stands for “daughter of”) Abu (father’s name)
Language: Malay (Bahasa Malaysia), generally all people in Malaysia can speak the Malay language, for the Malays besides speaking Malay alone, they also speak and read Bahasa Jawi, an Arabic language.
Place of worship: Mosque
Traditional Shirt: Baju Kurung and Baju Kebaya (for ladies), Baju Melayu (for men), Songkok are normally worn on the head by men as a custom on Fridays when they visit the mosque
Food: Nasi Lemak, Nasi Kandar, Nasi Briyani, Mee Rojak, Mee Bandung, Roti Jala, Murtabak, Keropok Lekor, Laksam, Satay
Celebrates Ramadan which is the month of fasting, during that time Malays would fast and eat only at certain hours around in early morning, Hari Raya Puasa ends of the fasting month), the reason is to ask parents for forgiveness as well as to cleanse their sins. Green packets with money and Arab words imprinted on it are given to children and to others.
The Kris is an ancient weapon used during the invasion, and now is an ornament and collectibles found in most Malay Houses. Kulit Wayang (shadow puppet) controlled by a puppet master, it is a traditional drama played long before the existence of theatre or television and until today there is still shows offered to the public. Wau bulan is a large moon-like kite flown around the beach or on a large field; it is made by local shops spanning 2.5 meters in width and 3.5 meters in length, it is normally heavily decorated with bright colours so as it is high in the sky, it would look pretty.
The traditional Joget dance consist of dancers in pairs following a quick tempo. It involves a precise control of movements which involves in changing steps and body weight shifting, requires balance and if successful the dance look gracefully. Dikir barat is another type of traditional dance which is a group of dancers dancing based on poetry, the leader (tukang karut) will randomly alter the poem’s text based on social issues, legal matters, animal lifestyles, government regulations, human foibles and more, he may also adjust the tone, speed and rhythm. The backup singers known as the “awok-awok” sings the same lyrics back to him. During the performance, members of the awok-awok clap and perform rhythmic body movements. The musical instrument consists of five main instruments, the rebana ibu, the gendang anak, the gong, the maraccas, and the canang.
Malays just don’t like white and black as they represent sorrow colours, the Malays are also not allowed to get in contact with pigs and dogs as to religion, they also must pray 7 times a day, they are “imsak”, “subuh”, “syuruk”, “zohor”, “asar”, “maghrib”, and “isyak” praying times, it’s a sin not to attend any of the prayers unless extremely ill. In Malaysia, when a non-Muslim marries a Muslim, he or she must convert to Islam, disregarding the gender and previous religion. Some sayings that, a girl who sings in the kitchen will marry an old husband, if a cat jumped over a dead person, that person will sit up as a zombie, pointing the rainbow make you to lose your fingers, pointing at the moon will cause shortening of the fingers that is used to point it
The Indian Culture
The Indians, made up of more than 15% of Malaysia’s total population.
Typical Name: Abimanyu (real name) A/L (son of) Muniyamdum (father’s name)
Language: Tamil and Hindu
Religion: Hinduism (Hindus believe Brahman, Vishnu and Shiva are three parts of the “force” God: one creating, one preserving and one destroying).
Place of worship: Kuil (temple)
Traditional Shirt: Sari (for ladies), Dhoti (for men), Kurta(for men)
Food: Roti canai, Roti telur, Chapatti, Tossai, mostly food with a lot of spice
Celebrates Deepavali (festival of lights), they light up lights which it means “light up your inner light, may it clear the darkness that’s blocking your way”, it is a spiritual celebration with scented incense and, fire-crackers, feeling of joy, togetherness and regaining hope. Ponggal is another celebration by the Indians, Pongal in Tamil means "boiling over or spill over." The boiling over of milk in the clay pot symbolizes material abundance for the household, the Thai Ponggal, celebrated during harvest time, is traditionally intended to thank the “Sun God” for providing them abundant food, rice. It is one of the most important celebrations as it makes them realize the importance of life. Thaipussam where crowds of people assemble and march to “Batu Caves”, they will have to climb the mountain with stairs and enter the temple within the mountain. There are also “Kavadi” bearers where they are so into meditation that they don’t feel the pain stabbing their body, the kavadi is made up of wood and metal which is decorated with colourful decorations.
The Indians do not eat beef, so don’t ever offer them beef dishes, they appreciate cow as a very important organism as it helps the people to survive by providing milk as food when famine strikes. Their dish normally, has an extensive use of various spices, herbs and other vegetables, that’s what makes the Indian food burning spicy. They use Yoga (meditation) as a discipline to help a person control her or his body, mind, will and adhere to Dharma; moral laws. The Karma, we as humans have the freedom to do anything, may it be doing bad or good to others and to yourself, however there is always a consequence where you will be responsible for your actions, it will also be inflicted on you. So, just be good at all times.
The Chinese Culture
The Chinese, made up of more than 20% of Malaysia’s total population.
Typical Name: Chan (surname) Lek Jian (two Chinese name)
Language: Chinese (Dialect: Hokkien, Cantonese, Teochew, Mandarin, Hainanese, Min Bei, Foochow)
Religion: Buddhist, Taoist
Place of worship: Temple and Pagoda
Traditional Shirt: Cheongsam (One piece dress for ladies), Samfu (A shirt with long pants for men)
Food: Curry mee, Fish ball noodle, Char Kuey Teow, dim sum, Chinese tea, Moon cake (Eat and also gift to other people, during moon cake festival)
Celebrates Chinese New Year with lion dance, fire crackers, giving red packets (ang pau) with money to each other, paying visit to most relatives, having a family reunion dinner, some grandma or aunty would set up a mah-jong game normally after the dinner,gifting Pomelos or “loke yau”, in Cantonese is a popular gift as the word 'yau' sounds like the Cantonese word for abundance, and having a dish called Yee Sang; it is a simple mixture of thin slices of raw fish, shredded vegetables, colourful herbs and sauces. The people would mix it as it is a separated dish with pair of chopsticks, tossing the Yee Sang higher while saying out loud the word ”loh hei”, would bring prosperity and longevity. Wesak Day is the celebration of the birth of Buddha.
Feng Shui is an ancient art related to the law and order of the universe and the power of nature. It's a system developed 6,000 years ago based on the elements of astronomy, astrology, geology, physics, mathematics, philosophy, psychology and intuition. People believe through the knowledge of Feng Shui, are able to make themselves more in tune with nature, so that they can be better on their finances, health, and emotions. The Chinese term 'Feng Shui' simply means 'Wind and Water.'
There is another element known as Yin Yang, Yin and Yang are opposite in nature, for example good and bad, but they are part of nature, they rely on each other, and they can't exist without each other. The balance of Yin and Yang is important; any offset will cause the other to become stronger than the other, this will cause trouble. Many people believed that Yin Yang exists in everything.
The Orang Asli
The orang asli, made up of less than 10% of Malaysia’s total population, are indigenous people who live in the outskirts, they are normally less modernize although some tribe seemed to own electrical devices. Speaks Bahasa Melayu and their own native language, consists of Penan, Dayak, Iban, and Bidayuh and Kadazan. Very close to nature, they live in harmony with the environment and survive by hunting for food, repairing houses on their own, less electrical device. Some of them do wear shirt as most of them wear simple clothing, those had taken a step further compared to others by going to the town or city to look for a job.
So, to summarize, people in Malaysia may have different culture, different ways of doing things, different believes, but they are all united, Malaysia is a country with three major races whereas most countries have only one. Even though there are limitations, but we can tolerate and be considerate to others, I guess this the main point our unity. We do enjoy celebrating others celebration, enjoy other races food, and enjoy dressing up as others. Our government is doing a fantastic job in maintaining this harmony, and being a third world country is not too bad as people wouldn’t strive for work much, heavily compete among each other, instead we live in peace and implement “real culture” not “ideal culture”.