Malaysia & Us – Malaysian “Culture” We Have Imbibed

Merdeka! Merdeka! Merdeka!

Yes, it is the 31st of August and Malaysia is celebrating her 59th Independence Day. As you all know, we are a family of Indian expats living in Malaysia (both East and West) for the past 7+ years, almost 8 actually. Malaysia has become a second home for us, every street and gully feels as if we are people of this country. Over the past years, a few Malaysian habits have become part of our everyday routine – be it speaking like a Malaysian or eating like one or behaving like one… A few friends of mine would insist that I am more Malaysian than any other ,….hahaha…

Although, the culture in Malaysia is similar to that of India, there are a few typical characteristics that is unique to Malaysia – it starts with the language, basically. A mixture of bahasa malay, chinese and tamil along with english is what you will end up speaking EOD!

From having a multi-racial background, the country is so friendly and welcoming to foreigners like me who have been living  for so long, some of whom have made this country their home. In this post, I wish to write about how Malaysia has become part and parcel of our lives, so I “pen” down a few habits and things that we have imbibed over these years… Jom! (meaning let’s go)


Boleh Lah! Can Lah!

Yes Boleh Boleh! Can Can

The “lah” is very significant of a Malaysian or Singaporean and by default, this word just sneaks its way into your vocabulary. Cannot leave it out of a conversation at all lah! There you have it! Boleh is the malay word for Can, possible. This is one word you can use if you wish to bargain or convince someone to do/give you something.

Can Ah?

Well, this needs no explanation. It is just the shortened version of “Can you?” If I wish to parcel/takeaway some food, I just ask Can ah?

Holding up the so-called “Hand of God” to cross the road!

The Hand of God – Wave to cross the road

I do this everyday, more like a thank you gesture, to those car-drivers that let a pedestrian like me cross the road.

Kurang Manis!

A typical sight in a Malaysian restaurant

Literally means Less Sweet. Malaysians have a huuuge sweet tooth, they make their Teh Tarik (pulled tea) with condensed milk. So unless you tell them how sweet you want your tea, they will make it very very sweet!

Asking for more bittergourd fry/papadom when eating banana leaf meals

Bittergourd fry and papadoms are part and parcel of every banana leaf meal in Malaysia. And it is your right to ask for more, since it is our favourite! The waiters do actually happily serve you more, much to my surprise.

Got discount ah?

Asking for discount is every Malaysian’s birth right, well we have taken it up as well. When shopping at flea markets, we do ask the seller for the best price and ask for discount. Ask with a smile, some shop keepers will happily give you a good discount. Thank them for it!

Dont waste food- thanks to my colleague for this habit.

Makanan or food is an important part of a Malaysian’s life. Food always, somehow enters any conversation. And they do respect their food. My colleague always insists we shouldn’t waste food and I fully support her view. She would advice us to help ourselves with lesser food if we are unable to finish it. I thank her for making me realise this.

Broken english

Well, by now you would have realised the English spoken here is not essentially great English. I have had to (several times ) break down my sentences so everyone can understand what I am trying to tell them. In this process, I have sort of forgotten proper english hahaha. (Need to work on it)

“Last time” – this phrase has a new meaning!

I did not understand the usage of the words “last time” until recently. Here, people use this when they want to say/mention something that happened “earlier” So if I were to say, “Earlier there were 2 buses in this route…”  people in Malaysia would word it as “Last time there were 2 buses in this route…”

What else did we learn?

Always apologise, smile, thank whoever it is. I was received with smiles when I first landed in Malaysia, and till today every person I come across smiles back at me, lightens up my day. I like the way they all think “Smile, it costs nothing”

In fact, the other day, a bus driver on the RapidKL bus even asked me for directions till the last stop. Unfortunately I was to get down much before that. Poor driver, must have been his first day, I tried explaining to him the directions roughly, hope he reached safe and sound. Must have been his first day. All said and done, my daughter who is also Indian, prefers to call herself Malaysian because she has been here right from the time she can remember. (facepalm) I cant blame her, this place is so much like home!

As we cheered along with fellow Malaysians for Dato Lee Chong Wei, we cheer for you, on your Independence Day! Here’s wishing dear Malaysia and its people a very happy Merdeka! May Malaysia prosper on all fronts and grow to be a leader for all the good reasons.

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6 thoughts on “Malaysia & Us – Malaysian “Culture” We Have Imbibed”

  1. I haven’t been to Malaysia and based on your article it sounds like an amazing place with amazing people. I love your comment, I like the way they all think “Smile, it costs nothing”.

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