Malaysia is best described as an ethnic medley. While the majority of the population are Malays, the Malaysian culture is enriched by the mingling of several societies including Chinese, Indian, and Eurasian ones, and not to mention the many indigenous groups of Borneo.
Such rich cultural diversity in today’s world is a gift, though, for Malaysia, it has been its defining characteristic. Its blend of cultures makes it stand out as a cosmopolitan country which encourages different traditions, beliefs, and practices. It also supports universal associations with a number of social orders.
Malaysians love good food so much they will often talk about dinner when eating lunch. Spicy food is popular with Malaysians, with rice and noodles featuring in most of their cooking styles. There are also long debates on where the best version of a dish is to be found. For good food places, just ask any Malaysian to point out their favourite eatery and they will more than gladly show you the way.
The people of Malaysia believe in greeting others with their right hand, and never the left. Their belief is that the left hand is used for private purposes such as cleaning and bathing, and hence, it is not suitable for the purpose of greeting. It is also considered very rude to point with any of your fingers and most Malaysians will instead use their thumb or just nod in the right direction. Always use both hands to give or receive gifts and business cards as it is considered very rude to use only one hand.
While the official language is Malay, many Malaysians speak their own version of English, called Manglish (Malaysian English). Words are borrowed from other languages and short forms are used freely. For example “Can meh?” means “Can it be done?” and “Yes lah” means “Yes it is”. Shorter is better in Manglish and often hand gestures and facial expressions are used to help deliver a message. While confusing at first, once you get the hang of it, it can be very endearing.
Malaysians are very tolerant but amorous behaviour in public is frowned upon. It is best to behave and dress moderately in public. Women should avoid bare shoulders and short skirts.
Getting to know Malaysians is easier once you familiarise yourself with their country. They are a proud people who get along well with the clamouring, gurgling mixture of races and religions in their country. Malaysians are warm-hearted people once you adapt yourself to their culture.
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