Malaysia’s rich multiculturalism has given way to many unique features in the way people express themselves. Kuala Lumpur as the heart of the country, is the best place to witness the manifestations of this singular culture of Malaysians.
1. The eating never stops
Pasar malam, 24-hour food joints, tents occupying stretches of roads, roadside spots – the places you could go to eat anytime anywhere are endless. Serving up all kinds of food, from traditional Malay nasi lemak to Chinese dimsum to Indian dosa or the local call it tosai and modern iterations of Malaysian burgers – Malaysia has a night life like no other. It isn’t a custom to turn in for the night early; for what other time does the hard-working population have to catch up with their friends and gossip about the whole day? Over a cup of teh tarik and various options of food for supper, this is the way to go for all Malaysians regardless of job, race or religion.
2. Everything celebrated with lots of food and noise
No festival or event celebrated in Malaysia will be celebrated without food. If something is to be celebrated, it must be done in the liveliest way possible. During Ramadan or the fasting month, people from all races & religion are so excited to break fast together. During Chinese New Year, the signature fire crackers are brought out, while during Deepavali and Thaipusam the sounds of prayer bells and fireworks fill the air. Large family lunch or dinners are often held. There is also a local tradition to organise open house that literally everyone invited.
3. Speaking more than three languages in a single sentence
While it is common to find certain cultures speaking in their mother tongue to each other – it is the interactions between people of differing cultures to carefully observe. Even those who speak primarily in a single language will switch to another to get the message across more clearly. It is a common custom to pick up a few words in a language not your own, to communicate better with another person of that language.
For example, when ordering at the mamak, a local person might say, ‘Anneh, roti canai, satu, ta pau, thank you.’
Let see the multilingual breakdown, with the languages in brackets: Anneh – Brother (Tamil), satu – one (Malay), ta pau – take away (Mandarin), thank you (English).
4. Fusing traditional foods in a meal
Much like our languages, we also have a customary habit of mixing our dishes during a single meal. Imagine a spread of Malay nasi lemak (coconut rice), Indian curries and a side of Chinese noodles for lunch. Or how about some sup tulang (Malay bone broth) with putu mayam (Tamil sweet noodles) and Chinese fried oysters for supper? Feast your heart out with every cultural delicacy combination possible, at most food courts and markets or pasar malam. Do note that the pork & alcohol are not widely serve in most food courts and pasar malam as it is against the Muslim religion to consume non-halal food.