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#1 Best Guide To Malaysian Culture

March 11, 2022

People who are familiar with Malaysian culture often say that Malaysia is a melting pot of cultures. The first thing you notice about the country is its astonishing ethnic diversity. The country boasts of a very diverse population of Malays, Chinese, Indians, and other ethnicities, which may be one of the most diverse populations in the world. However, these differences are not just skin deep. Malaysians of different races and cultures tend to have subtle differences in culture and language.

Today, we will explore those nuances, and talk about languages spoken in Malaysia, ethnic groups, festivals, architecture, and more.

 

Malay Language

The language spoken by Malaysian people is called Malay. It is a widespread Austronesian language spoken by all Malay people who reside in the Malay Peninsula, the Philippines, parts of the coast of Borneo, southern Thailand, Singapore, central eastern Sumatra, the Riau Islands, Cocos, and Christmas Islands in Australia.

Malay is similar to Indonesian. The Malay language is officially known as Bahasa Malaysia, which translates to "Malaysian language". This term was introduced in 1967 by the National Language Act. Once most academics and government officials reverted to "Bahasa Melayu," in 1990, Bahasa Malaysia became the official name used in the Malay version of the Federal Constitution.

Ethnic Groups Of Malaysia

ethnic groups malaysia

About 25% of the Malaysian population consists of Malaysian Chinese, who speak using three main dialects of the Chinese language: Hokkien, Cantonese, and Mandarin speakers. Chinese Malaysian are descendants of immigrants who came mostly from China during British rule in Malaya (now Malaysia) or after independence in 1957.

They are followed by Indian Malaysians, who make up 10% of the country's population, and are usually descendants of South Indians who were brought into the country under British colonial rule. The Malaysian Indian community is one of the oldest in Malaysia and has been an important part of society for more than 100 years. They had a significant impact on the cultural development of Malaysian society.

Malaysian Religion And Festivals

malaysian festivals

Malaysian people are very religious and their festivals usually revolve around the religion they follow. Witnessing a local festival while traveling is a great way to get to know the diverse culture of Malaysia. Malaysia has many different religions, which are all practiced equally, including Islam, Hinduism, Christianity, and Buddhism. Islam is the largest and official religion of the country, and a lot of Penang people have converted to Islam or Christianity as well.

There are several major festivals in Malaysia, including Hari Raya Aidilfitri, Awal Muharram, and Kaamatan Festival, as some of the most important ones. Awal Muharram is also known as Ashura and it's an Islamic holiday to commemorate the death anniversary of Imam Hussein ibn Ali, grandson of Prophet Muhammad. It marks the beginning of the Islamic New Year and it is a time for Muslims to remember those who have died in battle, as well as their ancestors.

Hari Raya Aidilfitri is the Islamic New Year that marks the end of Ramadan, a month-long period of fasting and prayer. The celebrations last for 3 days in Malaysia. On this day, Muslims are expected to dress in their best clothes and visit homes as well as mosques.

Kaamatan Festival is celebrated in Malaysia to honor the harvest season. On this day, people wear traditional clothes and perform dances for their ancestors.

Malaysian Architecture

Many of Malaysia’s numerous architectural wonders were influenced by colonial rulers, British, Dutch, and Portuguese. The British were responsible for the design of many of the buildings in Kuala Lumpur during their colonial rule. These include landmarks like the Selangor Club House (1930) and Istana Negara (the royal palace). You can find out about some of the most popular Malaysian architectural miracles by following this link to the article about Malaysian architecture.

We shouldn't forget to mention that there are also many beautiful mosques in Malaysia that have both Islamic and European influences and can be explored throughout the length and breadth of the country.

The most popular architecture in Malaysia is the Malay vernacular. It is a mixture of Hindu, Islamic, and Chinese influences. The design was created by using indigenous materials such as wood, bamboo, and thatch for roofing. These buildings are usually small in size with one or two rooms but they can be bigger than this if needed.

Malaysian Culture And Etiquette

Greetings: Malay women do not shake hands with men. They only do so with women, whereas those of Malay Chinese descent shake hands lightly for a long time. In terms of who to greet first, It is generally considered polite to greet the older members of a family first.

Common Ways To Greet Someone In Malaysia

EnglishMalay
Hello/Hi hello/hai
Good Afternoon/Good Day selamat tengahari/selamat siang
Long time no see. Lama tak jumpa.
Welcome! Selamat datang!
It's been a while! Sudah agak lama!
Welcome back! Selamat kembali!

Gift giving: If you're invited to someone's home, bring chocolate or pastries. Do not expect the gift to be opened in front of you; only give gifts with your right or both hands. Malay Chinese may decline the gift before accepting it.

Giving Gifts

EnglishMalay
Look what I have for you!Lihat apa yang saya ada untuk anda!
I thought you might like this.Saya fikir anda mungkin suka ini.
Here's a little present for you.Ini sedikit hadiah untuk anda.
I got you something.Saya ada bagi awak sesuatu.
I hope you like it.Saya harap awak sukakannya.

Receiving Gifts

EnglishMalay
Thank you, I love it!Terima kasih, saya suka!
What a surprise!Sungguh tak disangka!
It is wonderful.Ia adalah indah.
You shouldn't have!You shouldn't have!
That's so kind!Itu sangat baik!

Dress code: Western clothing is popular and acceptable, and there are no rules to follow. However, we advise you to wear conservative clothes when leaving urban areas and visiting more rural and traditional regions.

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