What Are Malaysian People Like?
What are Malaysian people like living in a unique country in a world of diversity of races, religions, and cultures?
As a result of the diversity, Malaysians can safely say that we are a unique bunch.
We have assimilated various cultures into our lifestyle so well that what we consider normal is unique to visitors to Malaysia.
From language to food and celebrations, Malaysians tend to mix everything up nicely.
Here are the ten things that Malaysians will know about that make us unique.
You May Also Like
- The Malaysian LAH
- Top 10 Malaysian Street Food Below $5
- Malaysia Travel Tips To Help You Travel Better
Bahasa Rojak – The Manglish
A funny concoction of English, Malay, Mandarin, and Tamil Manglish is an English-based creole that first-time visitors find both puzzling and endearing.
It involves ‘lah’ (in Peninsula Malaysia) or ‘bah’ (in East Malaysia) at the end of every sentence and language.
Malaysians are multilingual and not only switch automatically from one language to another.
What Are Malaysian People Like?
Like the Malaysian Salad, Rojak, where local fruits, vegetables, and cuttlefish are mixed in a delicious black gooey sauce!
A Malaysian’s vocabulary often mixes three or even four different tongues in a single sentence.
If you live here, you’ll hear this often example,
“Wei, dah kaw Tim Kerja you? Jom Lepak kat kedai Mamak jap la, nak tapau makanan Untuk Family .”
English translation: “Hey, have you finished your work? Let’s meet at the Mamak stall in a bit. I want to take away dinner for my Family.”
“Dei, please tolong me tapau lunch, okay?”
English translation: Bro, please help me buy packed lunch, okay?
In that one sentence, there are Cantonese, English, and Malay words all mixed.
If you ask a Malaysian, what language is that?
The answer might be “English.”
That mixture of cultural jargon is so smooth and well incorporated, just like a tasty Rojak.
Malaysians think they speak English, but most tourists can’t understand.
Okay, fine. So maybe it’s more Manglish than English.
Malaysian grammar police.
On the flip side, Malaysians speak good English and have a great vocabulary.
If you’re an American, you’ll be surprised that your Malaysian friend can call out brinjal, aubergine, and eggplant in the same breath.
In all seriousness, though — the multilingual school system has taught all Malaysians the various parts of English speech well.
So if your written English is bad, hire a Malaysian proofreader.
If all fails, sign up for Grammarly.
Malaysians Say “lol” In Their Daily Conversation.
They don’t spell the letters. They say it as if it is a word.
Malaysians Don’t Understand Malay.
While most Malaysians speak Malay, they can’t understand the same slang from different states.
Penang: Saya lapar gila.
Sarawak: Kamek lapar ilak
Kelantan: Lapa wei lok perut ni.
Terengganu: Kebulur weh tobak laa.
Curse Words In Three Languages
Normally the first words of a new language you learn are probably swear words.
You might meet some ugly Malaysians able to out-curse a sailor with a combination of three languages or more.
When faced with a very frustrating situation, Malaysians spew many dirty words faster than you can say, “Chee Cheong Fun, Kari Mai Fun.”
Which are incidentally noodle dishes.
Malaysian use “Lah,” “Meh,” “Leh,” “Loh,” and “Ah” at the end of every sentence.
You can discuss any subject under the sun.
“Don’t do like this, LAH!”
“I’m not good at this, Leh! You do, loh! I follow.”
The “Agak-Agak” Method
In Malaysia, where everything Can “Boleh,” show off what you know and ‘agak-agak” what you don’t.
Ask your Nyonya grandmother about the quantity of the ingredients for their heirloom recipe; the answer is “Agak-Agak” LAH or buys 10 cents chilies.
Ten cents chili in 1920? Today you need to pay 50 cents for a single red chili.
You get the eye roll and “Agak-Agak” LAH.
So your mother steps in to help, saying, “Agak-agak Boleh lah.”
The two older women smile, leaving you flabbergasted.
Malaysians Are One BIG Happy Family
Malaysians call every senior person “Aunty,” “Uncle,” “Makcik,” “Pakcik,” “Akka,” “Anneh.”
“Sis,” “Bro,” “Kak,” and “Abang.”
I love you; you love me. We’re a happy family.
Malaysians Love Food.
Everyone eats one LONG meal in Malaysia, which is broken up into activities.
Seriously, it is the national pass time.
If you are here to visit for the first time, you will be surprised when you are asked to eat.
It’s almost every hour on the hour!
Since the season rarely changes, people don’t talk about the weather much.
They rather talk about food!
‘Rain’ Is Not A Problem For Malaysians.
What foreigners call a “storm,” Malaysians call “rain.”
When the downpour begins, it sounds like a thousand bullets are hitting the roof of your house or car – which incidentally may or may not be blown away.
The wind howls, the thunder resounds, and the lightning cracks the sky in half.
Through it all, Malaysians will be relaxed and hide it inside their shopping malls.
Most Malaysians are happy to hide in the malls during inclement weather over the weekend.
Instead, Malaysians talk about food or continue eating.
Malaysians are very proud of their culinary heritage, and since each ethnicity has its specialties, everyone tries to outdo everyone else.
Street-side food stalls and food courts are found at every corner.
A Perfect Malaysian Meal Starts With Breakfast
Half-boiled egg + toast with butter and kaya + kopi ‘o’
Roti Canai Banjir!
Nasi Lemak Bungkus for breakfast, lunch, teatime, dinner, supper, and after clubbing.
We guarantee eating Banana Leaf Rice with your hands tastes better.
Drive around aimlessly to satisfy your Ramly burger craving in the middle of the night. Nope, McD tastes different.
Malaysians will make a beeline for Family Mart, McD, and KFC everywhere if this is not enough since eating out is very affordable.
Most Malaysians would have celebrated or attended a birthday party at a fast-food outlet.
The dark side of this is that not all the food is healthy.
For Malaysians, deep-frying is often the default cooking method.
With sugar as a food group, over 45 percent of Malaysians are obese, topping the rankings in South East Asia.
Malaysian Food Is A Fusion Cuisine.
The cuisine substantiates this claim that Malaysia is renowned for its cultural diversity.
From Nyonya dishes (a mix of Chinese and Malay flavors, apropos the Peranakan culture) to Mamak food (a blend of Indian and Malay fare),
A Malaysian buffet has food from the major races – you can count on Char Koay Teow, Biryani and curries, and Satay on top of Ice Kacang and Kueh Mueh.
As if there isn’t enough food, Malaysians will drive for hours to another state, e.g., Penang or Ipoh, for one reason and another – TO EAT.
While they can drive for hours and queue up to pump petrol the night before, the price goes up.
Getting stuck in a traffic jam is especially “Kan Cheong” when you desperately need to pee!
Malaysians in Selangor take the LRT to KLCC instead of driving, as parking in KL is too expensive!
Malaysians love weekend Gateways.
Go to typical vacation spots like Genting Highlands, Cameron Highlands, and Sunway Lagoon over the school holidays or famous islands like Pulau Langkawi or Pulau Redang.
Most Malaysians would have taken a touristy pic with the Petronas Twin Towers.
When a Malaysian finally goes abroad for a long time, more than half of her luggage is packed with food.
Dried chili, ikan bills, keropok, Milo, and Maggie mee.
You get the idea. <eye roll>
Malaysians Will Eat Everywhere!
Malaysians don’t think anything of stopping their car for food whenever. You will see the car park and a family tucking in freshly opened durian by the roadside.
The same goes for eating cendol, Rojak, and Laksa by the roadside.
Yes, they line up under the hot sun for good food too.
Malaysians Say “Bojio” Way Too Often.
So, would you go if people “Jio” (invite you)?
Malaysian Like “Atas” Food at Hawker prices.
When it comes to fine dining and such, Malaysian will sometimes compare the portion to the price of raw ingredients.
Malaysians Like To Say, “Camera Eat First.”
Malaysians can’t drink their latte without taking photos from every possible angle. And when they are done, they take a selfie, upload it, and only begin drinking or eating.
You can sometimes catch a Malaysian taking photo of cooked white Rice.
Malaysians Flood Their Rice Or Roti Canai With Gravy.
“Banjir” is Malay for flood, but when a Malaysian gestures with his thumb, he says, “Banjir.”
The Abang or Anne will flood your meal with Kuah (gravy).
The Mamak Stalls
Malaysians don’t remember a pre-Mamak era.
The Mamak has invaded the Malaysian lifestyle entirely through their delicious, cheap, glorious, spicy food.
Their operation hours are 24 hour operation hours.
Don’t try dieting in Malaysia. The truth is it is almost impossible!
Malaysians love to hang out at the Mamak with the phrase, “Jom Mamak!”
The Mamak stalls are great as a cheap and chill hangout place with friends, ESPECIALLY during football matches.
Malaysians love political jokes and enjoy memes about Malaysian politicians, which you talk about with your friends over a Mamak session.
Mamak restaurants have become a culture in Malaysia, and it’s the one we’re not letting go of soon.
Hang out at the Mamak until 3 am to watch football or badminton.
Malaysian Support The Country’s Badminton Team And Premier League Football.
Malaysian get upset when others don’t know who Lee Chong Wei is.
If Malaysia wins badminton or football, you first ask, “So, tomorrow got holidays?”
Let’s Go For Breakfast And Eat Rice!
For Malaysians, no breakfast is too heavy.
Nasi lemak with extra sambal at 7 in the morning is perfectly fine for your stomach.
So is Duck Rice, Nasi Kandar, and a huge bowl of Chee Cheong Chok, a breakfast congee with innards. (in what???)
Nasi Lemak can be eaten three times a day, just like Nasi Kandar and Chicken Rice Meals.
Your Malaysian buddy may be a “Rice Barrel” since white Rice is a Malaysian staple.
We can have it for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and supper.
Every Malaysian kitchen has a wooden, clay, or plastic barrel.
However, most Malaysians don’t know how to cook Rice in a pot!
So almost everyone will have a rice cooker!
Everyone is the BOSS in Malaysia!!
As a sign of respect, Malaysians call our security workers, Mamak, barbers, mechanics, and shopkeepers – BOSS!
The service workers will holler back BOSS too!
However, remember not to call your actual boss in the office the same way you call the Mamak to clean up your table.
Alternatively, Malaysians call the vendor “Leng Zai” or “Leng Lui.”
Malaysians call that because it grabs their attention with a “confidence boost.”
Works both ways for seller and buyer, no matter the age!
Malaysian Love To Ask Obvious Questions. DUH!
You hear Malaysians asking you, “You eating ah?” as you put food into your mouth.
The same goes for meeting another Malaysian at the cinema. “You see a movie, ah?”
Another absolutely weird question that Malaysians sometimes ask is, “So and so (an acquaintance) just left for Singapore – Why did you not follow?”
Malaysians Always Plan Their Meals.
Malaysians start discussing what to eat for dinner before lunch is served.
In Malaysian households, the matriarch sometimes ends dinner with this question “What do you want for breakfast?”
Malaysian Love Catching Up (gossiping) With Friends At A Mamak Stall.
Most think it is way more fun and cheaper than clubbing.
They go so often that they don’t even request a menu anymore.
Malaysians Are Thick Skinned.
With the locals’ razor-edged humor, you need to be tough as nails, stiff as a truck, and thick like a brick to survive in the country.
Malaysians, forgive you if it’s your first time here, maybe after your second or third visit.
But if you’ve stayed here for six months and can’t say ‘Terima Kasih’ without that funky accent.
The jokes will begin.
The Heart-Stopping Malaysian Beverages
While at the Mamak (Indian Muslim) or the Warung (Malay), you get to try the best drinks with the strangest names.
Malaysian drinks have names that defy logic.
Have you ever heard of Milo Dinosaur? Michael Jackson? Or the more deadly Air Ular (Snake Water)?
Malaysian drinks are saccharine sweet, and you will know immediately when you take a sip!
If you think a Bubble Tea with milk (232 kcal) is sweet.
The toe-curling Milo Godzilla (475 kcal)
and Milo Dinosaur (357 kcal)
Having a drink is like drinking an McD Burger in calories!
Malaysians Love Milo.
True joy is when the Milo truck comes to your school for Hari Sukan (Sports Day).
All Malaysians will swear that Milo tastes better than the Milo trucks.
BUT Teh Tarik (pulled hot milk tea) is our national drink
We even have competitions and national championships to find the best teh Tarik master in the country.
Malaysians are crazy about McDonald’s.
Malaysians will queue up for hours (or even overnight!) whenever there’s a new store opening, a new product launch, or unexpectedly in-demand Happy Meal toys.
Translated as a Minion/ Hello Kitty toys promo. Well, for some, it’s BTS.
Malaysians Love Milo More Than Coffee.
Milo every day for breakfast and supper.
Drinks In Mini Plastic Bags (Ikat Tepi, Please!)
If you take away your drinks from the Mamak, Warung, or Kopitiam, the dispenser will pour your drinks into rectangular plastic bags.
You can choose Ikat Tepi (tie by the side with a straw) or Ikat Semua (completely tied and secured) with a pink Tali Rafia.
You get to hang your drink bicycle or motorcycle’s handlebars.
Nothing feels more Malaysian than drinking this way.
The Backward Jacket Sensation
After you get your drinks and get on your motorcycle if it starts to rain!
You can wear a rain jacket backward while riding a bike to protect your shirt.
If you’re at the traffic lights, you will see middle-aged bike riders doing this.
Nothing screams, ‘I am Malaysian!
Malaysian driving skills
From flashing their headlights and tailgating you to sticking a hand out of the driver’s window and even turning on the hazard lights – Malaysians will infuriate you with their haphazard driving habits.
That said, Malaysians take their generosity to the highway.
If you’ve forgotten to turn your headlights on at night, someone will gently honk their car horn to remind you.
If you’ve left your car boot or fuel cap open, a motorcycle driver will chase after you to signal you.
Like a flat tire, someone on a motorcycle will stop by and offer help.
Malaysian Mat Rempit
A Mat Rempit is a Malaysian term for “an individual who participates in activities such as illegal street racing, bike stunt performance, petty crime, and public disturbance using a motorcycle.”
The motorcycle is usually a 2- and 4-stroke underbone, colloquially known as Kapcai or scooter.
The All-Powerful HAND
Malaysian take the 1990s “Talk to the hand” to a different level.
While the origins were a sarcastic saying, one does not want to hear what the speaker says.
Malaysians use the simple act of holding the palm of their hand up for lots of things.
The usefulness of the writing is endless!
• To cross the road without waiting for the traffic light
• Thank the other driver for letting you merge
• Signal your gratefulness to the security guard for letting you in the apartment without your access card.
• Your hands have the superpower to stop incoming traffic.
• Facepalm the drivers, and they will automatically stop.
On My Way!
Malaysians are the least punctual people when it comes to appointments.
The phrase “rubber time” is made especially for Malaysians.
You are always “on the way.”
When people call to ask where you are, you reply, “on the way,” even if you are still sleeping in bed!
Malaysians know that when someone says, “I’m on the way!” chances are they’ll be at least another 30 minutes away.
Yellow on the traffic lights means drive faster.
Wait, that’s not what that means?
Rushing Through Traffic.
7.00 pm in Hong Kong/Korea drama time, no matter what race you are.
Malaysians rush home to watch their dramas and are known to defer functions and events if there’s an anticipated cliffhanger episode.
When you were little, the plot of Hong Kong and Taiwan dramas were what you would discuss in school. Nowadays, Korean drama rules.
Malaysians Double Park Like A Boss (when they are late!)
Sometimes, Malaysians leave their cell phone number on the windshield to show people they are responsible people.
If a Malaysian blocks your car, you should call them on their cell phone to move the vehicle!
Malaysian Point Using Their Thumb.
It is considered rude to point to things using your index finger.
Open House in Malaysia
While Malaysians may be tardy for events, they are the first to arrive at an Open House.
With a multicultural population, Malaysian celebrate more holidays than any other country.
The Malaysian thing we love to do when celebrating Hari Raya, Deepavali, or Chinese New Year is to open our homes to friends and Family – usually with a generous buffet of food and drinks.
During festivities, Malaysians look forward to the release of a Petronas Advertisement.
The only thing Malaysians love more than food during the festive season is crying over a touching Petronas Advertisement.
Malaysians long wear traditional clothing only when it’s a special occasion, and when they do, you will see the locals keeping ‘Muhibbah’ alive or Hari Muhibbah in school.
If you have enough friends and Family, you can live off open houses for the whole month.
The best part of Hari Raya is to go to a Raya open house and eat all the rendang and ketupat!
Malaysians Love The Word “FREE.”
After they purchase something, they always ask, “Got gift ah?”
Malaysians Love Going To The Pasar Malam
Malaysians are bound to gather whenever there’s cheap and plentiful food, slippers, random knick-knacks, and more food like Ayam Percik.
Malaysians Like Their Cheap Stuff.
It’s why they have street and night markets that can rival, with imitation watches, bags, and jewelry so well-made they’d put the real things out of business.
One of the reasons why online retail is running away with the ringgit is because Malaysians will shop at Lazada and Lelong and 11street, and Shopee, as long as it’s cheaper than the original branded stores at the Pavilion Mall in KL.
In conclusion: While Malaysia generally stays under the radar, the people are one of Asia’s most friendly and tolerant nationalities.
Malaysians love to explain where Malaysia is to a foreigner when they crave Malaysian food overseas.
When they have visitors, they love nothing better than bringing their new friends to eat a Banana Leaf Rice meal or Roti Tisu at Kayu restaurants.
Their reactions when the server brings the towering structure to your table – PRICELESS.
Of course, I get annoyed when someone dares to imply that X country has better food than Malaysia.
Malaysian food is the best. Anyone who says otherwise is WRONG.
A country with its three major ethnic communities lives mostly in harmony. Once you get to know the people and culture, you will never leave Malaysia.
What other local experiences do you think are Malaysian? Let us know in the comments section below!
Malaysia – Culture, Etiquette, and Business Practices