How Malaysian Are You? Well, If You’re Guilty Of These 10 Malaysian Habits…
How do you define a ‘Malaysian’? Is it our constant complaints about the weather? Our failure to indicate when we change lanes? Our inherent ability to always, somehow, show up late? There’s more to being Malaysian than what we do wrong as a collective society. No, there’s beauty in being from where we are. After all, there is more to our identities just the colour of our identity cards or birth certificates. It’s in the way we interact with the people around us, in the way we look out for each other (staying home during the MCO, asking our friends to text us when they reach home, going to the mamak with them at 1am because they need kaki) and it’s in the way we can still recite our Rukun Negara (even if we get the order of it wrong). Being Malaysian is our ability to connect, reflect and relive our past through all these shared habits we’ve subconsciously built. So, if you think you aren’t “Malaysian” enough, ask yourself if you’ve ever been guilty (for lack of a better word) of these 10 truly Malaysian habits.
Instead of talking about the weather, you’ve started conversations by asking, “Dah makan?”
Malaysians are all about food – after all, all we have to say about the weather is “Wah why so hot?” and “Why must it rain now?”. It’s easier to ask people we’re unfamiliar with questions about food because there’s so much to be said about food in Malaysia. Asking someone if they’ve already eaten is the equivalent of “Nice weather today” and usually, acts as a way better conversations starter.
If someone asks you what you want to eat, your answer is “anything” or “anywhere”
Cincai laaaaah, as long as we get to eat! Malaysian food is amazing and the variety available to us means that it’s difficult to come to an immediate consensus over what to eat. Ramly burger? Banana leaf? Laksa? Whatever the choice is, it’s going to be amazing so bust out the food roulette ’cause it’s going to take forever and a half to decide.
Anytime is Nasi Lemak time
Breakfast, lunch, dinner, supper – we have no problem having our national dish at any time of the day; sometimes even multiple times a day. Because of how versatile it is (and how much we love it), whether you choose to have it plain or with chicken, fish, beef, egg, squid, prawn (you get the idea), it’s bound to be a filling, satisfying meal.
You’d rather drive places than walk
With how gruellingly hot our Malaysian weather can be (or unrelenting when its pouring rain), it’s no wonder Malaysians would rather take the 5-minute drive (and subsequent half an hour search for parking) over walking for 15 minutes. Not to mention the fact that we Malaysians are indulgent when it comes to comfort and convenience. Why walk when we can drive?
You’ve parked in places that are not designated parking spots – but hey, if the car fits…
Malaysians are talented (a nicer way of saying inconsiderate lah, let’s be honest) when it comes to parking – we can turn any space into a parking spot. More often than not, you’ll see cars double parking, parking in the middle of the road, on the sidewalk and more. Of course, this is sometimes accompanied by the inclusion of our phone numbers on our dashboards but for a quick, 5 minute stop? Boleh lah. After all, finding parking is near impossible (if you’ve been to SS15, you understand).
You use ‘The Hand’ when you cross the road
No zebra crossing or crosswalk? No problem, just use ‘The Hand’. Another Malaysian talent – our own Force – is stopping traffic in its tracks by putting up our hand. Our parents do it, we do it – everyone does it. Just raise one hand (and an eyebrow if you’re feeling extra cheeky) and watch as everyone stops for you.
You’ve said you’re “on the way” while still getting ready at home
There’s a reason why we Malaysians have our own “timing”; heck, it’s normal to expect people to be up to half an hour late to a meet because of it. And if asked where we are, we often reply, “on the way, on the way” even if we haven’t started making our way over. Yup, we’re all guilty of wanting others to think that we’re punctual even when we’re really usually out of the shower when we’re supposed to be at the mamak already. After all, it’s easy enough to say, “jam ah” or “no parking!”.
You say “thank you” when someone says “thank you” to you
Although it’s difficult to figure out how we ended up doing this (maybe we’re just courteous like that?) but we tend to say “thank you” instead of “you’re welcome”. This is probably the cutest of our Malaysian habits – especially if you’ve been in an endless cycle of “thank you”, “no, thank you”, “no no, you ah, thank you!”. This is not something we have to change anything soon because its almost a rule now that saying “thank you” to someone who has thanked you is the equivalent to “you’re welcome”.
Everyone older than we are will be referred to as “Aunty”, “Uncle” or “Boss”
Asians are all about respect and hierarchies. Malaysians are taught to respect our elders and as a form of respect, we often call those who appear older than us “Aunty” or “Uncle”. It doesn’t matter if they are related to us or not – they are older than us and thus, deserve the respect we would extend to our own family members. This also applies to those in the service industry. Often, we get the attention of others by calling out, “Boss!”. They could be a fellow customer, the store owner, a salesman, a waiter or a janitor – everyone is a boss in Malaysia!
You’re fluent in Manglish
One of the beautiful things about being Malaysian is our ability to combine at least 3 different languages (“Boss! Milo peng bungkus ikat tepi!”) in a sentence and still be understood nationwide. With how multicultural our country is, we’re lucky to have grown up with exposure to other cultures. All those days in school spent with students whose mother tongue isn’t the same as yours and all those hours spent catching up with friends at the mamak means that we all talk differently but we still understand each other. A lot of the time, we don’t realise that the words we’re using and the context that they’re used in won’t make sense anywhere else than on our home ground. The rest of the world won’t understand “action”, “steady” or “settle” the way we do.
At the end of the day, some habits are worth changing while others are so inherently Malaysian that the nostalgia makes us smile. There is so much about growing up in Malaysia that is beautiful and not something we could have gotten anywhere else. So let’s not forget our roots – instead, embrace our odd use of languages, the harmony of different cultures, the excitement of different personalities and pat each other on the back. Kita semua ni Malaysian, after all.
*Cover image credits: Chan Teik Quan on Instagram