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Lost in Translation: My Crash Course To Malaysian Culture

Discover the Hidden Gems of Malaysian Culture

By Anie LibanPublished 2 months ago 3 min read
Lost in Translation: My Crash Course To Malaysian Culture
Photo by mkjr_ on Unsplash

If I have to summarize Malaysian culture in one sentence, it would be “diverse”.

Malaysia has 2 regions:

West Peninsula

East Peninsula

West Malaysia has 11 states while East Malaysia has two states, Sabah and Sarawak.

It also has 3 Federal Territories including



Kuala Lumpur (the capital city, the place where I live in today)

When it comes to ethnicity, it is dominated by three major ethnicities: Malay, Chinese, and Indian.

Malay or bumiputra make up almost 62% of the population.

So if you want to experience a mix of cultures, I would recommend visiting the country.

Trust me, you’ll be amazed.

In this post, I’ll talk about Malaysian culture, its diversity, and my personal experience as a Filipino living in Malaysia.


Let’s dive in.


By Immo Wegmann on Unsplash

First, let’s take a peek at the heart of Malaysian culture – language.

Of course, Malay is still the official language.

But there are also Chinese and Indian people here.

So some Chinese will speak either Mandarin, Cantonese, Hokkien, or Hakka.

Indians, on the other hand, speak mainly in Tamil.


By Aldrin Rachman Pradana on Unsplash

Now let’s move on to what makes Malaysia popular amongst travelers – delicious food.

I must admit.

Compared to Filipino foods, Malaysian foods are more diverse.

They have many delicacies and spices.

My mother-in-law, for example, would use thrice amounts of onion in a recipe.

“Onions will make your cooking tastier and sweeter,” she says.

Here’s a peek at the popular foods in Malaysia:

Malay: Nasi Lemak, Rendang, Satay

Chinese: Char Kuey Teow, Dim Sum, Wanton Mee

Indian: Roti Canai, Nasi Kandar, Banana Leaf Rice


By Noah Holm on Unsplash

Next let’s talk about the religion in this country.

One thing that makes me feel respectful to this country is that they respect every religion.

Hindus can build “kuil” and Chinese can set up their “tapekong” anywhere.

In fact, the celebrations for the major religions, like Chinese New Year and Thaipussam, are a part of the national holiday.

So my husband doesn’t need to work on these days as respect for these joyous celebrations.

For Malays, the majority if not all of them are Muslims.

For the Chinese community, most of them practice Bhuddism.

For the Indians, they mostly practiced Hinduism.


By Muhammad Faiz Zulkeflee on Unsplash

Photo by Aniq Danial on Unsplash

Last but not least, let’s take a peek at the celebrations celebrated here.

For Muslims, they have Hari Raya Aidilfitri, Hari Raya Adha, Maulidurrasul and Isra’ and Mi’raj.

Their biggest celebration is the Hari Raya, which marks the end of Ramadhan and is characterized by open houses and delicious feasts.

On this day, my husband will visit his family, eat delicious food, and seek apologies.

For the Chinese, they have Chinese New Year, Mooncake Festivals, and Hungry Ghost festivals.

The major celebration is Chinese New Year, where the streets are adorned with red lanterns, dragon dances, and the exchange of angpows.

As for the Indians, they have Deepavali and Thaipussam.

Ther biggest celebration is the Deepavali, or also known as the Festival of Lights.

This celebration symbolizes the victory of light over darkness, with vibrant decorations and sweets.

Other Customs

By Firdaus Roslan on Unsplash

Aside from the cultures and tradition i mentioned above, they also practice certain customs. For example:

Respect for elders: They always offer respect to the elderly by kissing their hand and bowing slightly.

Modesty in attire: This custom is particularly important when visiting religious sites, with shoulders and knees usually covered

Dining etiquette: They eat with their right hand and wait for the eldest or the host to start eating before beginning their meal.

Final Thoughts

Embracing Malaysia’s cultural diversity opens the door to a world of unique experiences and insights.

Whether savoring a steaming bowl of laksa, marveling at the intricate designs of a Batik textile, or joining in the festivities of a traditional wedding, Malaysian culture captivates and enriches the hearts of all who encounter it.

So come visit Malaysia and experience the diversity yourself.

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About the Creator

Anie Liban

Stroke survivor turned content creator, I share insights on stroke recovery, kitchen tips, productivity, wellness, and a healthy lifestyle. I hope my words inspire resilience.

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