ESSAY: Culture of Malaysia


Selamat Datang- quite a common phrase you must be hearing nowadays in ads and pictures of Malaysia. Malaysia has not only attracted people from all around the world now but has been doing since a very long time ago.
Situated in the south East Asian continent of the world, Malaysia is known for its vast diversity yet a strong singular Malay heritage and culture. Malaysia is a multi-cultural country. The native Malay, Chinese and Indian are the major races in the Malaysian population. The Chinese arrived in Malaysia since the British colonial times in the 19th century. The British used the Chinese migrants to work the tin mines. A major tin mine at that time was Kuala Lumpur and Ipoh. Chinese dialects that Chinese Malaysians speak are Cantonese, Mandarin, Hokkien, and Hakka. The availability of vernacular schools in Malaysia primary and secondary education has contributed to the ability of Chinese Malaysians to speak Mandarin. Constituting 8% of the Malaysian population, the Malaysian Indians arrived in times when they were used by the British to work in Rubber Plantations. Nowadays, the younger Indian Malaysians are mostly professionals’ executives. Malaysian Indians speak Tamil and Hindi.
Within Malaysian society, there is a Malay culture, a Chinese culture, an Indian culture, a Eurasian culture, along with the cultures of the indigenous of the peninsula and North Borneo. Malaysia's ethnic diversity is both a blessing and a source of stress. The mélange makes Malaysia one of the most cosmopolitan places on earth, as it helps sustain international relationships with the many societies represented in Malaysia: the Indonesian archipelago, the Islamic world, India, China, and Europe. Malaysians easily exchange ideas and techniques with the rest of the world and have an influence in global affairs. The same diversity presents seemingly intractable problems of social cohesion, and the threat of ethnic violence adds considerable tension to Malaysian politics. Malaysian society is remarkable due to its openness to diversity. The blunders of an outsider are tolerated, a charming dividend of Malaysia's cosmopolitan heritage. Yet this same diversity can present challenges for Malaysians when interacting in public.
Malay became Malaysia's sole national language in 1967 and has been institutionalized with a modest degree of success. Along with Malay and English, other languages are popular: many Chinese Malaysians speak some combination of Cantonese, Hokkien, and/or Mandarin; most Indian Malaysians speak Tamil; and numerous languages flourish among aboriginal groups in the peninsula, especially in Sarawak and Sabah.

Malaysia's diversity has blessed the country with one of the most exquisite cuisines in the world, and elements of Malay, Chinese, and Indian cooking are both distinct and blended together. Rice and noodles are common to all cuisine; spicy dishes are also favorites. Tropical fruits grow in abundance, and a local favorite is a durian, known for its spiked shell and fermented flesh whose pungent aroma and taste often separates locals from foreigners. Malaysia's affluence means that increasing amounts of meat and processed foods supplement the country's diet, and concerns about the health risks of their high-fat content are prominent in the press. This increased affluence also allows Malaysians to eat outside the home more often; small hawker stalls offer prepared food twenty-four hours a day in urban areas. Malaysia's ethnic diversity is apparent in food prohibitions: Muslims are forbidden to eat pork which is a favorite of the Chinese population; Hindus do not eat beef; some Buddhists are vegetarian. Alcohol consumption also separates non-Muslims from Muslims. When Malaysians have guests they tend to be very fastidious about hospitality, and an offer of food is a critical etiquette requirement. Tea or coffee is usually prepared along with small snacks for visitors. These refreshments sit in front of the guest until the host signals for them to be eaten. As a sign of accepting the host's hospitality the guest must at least sip the beverage and taste the food offered. These dynamics occur on a grander scale during a holiday open house. At celebrations marking important ethnic and religious holidays, many Malaysian families host friends and neighbors to visit and eat holiday delicacies. The visits of people from other ethnic groups and religions on these occasions are taken as evidence of Malaysian national amity.

The pre-colonial Malay rulers supported a rich variety of literary figures who produced court chronicles, fables, and legends that form a prominent part of the contemporary Malaysian cultural imagination. Developing a more contemporary national literature has been a struggle because of language, with controversies over whether Malaysian fiction should be composed solely in Malay or in other languages as well. Though adult literacy is nearly 90 percent, the well-read newspapers lament that the national belief in the importance of reading is stronger than the practice. Artistic performance in Malaysia is limited by the state's controls over public assembly and expression. The requirement that the government approves all scripts effectively limits what might be said in plays, films, and television. The preferred performance genre in Malaysia is popular music, and concerts of the top Malay pop singers have great followings in person and on television. Musical stars from Bombay and Hong Kong also have substantial numbers of very committed fans, whose devotion makes Malaysia an overseas stop on the tours of many performers. The favorite Malaysian entertainment medium is television, as most homes have television sets. Malaysians watch diverse programming: the standard export American fare, Japanese animation, Hong Kong martial arts, Hindi musicals, and Malay drama. The advent of the video cassette and the Internet was made for Malaysia's diverse society, allowing Malaysians to make expressive choices that often defeat the state's censorship. Given the Malaysian government's considerable support for rapid industrialization, scientific research is high on the list of its priorities. Malaysian universities produce sophisticated research, though they are sapped for funds by the huge expenditure of sending students overseas for their degrees. Malaysian scientists have made substantial contributions in rubber and palm oil research, and this work will likely continue to increase the productivity of these sectors.

Malaysia has not only successfully attracted youngsters and adults for tourism but its economical facilities, educational level has and still calls on many people towards its rich heritage and mesmerizing culture.


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