I was inspired to write about this from my recent visit to Putrajaya. Putrajaya is the home to the Malaysian Government however it is also home to one the most prominent Mosques in Malaysia, Masjid Mosque. Malaysia started as a country full of indigenous tribes. The next people to jump the ship were Malays, these people arrived from Asia mainland in very ancient times.
Several in particular have had especially lasting influence on the country. Chief among these is the ancient Malay culture, and the cultures of Malaysia’s two most prominent trading partners throughout history–the Chinese, and the Indians. These three groups are joined by a dizzying array of indigenous tribes, many of which live in the forests and coastal areas of Borneo. Each of these cultures has in the recent years tried very hard to vigorously maintain its traditions and community structures, they have also blended together to create contemporary diverse culture.
Through Trade, India , China have ear marked cultural influences making this a melting pot of races, traditions and religions. The majority of the population being Islamic makes it very important to observe the rules and regulations that come with visiting the Islamic states. Something as simple as holding hands can lead to drastic penalties from the Government. Thou Muslim is the majority in Malaysia, other customs to understand are the vast amount of Hindu’s and the always growing number of Buddhist. Christians are generally made up from the local Chinese and ex-pat communities.
Things we see as everyday things like hugging and kissing are not normal here and some Muslim when shaking hands while insist on not touching while shaking. This is normal and should be respected. Shaking hands with Muslim women is forbidden and there are many articles on it so I wont bore you with details (just don’t do it).
One example of the complexity with which Malaysia’s immigrant populations have contributed to the nation’s culture as a whole is the history of Chinese immigrants. The first Chinese to settle in the straits, primarily in and around Malacca, gradually adopted elements of Malaysian culture and intermarried with the Malaysian community. Known as the Babas and the Nonyas, they eventually produced a set of practices, beliefs, and arts, combining Malay and Chinese traditions in such a way as to create a new culture. Later on the Chinese, coming to grab the natural resources offered by the tin and rubber booms, have preserved their culture much more meticulously. A city like Penang for example, can often give one the impression of being in China rather than in Malaysia.
Indian culture here is thriving and with the general amount of festivals, you can see a lot of it in Malaysia. Malaysia has more holidays than Australia, with the different ethnic groups it’s no wonder. The Indian festivals are full of colour. As you travel along Malaysia you may see different Indian Temples along the way.
This rich culture has made Malaysia a place to visit. Apple Hotel in Kuala Lumpur can guide you through some of the local sites where the majority of ethnic food and people are concentrated. This is great to get a feel for the food, colour and experience of local culture.