Malaysia’s history as a former British colony is well-known, but none should forget that its historical roots stretch back to millennia ago…in a unique brew of Hindu, Buddhist and 12th Century Muslim sultanates. Colonisation by the European started with the Portuguese in 1511 and the Dutch in 1641 before the British took their place, resulting in a strange, vibrant culture that is unique to Malaysia till this day.
Fun Fact: Malaysia was named as “Aurea Chersonesus (Golden Chersonese or the Golden Peninsula)” by Greek geographer Ptolemy and “Savarnadvipa” (Land of Gold) by Indian traders in the 2nd century.
It is believed that Malaysia has existed for at least 40,000 years since the remains of human life were found in Sarawak in the 1950s. Anthropologists, experts who study the human aspects of past and present societies, believe that the aboriginal Proto-Malays (Orang Asli) migrated from southwest China before eventually heading to Indonesia, Sumatra and Borneo.
Interestingly, the Kuala Lumpur we see today was founded in 1857, as a trading post for immigrant miners. It only became the capital in 1896.
Since experiencing the influence of powers from the far-flung seas of Europe to the Atlantic Ocean, Malaysia has undergone a tremendous transformation since gaining its independence in 1957, though not without difficulties.
Tunku Abdul Rahman, the Sultan of Kedah’s son led UMNO, together with the Malayan Chinese Association (MCA) and the Malayan Indian Congress (MIC) – called the Alliance Party led the road to independence.
This powerful show of unity spoke volumes.
Eventually, Malaysia was formed.
However, tensions rose in the 1960s as Malays became increasingly resentful of the success of the Chinese Malaysians, while the Chinese Malaysians resented the other’s political privileges. This led to an outbreak of riots, and hundreds died.
This led to the government introducing the New Economic Policy (NEP), a socio-economic affirmative action plan and the Alliance Party inviting opposition parties to join them and work together. This led to a more expanded and diverse party which then became the Barisan Nasional (BN: National Front).
Culture and Language
Malaysians consist of Malays, Chinese, Indians, mixed, indigenous people like Orang Asli, Dayak and more.
The most widely spoken indigenous languages are Iban and Kadazan 🙂
It’s common to find various dialects in use too! For example, if you go to Klang, you’ll find that more people use Hokkien. In Subang? Cantonese tend to dominate. So even if you travel within Kuala Lumpur, you can encounter all sorts of dialects and languages 😉
In Kuala Lumpur or urban areas, you’ll find that the most commonly used languages tend to range from Bahasa Malaysia, English, Chinese (Mandarin, Hokkien, Cantonese being the 3 most common dialects) to Tamil.
Course, we can’t forget our Malaysian English or slang, where we mix English and additional words like “lah”, “leh” and “lor” in our sentences.
- “Don’t be like that lor.”
- Translation: “Please don’t be like that.”
- “You know right, he’s always like that leh…”
- Translation: “You know, he’s always been like this… What can I even do?”
- “Do it like that lah, so much easier.”
- Translation: “Just do it this way. It’s much easier.”
The fact that we can use these terms in all sorts of ways, like show if we’re annoyed, resigned, used to it – is a total bonus.
Lifestyle & Religion
The beauty of our diversity is that we get to experience a culture that no other place has. For instance, being a Chinese and attending a Buka Puasa during Hari Raya and celebrating it with your Muslim friends and family is one. Or celebrating the Mid-Autumn festival, teaching others about it and enjoying it together.
Whether you’re Malay, Chinese, Indian, mixed or whatever, what makes Malaysia truly Malaysia is all of us and the Malaysian spirit that we bear together.
Cause at the end of the day, no matter what, we will always be Malaysians. And nothing can take that away from us.