About a month ago my brother and I went to Malaysia for a holiday. I didn’t know much about Malaysia before we went, so wasn’t sure what to expect.
One of the things I found fascinating about Malaysia is the incredible mixing pot of cultures you find there. Trusty Wikipedia describes Malaysia as:
“a multiethnic country, with Malays making up the majority, close to 52% of the population. About 24.6% of the population are Malaysians of Chinese descent. Malaysians of Indian descent comprise about 7% of the population. The remaining 10% comprises:
- Native East Malaysians, namely Bajau, Bidayuh, Dusun, Iban, Kadazan, Melanau, Orang Ulu, Sarawakian Malays, etc.
- Other native tribes of Peninsular Malaysia, such as the Orang Asli and Siamese people, and
- Non-native tribes of Peninsular Malaysia such as the Chettiars, the Peranakan and the Portuguese.”
I think a lot of countries (like Australia) like to throw around the term ‘multiculturalism’. (Yet, Wiki suggests that approximately 90% of Australians identify as having Anglo-Australian descent.) And we certainly like to pat ourselves on the back for being such a fantastically ‘multicultural society’. But I think we could learn a thing or two about multiculturalism from Malaysia.
To me, there is a big difference in being tolerant (teetering on the edge of intolerance) and accepting (you know the sort, where difference really doesn’t make a difference). Well I think Malaysia is the latter. It celebrates times of cultural significance (of its majority groups) with equal fervour. Its various places of worship can often be found next to each other, or across the street. Road signs are written in numerous different languages. People are curious and knowledgeable about religions and cultures that aren’t their own.
Nowhere is this amazing cultural fusion more evident than in the food. We sampled loads of food from street stalls and restaurants. Most was a fascinating mix of Malay, Chinese, Indian, European or any combination of these. To see some of my pictures of Malaysian street food, click here.