The Ethnic Groups in Malaysia and Its Culture

By just looking at the title above, you know what I am going to talk about. Yes, you are right, the culture of our magnificent country. Our country is actually envied by many foreigners. Why? Well, one of the main reasons is because of how we Malaysians can live in harmony for many years, even though we consist of many different races and ethnic groups. The culture of our country started out with the unique combination and amount of ethnic groups in our country. Let’s understand more of our country’s ethnic group before we go on shall we?

Let me briefly introduce to you the three major ethnic groups in our country, the Malay, Chinese and the Indians. Firstly, the Malays, also known as the bumiputras of the country, which means “son of soil”, they also make up our country’s largest ethnic group, which cover more than 50% of the population.

Their skin tones tend to be a little bit light-brownish and most of them are born with beautiful double eyelids. Most people in our government are Malays and not the offend anyone; Malays in our country receive better benefits compare to the other ethnic groups. In my opinion, it is very hard to achieve equality in this country due to this.

Secondly, it will be the second most populated ethnic group in the country – The Chinese people. I, being in this particular ethnic group, have pretty much information to tell. The Chinese in this country are actually descendents of ancient China. A very long time ago, when the British ruled our country, they needed people to be work in rubber fields or do mining.

Many of our Chinese ancestors chose to come to our country not because they want to work and earn money; most of them came to our country to escape from the war that occurred in China or were forced to come because the British were conquering China then. Chinese people are fairly fairer and they are mostly born with almond shaped eyes. Not to forget that they are also categorized into Hokkien, Cantonese, Hakka and many more sub ethnic groups.

The third major ethnic group in our country is the Indians. The Indians has almost the same history as the Chinese, they are descendents of India from a long time ago. Very weirdly, it is a very big coincidence that the Indians and the Chinese has another thing in common; they were brought here by the British to do work. The Indians are the least populated among the three major ethnic groups.

They have a darker skin tone color and the have big beautiful eyes. Indian mamaks are very popular among us Malaysians and they make the curry ever. They also categorize themselves into Punjabis, Malayalees, Tamils and others.

According to historical records, it indicates that early contracts between Chinese, Indians and Malays may not have been entirely harmonious and free of mutual suspicion, but it does not seem that racial divisions were present. What to think about the difference between then and now if according to the records?

Well, it is a total opposite. By looking at the history textbooks we study during our school time, do you really think we were always this harmony? The answer is, no. Inequality is a major problem in our country. In our history textbook the government had given us, much information is missing. The information of Chinese and Indians that help to develop the country were cut down or they were just not mention. Look at the May 13th situation and HINDRAF, it all happen because of inequality.

Honestly, it is really hard that so many ethnic groups living together in the same society. That is why respect and participation are important elements in shaping and sculpting a strong community. Instead of that, we must always remember that patience is a skill we need to be tolerant. Most people jump into conclusions because of their races, which is how blind actions take place. Like they always say, patience is the key to peace and harmony.

We tend to forget that there are more ethnic groups in Malaysia, like for instance Bajaus, Kadazan, Ibans and the orang asli. In Sabah and Sarawak, they consists a large number of ethnic groups even I never heard of! Although living in the same country, I still do not know much of my people; it is a shame for many young people nowadays too, all they know are mainly the three main ethnic groups.

Besides that, another we must not forget about is that many foreigners, or shall I say legal immigrants came to our country live as citizens of Malaysia. For example, the Koreans, Japanese, Filipinos, Indonesians, etc because of the way we live.

Being a Malaysian, we are very lucky. We live in a place where there are no serious and deadly problems like natural disasters or war. Besides that, the pace of how we live is very slow, carefree and we don’t have much stress compare to other country. Studies show that the Koreans and Japanese in the country came because they wanted to live the ‘Malaysian’ way.

The main question our country’s people are asking is, why Malaysia? Of all countries, why pick Malaysia? Why does so many people from the outside wants to come to our country while we, people of Malaysia wants to migrate to other people’s country? Maybe one day, Malaysia’s three major ethnic groups are Malays, Japanese and Koreans. It would be very weird. Malaysia will not be Malaysia anymore.

Ethnic relations go way back into our country’s history. They are not just the natural consequences of the differences between cultures. Due to peninsular Malaysia’s strategic location, it became a well-known trade centre and a great meeting point for people all around the world such as Malacca. Since then, various ethnic groups were present in our country.

Many Malaysians, especially the young generation today are blinded by racial stereotypes that is influenced by their elders and the media. I remember when I was young, my mom used to point at an Indian guy and told me that he will catch me and take me away if I’m a bad girl. That is why many Chinese children are afraid of people with a darker skin tone. Good morality and positive viewings of other people should be taught when a person is still young and not give negative comments to people of other races to them.

Let’s get to another point shall we. Now, what attracts foreigners to come to our country? The main reason is our culture of course. Remember what I mention in the first paragraph? Foreigners are envious of our country. Culture is also something they envy a lot.

Define culture. Culture refers to the cumulative deposit of knowledge, experience, beliefs, values, attitudes, meanings, hierarchies, religion, notions of time, roles, spatial relations, concepts of the universe, and material objects and possessions acquired by a group of people in the course of generations through individual and group striving. Culture is also a communication, communication is culture. To make it simple, it is the way we behave and act in our daily lives. The things we say, the clothes we wear, the food we eat or even the way we walk are somehow connected to a culture we adapt in our daily lives.

People within the same culture carry several layers of mental programming within themselves. The first one is the national level; it is associated with the nation as a whole. The second one is the regional level, which is associated with ethnic, linguistic or religious differences that exist within a nation.

Then the third is the gender level, which is associated with gender differences. The fourth is the generation level, which is associated with differences between grandparents and parents, parents and children. Then it is the social level, which is associated with educational opportunities and differences in occupation. Last but not least is the corporate level, which is associated with the particular culture of an organization and applicable to those who are employed.

Amongst the very few countries in the world stands Malaysia, with people from different countries and cultures. Despite being influenced by diverse cultures, Malaysia has made its mark by furnishing its own identity to the world. Its rich culture can be depicted as an assortment, where you can find variety harmonizing the global standards.

Traditional cultures like festive celebrations are held all the time in almost every part in the country. Chinese New Year, Hari Raya, Deepavali and even Christmas are celebrated every year and are celebrated by everyone in the country, despite their races. We Malaysian have something in common; we enjoy celebrations, celebrations and more celebrations! Did you know that we are one of the countries in the world with the most holidays ever? We can celebrate anything at anytime at anywhere!

We have many unique cultural activities due to our large number of ethnic groups. 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 babas and nonyas, they eventually produced a synthetic set of practices, beliefs, and arts, combining Malay and Chinese traditions in such a way as to create a new culture. Later Chinese, coming to exploit 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.

Besides that, another Malaysia's extraordinary cultural exchange is the Malay wedding ceremony, which incorporates elements of the Hindu traditions of southern India; the bride and groom dress in gorgeous brocades, sit in state, and feed each other yellow rice with hands painted with henna. Muslims have adapted the Chinese custom of giving little red packets of money (ang pau) at festivals to their own needs; the packets given on Muslim holidays are green and have Arab writing on them.

Religious culture in our country is also very popular. There are many religions in this country, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity and even animism due to our large number of ethnic groups. One very unique example is during Hari Deepavali, selected Indian men are the ones who have the ‘power’ to poke a large sharp needle across the face as a sacrifice to their god.

New cultures are introduced in our unique country, let me introduce a new culture, we youngsters call it the ‘mamak’ culture, which is one of a kind in the whole wide world. I once remembered what my lecturer told our class: Where in the world you can find good food in a cheap price and at 3 in the morning.

The answer is the mamak in Malaysia. After hearing this, I thought it was quite true. In countries like Australia and New Zealand, restaurants close very early, around 5 in the evening. The mamak has anything Malaysians love to eat, from roti canai to banana leaf rice. Football season, birthdays, reunions or even if people are just bored, the mamak is the best choice ever.

We Malaysians have many more culture than this. That is why culture is very important to us because it is what shaped us to what we are today. Therefore, we should learn and appreciate our culture and the people we live with despite any ethnic groups. Cherish the things we have is something we need to practice on.