I'm perhaps a bit of an odd expat in terms of not really being shocked by nor doing much recording of the differences between my birth culture and the one I live in. Truth be told, I think I sometimes forget that Malaysia isn't necessarily a big influence on the lives of others around the world--I forget that it might be a bit hard for you to picture what our lives look like here. So...I wanted to share a few bits about life in Malaysia in general.
* The "jungle meets civilization" effect that I've mentioned before is very real. We live in a large city, larger than any I've lived in in the USA. In spite of living in a large city, we see monkeys hanging out in and around our apartment building's parking lot every day. My parents have spotted a tusked wild boar while on a casual stroll behind our apartment. Five minutes from where we live, I could walk down toward a little creek that flows toward the ocean and odds are I'd spot at least one 5-foot long monitor lizard. Cicaks (geckos) inside the house are an everyday occurrence and mosquitoes are a major menace, all the more so because they carry diseases like Dengue and Chikungunya.
*There are three major people groups in Malaysia: Malay, Chinese, and Indians. In addition to these three groups, there are also Orang Asli, the many smaller people groups that are indigenous to Malaysia and have their own cultures and traditional religions. There are also many foreigners--much of the construction work and service professions are staffed by people from Nepal, Indonesia, the Philippines, or Vietnam--many of whom are in Malaysia on work contracts and send money back to their families living in their home country. There's also a pretty large presence of Europeans, North Americans, and people from other countries throughout Asia. We have met very few people from South or Central America here--if Angel ever does happen to hear anyone speaking Spanish, he is drawn to them like a magnet, but it's fairly rare.
*There are a LOT of public holidays here, and this is related to the multi-cultural society. Major Islamic, Hindu, and Buddhist holidays are recognized as national holidays (along with holidays relating to the nation's history)--since we live in a busy city that doesn't have good traffic at the best of times, we've learned to stay home on national holidays, because traffic will slow to a crawl and parking spots will become non-existent when everyone is off of work for the holiday. For the upcoming Chinese New Year, we already know not to attempt any grocery shopping or outings to the mall, because a large percentage of shops shut down in honor of the holiday.
*The differences between public bathrooms in the USA and public bathrooms in Malaysia are very real. And...they're one of the reasons I don't drink much when I'm out and far from home. Ha! Not all toilets are squat toilets and you can bet that after years here I've scouted out all of the best public bathrooms. Many more western-style public bathrooms have been built in malls in the past decade, but still, having actual toilet paper in your own private stall is almost non-existent. In nicer bathrooms, there is usually one communal roll near the entrance and you can tear off some toilet paper to take into the stall with you.
*We have many of the same fruits that are available in the USA. Strawberries are grown locally in Cameron Highlands, Malaysia. However, there is a wide variety of local fruits which would be a little harder to find in grocery stores back in the west. It's common to see durian, jackfruit, pomelos, mangosteen, lychee, longan, mata kuching, rambutan, and other fruits being sold in little stalls on the side of the road. Angel must stop and buy a pomelo every time he drives by a pomelo stall--this is not because pomelos are rare, but rather, because he is obsessed with them.
*The two main parts of Malaysia are East and West Malaysia, and there are 13 states in total. The country is quite different depending on what region you are in, which is a bit surprising considering that the whole of the country of Malaysia is smaller than some of the larger states of the USA.
*Malaysia does not have birthright citizenship--just because you are born here doesn't mean you have the option to become a citizen. Having a parent who is a Malaysian citizen makes the difference. My sister was born in Malaysia but is not a Malaysian citizen, rather a citizen of the USA. This lack of 'birthright citizenship' means that Malaysia faces the situation of having many 'stateless' children growing up in the country--children who were born to foreigners while living in Malaysia, for various reasons are unable to receive citizenship in their mother's birth country, and end up having no citizenship in any country in the world.
*Malaysia, because of its exact geographic location, is known for being relatively safe from natural disasters. Earthquakes that take place in Indonesia are occasionally felt here as slight tremors. There have been some serious floods in some regions in recent years, but most major typhoons don't get close enough to Malaysia to cause damage. The most severe natural disaster in recent history was the 2004 tsunami--which hit the coastline pictured above, including our own neighborhood, destroying a number of homes. Even in that disaster, though, Malaysia suffered less than Indonesia and Thailand, who were hit more directly.
Anything you'd like to know about this fascinating country? If I can, I'll answer questions in the comment section.