The Random Writings of Rachel: What do You Want to Know about Malaysia?

What do You Want to Know about Malaysia?

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.

20 comments:

  1. Wow, this is all super interesting-thanks for teaching us about life there! I personally wouldn't be opposed to using a squat toilet now and then, but I'm sure the novelty would wear off fast if that was the main option in public restrooms!

    Do you have a good way to describe what jackfruit tastes like? They sell tons of them at one of our local asian grocery stores, and I'm always intrigued-but I haven't been brave enough to buy one yet (probably because I have horrible memories of trying-and disliking-papaya because I was curious about it haha).

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    1. I'm not a big fan of papaya, either! It's hard to describe the flavor of jackfruit--the texture I would say is a mix of mushy/stringy. It's not very sweet, but it's not a sour fruit either. Maybe a slight touch of bitterness? Really no strong flavor of its own.

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    2. Man! So many people don't love papaya! I could live off that stuff. =)

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  2. Okay, so our grocery store here has a tropical fruit section and I look at it with snobby eyes and laugh at the same time. They had rambutan the other day and it was not red but rather black. What in the world???

    We loved Malaysia! I think you live in a great country. That is really interesting about the citizenship situation. I feel sad for those kiddos who have no home country. That's so horrible for them.

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  3. Wow, this post was so interesting. I knew very little about Malaysia before reading this post. Thank you for sharing.

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  4. This is so interesting! I love learning these kind of things through blogging! So, you were born in the US and have been living in Malaysia for how long?
    Any plans on ever returning to the US?

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  5. I did not now that there was such a thing as birthright citizenship. I thought everyone who was born in a country was a citizen no questions. Very interesting.

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  6. This is so interesting! The giant lizards and the geckos would unnerve me. Any kind of reptile is my worst nightmare.

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  7. How interesting! I love learning about how different countries and their own way of life!

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  8. I love learning about real life in other countries! I'm always curious about grocery shopping. Do you buy food from local vendors or have a more western supermarket style grocery store?

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  9. Wow, I learn a lot about your home away from home and truly appreciate the stories told...I know this is country I can't visit due to health reasons but treasure the stories shared on your blog!

    Ursula
    www.blueridgebeautyblogger.com

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  10. I did not know much about Malaysia. Thank You for sharing all this info with us! I'm used to geckos here, so they would not bother me at all. As far as mosquitoes we have them here too and they are annoying. I feel you on not wanting to drink a lot while in public.

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  11. Thank you for sharing this! I didn't really know anything about Malaysia before!

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  12. Such a thorough overview of your home! I would have NEVER known any of this had you not shared it. I find the citizenship piece -extremely- fascinating.

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  13. I've never even thought about living overseas seriously, but my husband has recently become very interested in this program in Indonesia. I'm not going to lie- part of me is absolutely terrified of that prospect because I was reading that it rains like 75% of the time, there's a lot of flooding, and Tsunamis are inevitable from time to time.
    I know that people hearing the gospel is far more important than those fears, but I am still terrified.
    I am glad to know that you are loving your life in an area that is fairly similar to where my hubby and I are considering for later in life.

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  14. This is really interesting! I've known from other blog posts that you were in Malaysia but have to admit I knew very little about it. I'm glad to learn more!

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  15. This was super interesting to me! Getting to learn about life in other parts of the world is one of the things I love about blogging! Thanks for sharing your life!

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  16. The toilet situation is an issue for me. My thighs aren't strong enough.

    That is shocking about the people without a country.

    bisous
    Suzanne

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  17. I had no idea about the birthright citizenship thing! I didn't know any country did that. So interesting!

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  18. I didn't know anything on this list. I don't think I could handle the toilets with my Crohn's Disease.

    I love the "jungle meets civilization." That must be a very cool experience, although I suppose you get used to it after awhile.

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