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Malaysia is a beautiful country in Southeast Asia that is known for its abundant natural wealth and equally vibrant culture and traditions. It spreads across the Malay Peninsula and the island of Borneo. Malaysia is like a melting pot of culture, given its diverse population that comprises of people of Chinese, Indian and European origin. Hence the influence of the diversity reflects on the Malaysian culture and customs. The Malaysian traditions are as diverse and unique and reflect the exciting blend of tradition and modernity. The culture and traditions form an integral part of the lifestyle of the people that also attracts tourists from far and wide.

If you are planning a trip to Malaysia anytime soon, it is only fair to know about the Malaysian culture lifestyle as well as the Malaysian culture and traditions.

1. Cultural Tourism in Malaysia

If you want to experience the vibrant culture in Malaysia and have a knack for visiting historical or traditional places then you should definitely consider visiting the following areas. To enjoy cultural activities in Malaysia, you may visit the following locations:

  • Malacca City: To discover the true essence of Malaysian culture you need to keep the city of Malacca in your travel itinerary undoubtedly. Declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, in 2008, this quaint city of Malacca along the straits of Malacca has a rich colonial heritage. You can take a trip back in time if you decide to visit the majestic architecture reflecting the sheer brilliance of the Portuguese as well as the Dutch art beautifully embedded with the Malaysian people’s culture. The mouth-watering street food adding to the exquisite delicacies that make up for Malaysian food culture.
  • George Town, Penang: Colonial artistry, British architecture and buildings, beautiful old churches-if all these interests you then you should definitely visit George Town, Penang which is one of the most top-rated destinations in Malaysia. The coffee shop that is accredited to be the longest in the country is also located here. The other attractions include bustling night markets and famous food joints. If you have an eye for spiritual aesthetics, then don’t forget to visit Kek Lok Si to get a firsthand experience of Malaysian religion and culture. The beautiful temples that adorn George Town not only stand as the true embodiment of Malaysian beliefs but also make it a top-rated tourist destination.
  • The Perhentians, Terengganu: The Perhentians are an island chain or group that is located in the South China Sea right off the coast of Terengganu. The white sand beaches and the crystal clear water all make up for a beautifully picturesque scenario. Indeed a visitor’s paradise, these small groups of islands have not yet been explored thoroughly, hence if you are considering visiting this place you will be greeted with a slow and relaxed pace of life. You can also enjoy various water sports like scuba diving and snorkelling.
  • Danum Valley, Sabah: Danum Valley is a conservation area comprising approximately 130 million-year-old dipterocarp forest. This area is rich in biodiversity and adds to the Malaysian culture with its flora and fauna. The feature that attracts tourists to this place is the lack of inhabitants and their settlements. Deforestation and logging have caused damage to many habitats in Sabah, but this protected area remains untouched. Malaysian culture can be explored through Malaysian cultural activities such as night safaris and jungle treks with the experienced Malaysian locals.
  • Pulau Tioman, Pahang: Tioman Island is located on the east coast of the South China Sea. In the 1970s, this island was one of the world’s most beautiful islands as rated by Time Magazine. This island has stretches of virgin beaches and dense rainforests with several waterfalls. Snorkelling, scuba diving and trekking in the jungle are among the top activities that explore cultural lifestyle in Malaysia.

2. Malaysian culture and religion

Islam dominates Malaysian religion and culture as around two-thirds of the population are Muslims. Apart from Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists constitute the remaining one-third. Confucianist and Taoist people represent a tiny percentage. Malaysia’s religion and culture represent the diversity in Malaysian traditions and beliefs.

3. Chinese culture in Malaysia

Chinese population in Malaysia is the second largest population of Chinese community overseas after Thailand. They are also the second largest ethnic race in Malaysia after the Malay majority. This establishes the multicultural and multi-faceted traditions and culture of Malaysia. Most Chinese are either Buddhists or Taoists. They speak Mandarin, Cantonese, Hokkien and Hakka. Their multilingual vocabulary and Chinese traditions and beliefs enrich Malaysia’s diverse cultural and traditional aspect.

4. Indian culture in Malaysia

Indians also occupy most of Malaysia apart from the Chinese population. They have around a 10% representation in the community. Most of the Indians were either born in Malaysia or have immigrated from Tamil Nadu. Indians born in Malaysia had their ancestors migrate to Malaysia during the British colonisation of the islands. The Indians in Malaysia contribute to the rich Indian culture in Malaysia. With the Indians, Sikhs and Hindu cultures were brought into Malaysia thereby leading to construction os temples and gurdwaras all over the country.

Malaysia’s customs and cultures comprise Indian culture and Chinese culture in Malaysia apart from their traditional Malaysian religion, customs and beliefs. Malaysian people’s perception teaches them to be tolerant of all ethnic groups and races, and this leads to a stable representation of various nationalities.

5. Malaysian food culture

Depending upon the multifaceted cultural side of Malaysia, its food culture is highly influenced by the significant and minor representations in the country. Indian cuisine, Chinese cuisine, Indonesian cuisine and Mughal cuisine have their inputs in Malaysian cuisine. This is how Malaysian cuisine gains its identity and uniqueness; by borrowing a little from every culture, it is home to.

Malaysians take their food very seriously, and their cuisine is one of the domains of the Malaysian culture that they are proud of. Malaysian cuisine is rich in flavors and colors. Their local food has parallels to South Indian cuisine and Chinese cuisine. However, the range in Malay food does not restrict visitors and locals to only one sort of food. The reason why Indian and Chinese cuisine play such an important role in Malay cuisine is that Indians and Chinese have been inhabiting Malaysia since its pre-independence period. Hence, you can find not only Malaysian food influenced by Indian and Chinese flavours but also Indian and Chinese food on the streets.

Malaysian cuisine is known for its street food and exotic collection of fruits and vegetables. Most of their menu reflects their traditions and customs. Malaysian food culture is identical to Siamese, Arab, Javanese, Indian food in terms of their taste, preparation and spiciness. Some of their signature dishes are nasi lemak (k is not pronounced), beef rendang, nasi goring, laksa and tapai. The preparation of the ingredients, the technique of cooking and the availability of ingredients prove the similarity between their culture and other cultures in Malaysia.

Due to the Muslim population, Malay food is mostly halal. Malaysian cuisine and the Malaysian food culture have five essential factors to them:

  • Prepared with coconut milk, usually
  • Spicy
  • Meat stewed in a thick gravy
  • Rich in herbs and spices
  • Fried seafood is marinated or seasoned with turmeric powder.

A wide variety of sour agents are administered in the food. Limes, tamarind, Penang and sour carambola is used. Ginger, mint leaves, basil and lime leaves are also used. Chilli finds extensive usage although not only for its spiciness. Noodles are common. Pork is also the common choice of meat due to the Muslim majority.

Cooking styles from every culture have been incorporated in Malaysian cuisine. A remarkable sight to notice in the Malaysian food culture is that at dinner, food is served all together and not in courses.

Apart from the Malaysian culture, credits for the rich and diverse Malaysian food culture goes to traditional cooking methods and traditional equipments.

6. Malaysian culture and customs

Malaysia is a multi-cultural society. Malaysian customs and culture shows the existence of multiple ethnicities and races. These ethnic groups retain their customs and traditions and carry on with their way of life undisrupted. The important events of each race are made a public holiday for all in the Malaysian culture. This proves the peaceful coexistence of the tracks in the islands. The ethnic groups and nationalities inhabiting Malaysia have left their mark on various cultural aspects of the country. Art, literature, architecture, music, etc. have been influenced by the races existing in the country.

7. Cultural activities in Malaysia

Malaysian culture and lifestyle embodies various cultural activities which can be fun to do instead of being big boredom. Malaysian deals with superlatives. It has the tallest tower, longest bridge, the seventh tallest communications tower and the third largest Sleeping Buddha. No matter what cultural aspect of Malaysia is represented through the must-visit places, they can never turn out to be a big bore. Malaysian traditions and lifestyle are bound to take you by awe. Here is a list of a few cultural activities in Malaysia that will give you a deeper understanding of the customs and traditions of the Malay people. They have been listed below in random order.

– Kek Lok Si Temple: This is an architectural building that gives you a more in-depth insight into the Malay architecture and art forms. It is the largest Buddhist complex in Malaysia which integrates the architectural influences from across the region. One of the distinctive features is the seven-storeyed pagoda. It contains 10,000 statues of Lord Buddha made out of bronze and alabaster.

– Pinang Peranakan Mansion: This is a cultural centre that introduces to a community of wealthy Chinese traders commonly known as Peranakans. They have been inhabitants to this place for centuries now. Chinese aspects of the architecture have been blended with Malay style architecture with British influences. This mansion is home to the unique style, artefacts and exhibits with information panels.

– Cheong Fatt Tze- The Blue Mansion: This complex is a historical building and museum built by the Chinese merchant Cheong Fatt Tze in the 19th century. This mansion too combines local aesthetics with Chinese appeal and British style of the colonial era. The villa is blue due to the colouration added by a mixture of lime and dye collected from indigo plants. It is designed according to Feng Shui which offers a calm and relaxing atmosphere to the place.

– Jonker Street: This is the hustling and bustling Chinatown of Malacca. The architecture here is primarily of Dutch influence and dates back to the 17th century. The trade here attracts visitors from many parts of the world with its textiles, artefacts, antiques, food and souvenirs. Apart from the bazaars, plenty of mosques and temples are dotted along the trail adding to the vibrancy of the atmosphere.

– Batu caves: Batu Caves is one of the leading historical sites in Malaysia. It occupies one of the top positions in the list of the Malaysian culture and tourism places. Batu Caves are a set of Hindu temples amongst rocky caves. They aged around 400 years and were found by an Indian trader back in 1871. It is one of the famous places of worship in Malaysia and is one of the most visited religious Hindu shrines outside India. A 42 feet statue of Murugan, a Hindu deity, guards the entrance to the caves.

These Malaysian cultural activities will surely help you delve deeper into the Malaysian people’s customs and lifestyle. Visiting these places will not only help you gain a better judgement of Malay cultures but also of cultures of other races.

8. Malaysian traditional dress

Traditional Malaysian dress can be categorised under male and female conventional clothing. Due to the observable state religion being Islam, most women are seen to cover their heads. They wear the hijab like covering called the tudung. Before the Iranian Revolution, women wore the tudung in rural areas, but in recent years, it has gained popularity in the urbanised Malaysian cultures as well. The reason behind this could be the conservative approaches of the dominant religion in the country. Uncovered heads are considered to be unIslamic by the Ulama, and the society usually looks down upon Muslim women who choose to leave their heads uncovered.

The tudung is so widely used that Malaysia now has a fashion industry dedicated to it.

Baju Kurung Kedah is worn by Malay women regularly. It is a three-quarter sleeved dress worn by married women. Baju Batik is a dress worn by both men and women in the Malay islands. However, Baju Batik is reserved for more formal occasions.

The Malaysian cultural lifestyle and the customs and traditions of the Malaysian people will enthral you through and through. The traditions and customs of the Malaysian people are one of the significant reasons why Malaysia experiences a surge of tourist from all over the world every year. People not only indulge in sight-seeing and adventure sports but also take their time to explore more about the Malaysian people’s lifestyles and the Malaysian traditions by exploring more of the Malaysian food culture and their cultural activities.

Study2malaysia.com also known as Malaysian Universities information center (MUIC) was set up with the sole intention of providing valuable information to those students and aspirants who want to pursue their higher education in Malaysia. We are one of the leading and specialized teams who have been associated with assisting students from across the world to move to Malaysia for higher education for more than a decade now. We have, till now, successfully sent around 5000 students (including medical students) to Malaysia, most of who are now successfully placed in different professional careers.