Food, traffic jams, Manglish: Some things that make us Malaysians

Mark Ryan Raj
With Merdeka Day just over a week away, we take a look at a few of the things that unite us and make us Malaysian. — Bernama pic

PETALING JAYA, August 23 — Malaysians are a unique bunch.

Although we are made up of a mixture of different races and religions, we all share intrinsic values and characteristics that make us Malaysian.

Whether it is our love for food, complaining about the weather or the chronic road rage, these are the things that we all relate to and unify us.

With Merdeka just over a week away, we here at Malay Mail have compiled a few unique quirks and cultural elements that bind us Malaysians — love it or hate it.

Love for food (Of course)

Well, of course. Nothing else makes us more Malaysian than our love for food, as more often than not, we begin our social interactions by saying: “Sudah makan? (Have you eaten?)”

I mean, just take a look at that. Now, tell me you don’t feel hungry? — Picture by Choo Choy May

“First we eat, then we do everything else.”

No saying could better describe a Malaysian, and who could blame us?

There is just so much delicious food to choose from, whether it be nasi lemak, kai fan, wantan mee, Maggi goreng, banana leaf rice or roti canai, we are always down for a tasty meal.

Hating traffic jams

Traffic jams, you’ve got to hate them. Despite how frequent they are, there is no getting used to it. — Picture by Farhan Najib

One thing that is sadly deeply ingrained into our Malaysian culture and way of life is traffic jams.

No matter what you do or where you go, you’re bound to end up in a jam, especially when you’re on the way back home from work.

This leads many of us to become self-proclaimed “experts” in finding shortcuts to manoeuvre around the slow-moving traffic.

As much as we hate it, Malaysian traffic jams are a true pain and a part of our every day lives.

Complaining about the weather

Ah, the sweet sweat of Malaysian weather.

If there’s one thing that every Malaysian loves to complain about, it’s the weather.

If the heat wasn’t enough to bear, just imagine how uncomfortable it gets because of the humidity. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

Aiyo, so hot lah today”, is usually the first thing we say as we step out of our homes and sweat begins to trickle down our foreheads.

But, we even complain when it rains too because we are no longer able to go out to lepak with friends and are forced to die of boredom at home.

Road raging and being bad drivers

Another distinct characteristic that makes us Malaysian is the fact that we are self-indulgent bad drivers and love to criticise the way others drive as well.

“Why you drive so slow?!”, “Brake for what?!” or “Where’s your signal?!” these are just a few examples of the daily monologues that one has when driving in this part of the world.

And it isn’t only other people’s road driving that we hate, it’s their parking too.

It’s a rare occurrence to find a row of shop lots without a single car double-parked (very poorly too) in front of it.

What makes matters worse is that the cars that are parked in designated spots must have been driven by complete imbeciles (sorry, the Malaysian-ness in me is speaking), as they often take up more than one spot — leaving you extremely frustrated.

What I’m trying to say is, it’s hard to go about a day of driving without flipping someone off while you do.

Speaking in Manglish

One distinctive characteristic of Malaysians has to be the fact that we can speak in multiple languages or dialects, like English, Malay, Mandarin, Cantonese, Hokkien, Tamil, Hindi and Malayalee among others.

Especially the curse words (usually the first things we learn how to say).

While English is widely used, many Malay, Chinese and Indian words and phrases have been integrated into the way we speak, creating our very own unique dialect — “Manglish”.

So much so that we can even combine four different languages into a single sentence like, “Anne, how much to tapao one bungkus of Nasi Goreng Ayam?” and still have everyone understand you.

Lepak-ing at the mamak

What better place is there than a Mamak restaurant to catch up with friends and have a nice meal too? — Picture by Hari Anggara

This has to be one of the best things about our Malaysian culture, and that’s lepak-ing at the mamak restaurant around the corner.

Every self-respecting Malaysian neighbourhood has one, as mamak restaurants transcend social and cultural barriers, and is everyone’s go-to place to hang out.

It’s the perfect place to catch up and spend quality time with friends as you indulge in the crispy roti canai and frothy teh tarik while watching football on those huge projectors.

Our famous ‘Malaysian Timing’

Maybe we don’t know what a watch is for? That would explain why we’re always late. — Picture from

“Malaysian timing”, it just had to be the last quirk or characteristic, because let’s face it, we’re always late and the last to arrive.

This to the point where we schedule our meetups and meetings 30 minutes before we actually need to meet — but still end up being late.

All in all, good or bad, these are the attributes that we all share and bind us, regardless of skin colour or creed, these are the things that make us Malaysian.

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