Malaysian Felt Culture Shock In Malaysia – The Real Malaysia Is In Sabah!
Have you ever felt culture shock in your own country? Like “hey, this is not what I have known about my country.”
You know I know, Borneo is part of Malaysia. I’m a Malaysian from Melaka. The mood when I was going to fly to Sabah was like “OK mum I’m going to another state of Malaysia and will be back in a week! Be ready to receive some sambal souvenir!”
Well…I had never thought this would happen to me….. I… I…. I had reverse culture shock here in Sabah! In other words…. Sabah is reeeeeeeeeallly different from the peninsula!
This is a story of my reverse culture shock trip in Malaysia – Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. After 1 week exploring Sabah, I put a conclusion to my trip in this way: The Real Malaysia Is In Sabah!
(p.s This is an article based on my observation and opinion in Kota Kinabalu. This is what I see, think, feel, no offense ne~ Please forgive my ignorance if you found something against your knowledge here.)
The Real Malaysia Is In Sabah
Just in case, my definition of the “Real Malaysia” is that “Malaysia is a diverse country. Each ethnic group respects and integrates well with each other.”
I saw the “Real Malaysia” in Sabah, which I have always wanted to see when I was living in peninsula.
Sabahan is very diverse!
First culture shock… I can’t tell what ethnic group a Sabahan is from by appearance!
We were very lucky that we found a home stay through Couch Surfing. Our host Fez, is a mixed Sabahan of several ethnic groups, Dusun, Suluk, etc, even maybe some Chinese blood!
When I was looking at the family photos Fez has decorated on his house wall, I was like
“Isn’t his mum Chinese?”
“Oh! His brother looks Malay…No no no, maybe Chinese!”
I wouldn’t hesitate to speak Chinese to them if I met them on the street! However, Fez family is a Muslim family. They practice Malay customs, eat Malay food, their identity is closer to Malay.
Having said, in Sabah, many people still speak their ethnic language in their family! Here you will never guess one’s mother tongue!
Muslim Chinese Uncle Hitchhiking
Mao and I was trying to hitchhike to the town because from our home stay is quite a distance. We waved, we jumped, we danced! but nobody seemed to understand the sign of “hitchhiking”.
Some cars even open the window and gave us a thumb up back say “Good!” LOL (they thought we were telling them “Good!”)
Suddenly, a car stopped by and picked us up!
It’s a Chinese uncle, but the amazing fact is that, he is a muslim! According to the uncle, there are many Chinese mixed with other ethnic groups people here and many of them converted into Muslim.
This is hard to see in peninsula in general! (I mean especially in Melaka which is quite rare.)
What made me feel culture shock was that, i didn’t feel any displeasure from his speech when he was telling us about his Muslim story. This is just normal in Sabah! Wonderful 🙂
What language should I speak?
I played a game with Mao in Sabah. Everywhere we go, whenever we have to ask the way, we bet to guess what language the person speaks.
When we were getting off the bus, I suggested “Let’s ask where the Filipino Market is!” Suddenly, the native-like lady who was standing in front of us said in Chinese,
“You want to go Filipino Market? Go this way and turn right.”
We wanted to find food ingredients in a super market. I told Mao
“Hey, look at that staff, what language you think he speaks?”
“He looks Chinese, I think he speaks Chinese!”
“Excuse me, where can I find xxx? (Mao said in Chinese)”
The people whom we thought cannot speak Chinese speak, whom we thought can don’t speak. Interesting!
Mao and I realized 1 thing here: Sabahan don’t push us to buy anything!
At night market, Filipino Market, Hotel, shopping mall, everywhere! Whenever we decided not to buy anything from the shop, the staff smiles and accept our leaving!
Everywhere we go, people smile! Even when we went to a water fall where only local people would go, (most of them are from kampung) they smile!
In peninsula, very sad but true fact that, people make decision to smile based on a certain standards. Maybe money, benefit, or sometimes even race. Here, I feel that smiles are the biggest natural resource!
Language Is The Key To Peace
Traveling in Sabah, one thought came across my mind, that “the language situation is fair to everybody here in Sabah.”
As we all know, Malay language is the official language of Malaysia. However, for my whole life (until High School education), I had been resisting to learn Malay language.
I always thought,
“isn’t it unfair that this country is treating Malay language, which is not the native language to many ethnic groups, as its official language?”
I always thought that a country official language should be a language that is not native to all ethnic groups. For example English. It will be fair to every ethnic group because everybody has the same starting line.
However I also found out that it is unrealistic because this seems to be an inevitable trend.
The language which the majority people in the nation is using tends to be preferable, politically.
Anyway, what I felt in Sabah was that, the language is fair to everybody here.
There are more than 30 different ethnic groups in Sabah. They are the majority people here who have their own ethnic language, but, speaking Malay as their communication tool with other ethnic groups. I can’t explain my feeling very well but I felt it is very fair. 🙂
Many ppl here are not speaking Malay as their native. Everybody is trying to communicate with a new language that they are not familiar with. I feel this is fair to every ethnic.
To learn and try to communicate with a new language, can lessen the stereotype each ethnic group has toward each other. Here in Sabah, each ethnic group tries to speak in other ethnic’s native language!
Some Random Photos of The Trip