Malaysian Felt Culture Shock In Malaysia – The Real Malaysia Is In Sabah!

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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

Malaysian Felt Culture Shock In Malaysia - The Real Malaysia Is In Sabah!

Kota Kinabalu Sunset

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!

Malaysian Felt Culture Shock In Malaysia - The Real Malaysia Is In Sabah!

There are many ethnic groups in Sabah still keeping their own languages and cultures.

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

Malaysian Felt Culture Shock In Malaysia - The Real Malaysia Is In Sabah!

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?

There are many ethnic groups in Sabah still keeping their own language and cultures.

You think he doesn’t speak Chinese, he does. You think he looks Chinese, he turns out to be a native.

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!

 

 

Sabahan Smiles!

We met these teenagers playing at waterfall. They were excited and shouted "Foto Foto!"

We met these teenagers playing at waterfall. They were excited and shouted “Foto Foto!”

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

Malaysian Felt Culture Shock In Malaysia - The Real Malaysia Is In Sabah!

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. 🙂

Today’s Naruhodo!

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!

I never give up telling people this. To learn and to understand a new language and culture, is the key to peace and happiness. My blog and YouTube channel, will not stop delivering this message. 🙂

 

Some Random Photos of The Trip

We were taking random photos and these school girls came into the frame trying to have fun. ;p
We were taking random photos and these school girls came into the frame trying to have fun. ;p
My travel partner Mao ^^

My travel partner Mao ^^

Trying to be model....failed!

Trying to be model….failed!

Malaysian Felt Culture Shock In Malaysia - The Real Malaysia Is In Sabah!

Mao loves to see Malaysia’s apartment style buildings…..I don’t understand @@

At the waterfall, we saw local families playing water with their kids. LOVELY!

At the waterfall, we saw local families playing water with their kids. LOVELY!

What a heart-warming scene~~~

What a heart-warming scene~~~

The first time Borneo for Mao and me as well!

The first time Borneo for Mao and me as well!

Fez said there are few hundreds couch surfers in Sabah but just a few are active. Our first night we met some new friends from France, Spain, Italy, Portugal and Sabah!

Fez said there are few hundreds couch surfers in Sabah but just a few are active. Our first night we met some new friends from France, Spain, Italy, Portugal and Sabah!

We did couch surfing in Sabah. Our host is Fez, who is a kind and passionate couch surfer. Our first dinner right after arrival!

We did couch surfing in Sabah. Our host is Fez, who is a kind and passionate couch surfer. Our first dinner right after arrival!

Fez's house is a distance from the town so we need to take bus every morning. But Mao and I usually keep trying hitchhiking until the bus comes xD

Fez’s house is a distance from the town so we need to take bus every morning. But Mao and I usually keep trying hitchhiking until the bus comes xD

 

The local people keep looking at us as if we are from MARS or smth. When we speak English to them, they seemed very happy.

The local people keep looking at us as if we are from MARS or smth. When we speak English to them, they seemed very happy.

We went to a Museum to learn the history of Sabah. We believe traveling is a process to know a story of the land.

We went to a Museum to learn the history of Sabah. We believe traveling is a process to know a story of the land.

Selfie at Museum!

Selfie at Museum!

Found smth? ;p

Found smth? ;p

 

Ngui Chap 牛雜. Somebody pls make this at Melaka or Japan! The best food I had in Sabah!

Ngui Chap 牛雜. Somebody pls make this at Melaka or Japan! The best food I had in Sabah!

 

Things seem normal to me looks totally exotic to Mao.

Things seem normal to me looks totally exotic to Mao.

Even this looks interesting to her. We really need to learn to see our own country with a fresh and naive heart!

Even this looks interesting to her. Learning how to see our own country like a foreigner who never been here is important sometimes.

Filipino Market - somebody selling magic drug made of some kind of amphibian.

Filipino Market – somebody selling magic drug made of some kind of amphibian.

 

For the first time I asked the vendor how to make curry with curry powder. Traveling with a foreigner (Mao) really help me re-learn may things about my own country. :)

For the first time I asked the vendor how to make curry with curry powder. Traveling with a foreigner (Mao) really help me re-learn may things about my own country. 🙂

 

 

Filipino Market Grilled Fish. They pre-cooked the fish and let you choose... - -

Filipino Market Grilled Fish. They pre-cooked the fish and let you choose… – –

German travelers playing chess with local ppl. Ohhhhhhh

German travelers playing chess with local ppl. Ohhhhhhh

Going to Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park.  3 Islands by boat for RM 45. Trust me, Just go to Sapi Island for whole day. The other islands simply suck - -

Going to Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park. 3 Islands by boat for RM 45. Trust me, Just go to Sapi Island for whole day. The other islands simply suck – –

Manukan Island, the biggest in the five islands. the beach is nice but the water....DAMN!

Manukan Island, the biggest in the five islands. the beach is nice but the water….DAMN!

Mari-mari Cultural Village. We met this lovely Hong Kong lady with her family in the guided tour. She is just...kind and wise!

Mari-mari Cultural Village. We met this lovely Hong Kong lady with her family in the guided tour. She is just…kind and wise! and 80 years old!

I laughed all the time throughout the guided tour because the Hong Kong lady (right 2) is very interesting! Every time she talks, I laugh. xD

I laughed all the time throughout the guided tour because the Hong Kong lady (right 2) is very interesting! Every time she talks, I laugh. xD Then she turned out to be the COO of one of the largest hotel in Kota Kinabalu! (I forgot the name :p)

Random local ppl invited us to join their BBQ at the waterfall. :)  Well.. they are nice but...every guy we met during the trip is just aiming to take photo with Mao!!!

Random local ppl invited us to join their BBQ at the waterfall. 🙂
Well.. they are nice but…every guy we met during the trip is just aiming to take photo with Mao!!!

Relaxing~~

Every time you see a westerner in Sabah, you see them holding a book under the sun. Learn this Malaysian!

When times come closer to the sunset, this will come into your sight.... couples!

When times come closer to the sunset, this will come into your sight…. couples!

Mao also has a couple.

A couple doesn’t have to be human tho

We are sitting at the very front of the bus!

We are sitting at the very front of the bus!

When the bus driver is playing games....

When the bus driver is playing games….

Check out the bus

Check out the bus. Don’t sit at the back because when the car is moving and the wind blows, you’d smell the hair of the ppl sitting front. lol

Thanks Fez (right 1) for hosting us 5 days! You are the best couch surfer I ever seen! (This is my first time tho)!!!

Thanks Fez (right 1) for hosting us 5 days! You are the best couch surfer I ever seen! (This is my first time tho)!!!

Shen Lim
A Chinese Malaysian, Blogger, Vlogger on YouTube, Tour Guide in Japan. He believes 1 day his videos can bring Japan and Malaysia together. マレーシア華人、ブロガー、YouTubeクリエイター、日本にいるツアーガイドです。いつか自分の動画は日本とマレーシアを繋げる架け橋になると信じています。 Read more ABOUT him.

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