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Malaysia Culture, Geography and History
Culture and Customs of Malaysia
Malaysia truly is a modern melting pot – with Chinese, Indian, Malay, Eurasian and indigenous groups making up the population. With this cultural diversity comes a mix of religions, customs, foods and languages. Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Taoism and Hinduism are the main religions practiced, although most of the world’s religions are represented somewhere in Malaysia. The Muslim call to prayer, Hindu Festivals and Buddhist ceremonies all coexist with relative peace, with the South-East Asian concept of ‘saving face’ leading most people to strive for harmony.
Regardless of cultural background, elderly people and those of high rank in society (business people, government officials etc.) are afforded much respect. Food plays an important part in daily life, with religious celebrations and holidays characterised by family gatherings and elaborately prepared feasts. Alcohol isn’t a large part of Malaysian society (probably due to the significant Muslim population), but is widely available for purchase and consumption.
Geography and Environment of Malaysia
Balmy beaches, fish-filled reefs, wild jungles, verdant highlands, relaxed ports, colourful cities and simple villages – Malaysia has it all. Sharing land borders with Brunei, Indonesia and Thailand, Malaysia’s environment is as diverse as its population. From the urban cityscape of Kuala Lumpur and the colonial charm of Penang, to the old-world streets of Melaka, a journey through Malaysia will reveal changing landscapes and evolving environments.
While the large cities are typically built-up, busy and full of buzz, Malaysia’s provincial towns and remote highlands remain delightfully relaxed, with people living simple lives based on agriculture, animal husbandry or other small enterprises. With such a rich range of environments, Malaysia offers beaches and islands for swimming, snorkelling and diving; jungles and highlands for trekking and adventuring; and villages and cities for exploration and relaxation.
History and Government of Malaysia
The first recorded historical mentions of Malaysia date back to 7th and 8th-century Sanskrit and Chinese texts. During the following centuries, Malaysia came under the influence and control of Indonesia, Thailand and India – with the accompanying religions, cuisines and languages spreading in the region. In the 16th century, Malaysia came under the influence of Portuguese and Dutch settlers, who increasingly expanded their reach throughout the region to create the Dutch East Indies. Under this influence, Malaysia did well in trade, and flourished as a result of the economic gains of being located on one of the most important trade routes of the time.
During the 19th century, the British took control of the Malaysian Peninsula, with the Federated Malay States being officially formed in 1865. Malaysia remained under British rule until Japan invaded during World War II – but once Japan was defeated in 1945, British rule returned and the Federation of Malay was born in 1948. In 1963, the Federation of Malaya formed with Singapore, Sarawak and Sabah to create Malaysia. Only two years after, Singapore became an independent state, leaving Malaysia in its current form. In the 1970s, Malaysia’s economy grew rapidly until the late 1990s, when the Asian Financial Crisis slowed economic growth in the region. The economy soon recovered, and Malaysia enjoyed the international exposure that came with hosting the 1998 Commonwealth Games (held in Kuala Lumpur). Currently, Malaysian standards of living continue to rise, and Kuala Lumpur has emerged as one of Asia’s premier cities.
Malaysia at a glance
- Kuala Lumpur (population 1.1 million)
- 28.7 million
- Bahasa Malaysia
- (GMT+08:00) Kuala Lumpur, Singapore
- Type G (Irish/British 3-pin)
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