About 40% of Malaysia’s area is on the Southeast Asian peninsula and stretches across a modern industrialized world, where high-rise buildings with glass facades rise above small spice shops. The remaining 60% are more rural and much less developed, located on an island divided by Borneo and Brunei, 650 kilometers across the South China Sea. Both parts are covered by equatorial rainforest.
The Malaysians thus represent a broad collage of cultures. Indigenous Malays share citizenship with ethnic Chinese and Indians, and although the state religion is Islam, Buddhist shrines and Hindu temples are as common as mosques.
Despite the cultural differences, Malaysia boasts very little tension between the different ethnic groups. Each culture retains its own culture, but also likes to share its place in Malaysian society with the others. Guests from other communities are welcomed with warmth and hospitality.
- CAPITAL CITY: Kuala Lumpur
- LANGUAGE: Bahasa Malaysia
- CURRENCY: Ringgit (MYR)
- AREA: 330,803 km2
- POPULATION: 31,120,000 (2016 estimate)
People and community
Your host family may belong to one of the most important ethnic groups: Malay, Chinese or Indian. No matter what family you are staying with, your host extended family may live under one roof. The elders in the families are highly respected. Parents like to be in charge when the children have to make decisions. You can be located anywhere in Malaysia, but the students live in urban or suburban areas.
You will probably have to go to a public school where the school week runs from Monday to Friday from 7:30 to 13:30. In some regions, however, the school week runs from Sunday to Thursday. According to TopSchoolsintheUSA, students wear school uniforms, and while most classes are taught in Bahasa Malaysian, math and science are taught in English. School plays an important role in Malaysian communities – it is more than just formal education. The school is a place where moral values are imprinted. The role of teacher is very important and is considered with the utmost respect.
The official language of Malaysia is Baha’i Balinese, but English is a compulsory second language. If you have a basic knowledge of English, it can prove useful. AFS can provide you with tips and tools for learning the language.
The variety of people means that the Malaysian cuisine is an interesting mix of spicy Malaysian dishes, an endless variety of Chinese dishes, exotic dishes from northern and southern India as well as Portuguese dishes. However, Western cuisine is also easily accessible and there are many international fast food chains. Most dishes in Malaysia contain lots of spices, chili and coconut milk. Fish is made for just about every occasion and cooked in many different ways. You should eat with your right hand and keep left under the table.