September 27, 2008

#39 Corporations

You sold out.

Those three words are an affirmation for Malaysian people that they've made it in life. Nothing comes close to the euphoria of those three words. Except perhaps, for anything that is preceded by the term "free".

You may be wondering how compromising principles, material obsessions and being souled out can be a positive thing for anyone. This is where you must realign your thought process for things in Malaysia operate differently from what you may be used to.

You see in Malaysia, the barometer or litmus test if you will, of success is material wealth (Asians' obsession with numbers, go figure). And the most conventional and respectable way to acquire such financial gain is in the corporate sector. Therefore, the ultimate goal for any Malaysian is to acquire a place at a multinational company and proceed to grow their revenue stream whilst complaining about the long hours, endless work and petty politics. Any job that is outside of the corporate sector or not professional in nature is set to be societally condemned. There are no exceptions.

You must be aware that while Malaysian people dread the thought of working in companies that plunder the earth's resources and corrupt man's constitution, they will never admit this fact and instead spin stories of "the greater good" that their companies aspire to achieve in the long run. As usual when encountering such dubious claims, it is your duty to curtail any criticism you have and instead commend Malaysian people on the fine work they and their company are doing.

For added effect, relate a story of how a corporation saved you from going through life as an aimless hippie by giving you purpose, goals and a company car. This story will warm the hearts of your Malaysian friends on their nights and weekends at the office.

Note: Do not confuse multinationals with multi-level marketing. Those are the wrong type of Malaysian people to consort with.

September 23, 2008

#38 Japanese Cars

Besides having accents and reinventing their names, Malaysian people also display facets of their character with their choice of automobile. For Malaysian people, a Japanese car will convey all the things they'd like people to think about them: stylish but pragmatic, rich but not a show off and worldly, but still Asian at heart.

Japanese car manufacturers love Malaysia because they could pretty much stick one of their logos on a cardboard box with wheels and it would sell like hot cakes. It would not be an exaggeration to say that you could fit any demographic with a Japanese car. Yuppie sedan, family SUV, speed junkie souped-up sports car. They covered most of the bases so Malaysians can feel unique, but still under a homogenous Japanese consumerist umbrella.

No, it is not contradictory that Malaysians want to feel special but own the same car as everyone else. It's just that their sense of good taste is contagious. Nothing says you've worked your middle class ass off in a corporate drone job with mediocre pay more than an overpriced Japanese vehicle which will last you until the new version is released.

Owning a Japanese car is part and parcel of a Malaysian person's development. Much like bandwagonning or complaining and comparing Toyota to Honda. There are some Malaysian people who even go the whole nine yards in expressing how Malaysian they are, by driving their Japanese vehicle with one hand and complaining on their cell with another as they arrive late for an appointment at IKEA and proceed to double park. Incredible!

If you're wondering how you can use this information for your personal benefit, it's quite simple. The next time you're attending an event or a gathering, ask the owner of a Japanese car if you could take theirs, considering yours isn't fuel economic and that you feel insecure driving it. Presto, a free ride!

Note: You should never imply it is redundant to drive a Japanese sports car in a country whose speed limit is 110mph. They know this, but it was not a factor in the purchase decision.

September 22, 2008

Malaysian People In The News- Football Fans

Thrilling Time For Reds Fans
Metro, The Star Online
22nd September 2008


Three football fans win a trip to watch their favourite team, Liverpool in action live.

Best Quotes

“I guess I must have brought luck to Liverpool as we had failed to beat United in seven of our last eight EPL clashes!” said Bhoopathy.

For Tan, the trip to England was like a “double home-coming”.
“I studied in Manchester 10 years ago and it was great to return to my alma mater,” said Tan.

They also agreed that with the solid backing of the 40,000-odd Liverpool fans at Anfield, this could be the Reds’ year.


A free trip to watch a top game AND the opportunity to get nostalgic about studying abroad? Looks like Malaysian fairy tales get made after all.

Stuff Mentioned

September 18, 2008

#37 Penang

Malaysia is home to many colourful and quaint people but you should look no further than Penang if you're seeking to find out what it really means to be Malaysian. Of course, Penangites will contend that they are different and unlike the average Malaysian because of their many virtues. This should be expected, considering the fact that all Malaysians profess to be superior to the other.

Penang is a state in Malaysia that is divided into two sections: Penang Island and Province Wellesley (mainland). Whenever a Penangite tells you where they're from, you must ascertain which side they reside on. If they wince with their reply, you can take it as a sign that they're from the mainland. Islanders are proud of the fact that they live on the side that constitutes one of Malaysia's most attractive tourist destinations and the delusion that mainland Penangites envy them and their inflated property prices.

There are certain things you must know about Penang. The first is that the medium of communication in Penang is Hokkien. It is not an exaggeration to say that Hokkien is the only language you will need to use in Penang. Such is its ubiquity that even residents of Penang who aren't Chinese can speak it. It is best that you study it extensively should you choose to live in Penang. And yes, locals will be able to detect the slightest variance in your Hokkien dialect and increase prices in accordance with your linguistic faux pas.

There is also a stigma attached to Penang people, the notion that they are stingy with their money. This is not true. They're just miserly by nature. However this parsimoniousness has turned out to be a good thing for Penangites. The cost of living in the state is comparably lower than others by virtue of their tight fists and would probably remain unchanged if not for the laws of economics. To paint you a picture of the purported penuriousness of Penangites, consider this aphorism: "A fifty cent coin is as big as a bullock cart wheel to a Penangite".

Which brings us to what is arguably the most defining trait of Penang: its cuisine. The hawker food scene of Penang has always been touted (both by locals and Malaysians) to be the world's best. Normally, you would be advised to to take such grand claims from a Malaysian lightly but this is one occasion where it bears credence. Penang hawker food is of such fame that they have inspired generic gastronomic adaptations from Taipei to Cape Town. Foreigners from distant lands travel far and wide to personally experience the best of Penang's culinary offerings. It is of course hugely ironic that their palates, which have grown accustomed to the diluted version of the meal back home then find that the original is "not as good as expected".

In your endeavours to befriend a Penangite, commend them on their food and the warmth of their people. If by a slip of the tongue you were to mention the frugality of Penangites, there's no need to fret. They will thank you for the compliment.

September 15, 2008

#36 Russell Peters

Malaysian people love to laugh and have a good time, as long as it isn't at their expense. This is because Malaysian people do not believe in self-deprecating humor or jokes about themselves. If you must joke about Malaysian people in their presence, assure them that they are nothing like that, it's only the people you are poking fun of who act that way.

In Malaysia, it is also not alright to trade gags that are potentially unsettling which revolve around race, politics or religion. Cracking wise about any of those issues could get you locked up. This is why Malaysian people like Russell Peters.

Russell Peters is a Canadian comedian of Indian descent. His whole act is basically based on making fun of racial idiosyncrasies and differences in culture. As a comedian, he gets to explore race issues in a jocular context and say things that would be considered racist if they were uttered by anyone but him. Being an Asian himself, this further endears him to Malaysians as they really relate to his wisecracks and enthusiastically recycle his jokes in their everyday lives.

Malaysian people love his jokes for two reasons: one, because they are both offensive and funny at the same time and two, because by recycling his jokes they get to stealthily insult other races and blame it on him if it isn't received well. Although Russell Peters has not explored the peculiar antics of Malaysia as yet, it definitely would present him with a comic goldmine. The true measure of his success would then be determined by his presence being banned by Malaysian authorities due to him being a "disruptive social influence".

Note: If you have made a joke that is offensive to Malaysian people and need to conduct damage control, claim that you meant it in a historical context.

September 11, 2008

#35 Localized Reality Shows

Malaysian people take themselves seriously and need attention like John McCain needs the fountain of youth. But there isn't always an avenue or platform for them to show the world how talented, intelligent and charming they are. For this reason, Malaysian people decided to adapt foreign reality shows. You see, this is a win-win situation for Malaysian people, it takes both their liking for adapted foreign influences and self promotion and churns it into a half hour TV programme for mass consumption. This is a surefire way to propel someone normal and average into the public spotlight and add to the list of local celebrities Malaysians adore.

The type of reality shows Malaysia produce mostly revolve around dating, modelling, performing and even business ala The Apprentice. However the term "reality" on these shows is used very loosely since most of the participants are anything but real. However, any Malaysian reality programme produced must adhere strictly to the Three Malaysian Principles of Reality Programming:

1) Piracy - the concept which is borrowed and reinvented
2) Pretense - the prerequisite attitude of participants
3) "Perasan"- the Malay term which carries the connotation of being conceited

These three principles are key to ensuring the success of a Malaysian reality programme and in giving birth to the careers and prominence of more Malaysian talents. The path of a Malaysian reality TV star is one that is slowly gaining credence as it does not require any work or any skill as compared to a Badminton player or Politician but ensures a certain level of visibility.

If you should ever come across a Malaysian reality star, immediately acknowledge that they were your favourite contestant on the show and (if they didn't win) assure them that they were robbed of the win because of production politics, biased editing or technical voting errors. You will then be invited to their local theater debut or next showcase at the Hard Rock Cafe.

Thanks to Ms.Lime for advocating this piece.

September 8, 2008

Malaysian Problems- English Butchery

The Article:

"35% Of Teachers Lack Good Command Of English". R.S.N. Murali. The Star Online. September 4th 2008.

The Problem:

For as long as the English language has existed in Malaysia, Malaysian people have been butchering it mercilessly to the point that Manglish is now acknowledged as a language in its own right.

This also presents those with a copacetic grasp of English the opportunity to lord it over those less fluent and build themselves a reservoir of confidence that they are better than others who commit grammatical crimes and syntax sins.

The Solution:

Establish laws to punish crimes against the English language. Previously, perpetrators escaped with impunity but harsher enforcement must be taken to ensure that Malaysia is no longer mocked or derided over its language liberties. It would therefore be punishable by law to commit the following misdemeanors:

  1. wRiTinG LiKe tHis
  2. Writing. Like. This.
  3. Claiming to be an author or writer when only literary accomplishment is a blog
  4. Copious use of the term "no pun intended" or "wtf", "lol" and "omg"

Punishment and rehabilitation includes forced adoption of the Queen's English and excessive dictation as well as accent refinement.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Malaysian people who self-righteously demean and chide those they deem lesser than them for having poor English will be sentenced to teaching English without pay in rural schools, kindergartens and karaoke joints to learn empathy and humility.

Stuff Mentioned

Thanks to everyone who either mentioned, suggested or contributed to the elements mentioned in this post.

September 4, 2008

#34 Accents

It's amazing that it took us this long to get to accents but it is critical that you understand this Malaysian phenomenon. Although this post ties heavily into post #1 Studying Abroad and #26 Defying Ethnic Stereotypes, it definitely warrants its own entry as a Malaysian peculiarity that persists throughout time.

The faux accent is consistent with Malaysian people's love for all things foreign and Western. It would not be a cliche to use the saying, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. If you're unsure what this accent sounds like, imagine a bad Michael Caine impressionist performing while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.

Generally, the Malaysian person develops an accent when returning from abroad or perhaps after one too many episodes of an American sitcom. The former is a common occurrence which explains the plethora of international accents you might hear rolling off Malaysian tongues. Be prepared to hear the excuse "I was there for so long, it's hard to just shake it off."

The average Malaysian is not able to discern between an English, American or Australian accent but just having one will sufficiently raise their social profile. It would not be an understatement to say that Malaysian people are fascinated by accents. Even a hypnotist would be hard pressed to produce anything close to this. In fact, Malaysian people in possession of accents receive better treatment from everyone and will even seem more attractive by virtue of their speech, regardless of their shortcomings. I know you're incredulous of this but believe me, it's true.

There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to developing an accent. Little things like grammatical deficiencies, illiteracy or lack of actual foreign experience can be discounted. All that matters is that the accent sounds different and affected. No one really knows what a genuine one sounds like anyway since they're all doing the same thing. To avoid being labelled pretentious, some Malaysian people occasionally use Manglish
terms to show that they have not completely abandoned their lingua franca.

Most of the time, Malaysian people speak Manglish but there are certain occasions or incidents which prompt them to change their inflection (if they aren't retaining it permanently already). One situation which calls for it is an encounter with you, the foreigner. You may wonder why your Malaysian friend has adopted a manner of speech so uncommon and awkward and you may even be a little offended. No, they're not making fun of your dulcet tones or your delightful lilt. They're being hospitable and trying to make you feel at home, silly! Make sure you indulge in this charade and show appreciation for their efforts.

Having an accent also helps impress newly-made acquaintances, as mentioned earlier.

"Hey, you know that guy who just came back from abroad?"

"Which one? There's so many of them."

"The one who has the cute British accent."

"Yeah, you should totally date him. It's a known fact that Brits are posh and sophisticated which by virtue of his accent, means he is too. It's the theory of relativity. You can't fight science."

Malaysian people will sometimes erroneously refer to an accent as "slang". You must excuse this for it is just as common for them to confuse terminology as they confuse people with their accents. But you must remember never to imply that a Malaysian person's accent is false or fabricated. This will lead to a long argument that will leave you questioning the authenticity of your own accent.

Note: If you encounter a foreigner with a Malaysian accent, you must report it to the authorities immediately for posterity and further study. Such an incident has never been documented in history and would present academicians and anthropologists with groundbreaking research material.