From a revealing blog (The Twisted Stethoscope) by a Malaysian, Jason Leong, who attended medical school in Ireland.
Here is a list of criteria one must comply with to be truly Malaysian. You may be a Caucasian expat who has lived in Malaysia for decades, or you can be a hip 15 year old girl with belly piercings. Anyone and everyone can fulfill these criteria. Simply said, almost anyone can be Malaysian.
1) You must have been / still being educated in a government Sekolah Rendah or Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan.
This I believe is the most crucial initiation process of anyone who will grow up to be Malaysian. The experiences offered by government schools are absolutely vital. For instance, every government school has that Discipline Teacher, almost always male, who graduates from the School of Hard Knocks. He will brandish a nice long and thick rotan that gives an almighty swish when he rains down punishment unconditionally. Long nails will earn you two slashes on the butt and sometimes, depending on his mood, a good few slaps or two. And theres NOTHING you can do about it. If you complained to your parents about the disciplining being too harsh, they will hesitate to confront him about it for they too were once victims of their own discipline teachers.
In private schools, students are devoid of the pleasure of the discipline teacher. There, corporal punishment is deemed as barbaric. The worst punishment they do mete out is detention and official letters sent to parents, which really, does nothing. Detention is where they meet their cronies, and letters often get ‘lost in the post’. It is a paradoxical universe, where teachers hesitate to punish and are afraid of losing their jobs to complaints from parents who pay the equivalent of the national debt of Czech Republic to keep their precious princes and princesses in school. I feel sad for these kids. They will never experience the sheer exhilaration of playing truant and inventing excuses to save our butts from the rotan. They will never tremble in fear and wet their underwear when the Discipline Teacher stares them down like little maggots he would sooner squish with his shoe than give the time of day. They will never enjoy seeing the utter humiliation of fellow trouble-makers at the hands of the Discipline Teacher, bending over and letting the rotan have its way with them. Or the pure, undulated amusement of being amongst the hundreds of students during assembly watching him berate the entire school for trivial matters like letting the air out of the teachers’ car tyres and throwing eggs and flour at the Headmaster’s office.
In every government school, there’s always one Weird Teacher. This character is one that is famous throughout the school but for all the wrong reasons. It’s either a teacher who can’t teach for nuts, like an English teacher who pronounces ‘air’ as in the Malay word for water, a teacher whose face resembles an ape, or the resident psychopath who talks to himself and wears make-up. And of course, the always popular Perverted Teacher. Every school has at least one, and is always male. In an all-girls school, he will be the bane of the gals’ existence,constantly looking at their chest region, through the thin baju-kurungs. In an all-boys school, he will be the fun of the party, the one who tells dirty jokes at the end of classes, shares tips with the guys and points out interesting features of his female colleagues. Will you get this in a private school, where sexual harassment lawsuits will be flung left, right and centre by conscious parents?
2) “The dirtier the restaurant, the better the food”
Think for a moment of your favourite local eat-out place. If it’s a restaurant with air-conditioning and clean toilets, you are not Malaysian. It should be a place that is preferably open air, with lots of flies. If the toilets are absolutely disgusting with fungus growing on more fungus, you score an additional 60 points. The operators of the restaurant must be absolutely filthy to look at, with a variety of stains on their aprons. If they have no aprons, voila, another 60 points. It can even be a small nasi lemak stall set up by the local loud-mouthed makcik or the Ramley Burger stall operated by dodgy youths driving modified Kancils. Adhere to the maxim, the dirtier, the better.
I will tell you of a famous restaurant in Kuala Lumpur. Well the term ‘restaurant’ is a bit of stretch as it is more of a small room that somehow has people selling food out of it. It is smack dab in the middle of KL, with traffic rolling just 50 cm away from the main entrance. The carbon monoxide from exhaust pipes, sulphur from the nearby construction site, dust and smoke will mix with the pungent smell of the restaurant’s ‘toilet’ to form an aroma that is potent enough to kill horses. This wonderful assault on your senses will then be complimented with the stench of sweat from unknown bodily regions of the restaurant staff. The ambience is provided by walls with their paint peeling off and moss growing in every nook and cranny, sometimes even in the armpits of the cooks. The dining music is provided by rude Hokkien uncles debating politics.
But I swear to you, the prawn noodles that they serve are the best ever. The soup sweet and spicy to the tongue, the noodles soft yet springy and the prawns fresh and succulent. Topped with hot chilli paste and sometimes hard boiled eggs, it is literally heaven in the midst of hell. You just cannot replicate the culinary experience in a clean, air-conditioned restaurant with well-trained waiters and chef, no matter how hard you try. Yes, one might wonder where exactly the good taste comes from, but as they say, ignorance is bliss.
3) You must be an arsehole on the road
We Malaysians can spot a tourist from a mile away. He is the one who drives carefully, doesn’t kill anyone, and actually signals before he turns. That tourist, by possessing some innate gift, has actually figured out how to read road signs, which is written in an ancient language with weird diagrams that we Malaysians just cannot comprehend. I mean, what exactly does a yellow sign with an exclamation mark with the words 90 km/h actually mean? Is it trying to urgently (hence the exclamation mark) tell us to go beyond 90 km/h? Ask the tourist, he knows! And, we really need to learn how to park without obstructing an adjacent car’s path of exit. I know its abnormal, but seriously, I think double-parking may, and here I stress on the word ‘may’ cause serious inconvenience to other drivers. Maybe, I am not sure. Research is still being undertaken on this subject matter and results should be out soon. Stay tuned.
Scientists say that one of the major cause of blindness apart from trauma to the head and looking at Miss Malaysia/Universe contestants are bad diet and a lazy lifestyle. This is because our arteries become clogged, and therefore less blood goes to the retina to supply it. Soon, the retina will slowly die off, causing loss of vision. What the scientists have failed to take into account is another more serious cause of blindness.
Cars fitted with front headlamps that emit ‘white light’.
Have you ever had your corneas barbecued by cars fitted with such lights? These lights are powered by 80 million megavolts of electricity and are EXTREMELY bright. You can tell when a car fitted with such lights are nearby because suddenly, it’s daytime again. If you see such a car heading your way, TURN AWAY IMMEDIATELY unless you want your windscreen to be melted.
4) Be proud of Manglish, but ditch it the moment you see an ang-moh (Note: an ang-moh is a racial epithet that originates from Hokkien (Min Nan) that is used to refer to white people in Malaysia and Singapore. Literally meaning ‘red-haired’, the term carries a strong stigma at present amongst a large proportion of the Caucasian minority. The term implies that the person referred to is a devil, a concept explicitly used in the Cantonese term gweilo (‘foreign devil’). Can also be used to refer to the Rambutan, a white fruit with a red hair skin on the outside.) Wikipedia
We are very proud of our accent, as if we somehow worked for years to perfect it. The true Manglish speaker can by the very simple usage of ‘lah’, ‘mah’ or ‘hor’ can completely turn a conversation around. It can connotate sarcasm, praise, reprimand, and even seduction. For example – ‘You are very good looking”. Now, to a non-Malaysian, that sentence may only serve one purpose, that is to praise. But we Malaysians can twist it around with just one extra syllable.
For instance, if a guy were to end it with a very low-toned ‘lah’, it would immediately indicate that he is horny. If a girl were to deliver that same sentence with a slightly prolonged ‘mah’ accompanied by a discreet roll of her eyes, everyone will see that she is jealous. And lastly, if a mother were to utter that sentence to her daughter ending with a sharp ‘hor’, that will indicate that her daughter actually resembles Jabba the Hutt’s backside.
And yet, with such a powerful linguistic tool at our disposal, we would never dream of using it in the presence of foreigners. Why is that when we have Mat Sallehs for company, we never speak Manglish to them? Where do all our ‘lah’s and phrases like “ is dis your wan or my wan’ go? Suddenly, we speak normal sounding English, and our grammar becomes horribly correct and pronunciation atrociously perfect.
Perhaps maybe deep deep down inside, we realize how terribly uncool we all sound with our Malaysian accents. This is why Malaysian movies will never make it big in Hollywood. And some of us are so desperate to shed our natural accent that the moment we find a plausible excuse, we put on an accent. Perhaps that’s why we love practicing our fake accents with Westerners.
I mean, you see many pretentious people who spend a week in Western countries suddenly develop an accent so thick, it’s unbelievable. Sure, an American accent sounds good on a person with Caucasian features like freckles, pink flushes, clear blue eyes, blonde hair, etc.etc. But when a guy who looks like he should sell pirated DVDs for a living suddenly says , “Hey dudes, Jessica Alba is like sooo totally hot, man I’m like so totally on that bod man. Far out!”, you just know it doesn’t go together, like wearing a thong to church. It’s just wrong.
And then on the other side of the coin, you will NEVER ever see foreigners attempt to imitate our accents. It’s physically impossible, because the moment they try it, their brain receives impulses from the muscles controlling the vocal cords, which tells the brain that “it is VERY UNCOOL to sound Malaysian“ and the brain will just shut down the muscles for a few seconds, which will render the would-be impersonator speechless.
But yet, we must stand tall and proud of our accent! Speak like true Malaysians wherever you go! Do not compromise our identity for sake of clarity! If you’re Malaysian, lets say out loud in the spirit of brotherhood, “WE CAN DO IT WAN LAH!”
And if you are a foreigner (especially if you are Australian, British or American) reading this, I say this to you with all sincereity. Try the Malaysian accent out and give us feedback. As always, just by virtue of your status as a Westerner, your opinions should always matter greatly to us.
to be continued
Tags: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Names For Foreigners