So you think you’re Malaysian?

Travelling around as a Malaysian has got me wondering about how different we really are. We may not realize this but there are some things we say and do that are uniquely Malaysian – creating a culture and lifestyle of its own.

If you are Malaysian or if you think you think like one, you’ll definitely be able to identify and relate to this list of 32 tell tale Malaysian signs.

1. You become “leng lui” or “leng zhai” when someone is selling you something


If you are ever need an ego boost, try walking down an aisle of credit card salesman or WiFi promoters and be prepared to be swamped with compliments. We can’t be sure if the technique actually works in luring potential customers but hey, a compliment is a compliment even if you just want my money.

2. You ate Super Ring and RM 0.20 chewing gum during primary school


Super Ring, Mamee Monster, Apollo cakes and those frozen ice pops were your jam and they are the reason why your childhood was so colourful (literally)!

3. You aren’t satisfied till you get a free gift


On top of our heavily discounted goods from our professional haggling skills, the cherry on top of every bargain is always a free gift. We don’t care what it is; as long as it is free, we will happily take it.

4. Any time is “yum cha” time


To the Chinese, yum cha typically means having dim sum for breakfast with a pot of tea but in Malaysia, we have a different spin on that. We use this phrase so loosely to describe “hanging out” anywhere from mamaks to cafes even when we aren’t actually drinking anything (Chinese tea too expensive these days).

5. There are always 2 languages used in every sentence


Being a multi-racial country, it is no surprise that our spoken language contains influences from each race. We don’t necessarily speak Malay, Chinese or Tamil but it doesn’t stop us from being a little “rojak” with our language, sometimes even speaking 3 languages and maybe a dialect in one sentence!

For example: 

“Aiyo, so sayang to throw lah”

“Wah, I ngam ngam ada RM0.20!”

“Eh macha, don’t so kiasu wei”

6. You always ask for a new piece


On the topic of our shopping habits, have you ever caught yourself asking for a new piece, just because? Yup, we all have. Even if the product was displayed just  2 seconds ago, we still insist on a new one. If we aren’t asking for new ones, we are picking the ones behind because “less people touch, better lah”.

7. You always ask for more discount


I know everyone loves a discount but Malaysians LOVE discounts. Even if there isn’t one, Malaysians will create one at any opportunity we see fit.

8. Time is flexible


In Malaysia, it is a rare but notable occasion if an event begins on time. It becomes something tweet-worthy and it even fuels the conversation for the night. But in most cases, everyone knows everyone will be late so we leave when it is intended to start and be there just in time! Our motto is: go so early for what?

9. You are always “on the way”


After you’ve established it is finally time to get ready for your appointment comes the go-to phrase for when people ask where you are. Are you familiar with using the phrase “I’m on the way!” even though clearly you just got out of the shower? Yup, we are all guilty as charged. There’s no explanation why we do this but eh, everybody also like that, so why not?

10. Traffic is always your #1 excuse


Drawing back to our Malaysian timing, our favourite and most foolproof excuse for being late is always traffic – everyone knows how bad it is in KL at any time of day and hey, it’s not my fault if it’s congested, right?

11. You will park anywhere as long as your car fits


Being Malaysian, we all understand the sheer impossibility of finding a good parking space. It takes a lot of patience and sometimes even some imagination to find a spot that doesn’t obstruct and is legal enough to not get a ticket. No parking but there’s space on the divider? No problem! A nook your small Perodua Viva can squeeze in? Boleh lah!

12. You can NEVER decide where to eat


Malaysia is ever popular for its abundance of food – the variety of cuisines and options are endless and not to mention readily available round the clock. However, we are almost always stuck in the perpetual cycle of asking the age-old question: where to eat?

12. You can’t speak naturally without using “lah”


Of course, every Malaysian is sure to be able to identify with our Malaysian slang of “lah”, “leh”, “loh”, “aiyo”, “walaoeh”. There is something special about the way we talk that not only enables us to convey our expressions with elevated emotions but is also interchangeable from anger to happiness. It is so distinctively Malaysian that we even have LINE stickers for it!

13. Sometimes you don’t use your signal when changing lanes


Ever encountered a driver switching lanes from the far right all the way to the far left without even considering to alert other drivers with a simple tap of the signal? Yeah, I know that feeling. We have all done it at some point because we know our fellow Malaysians too well. A signal always means “NO, I GO FIRST!” to other drivers, so instead of giving them a chance to process, just go for it and pray they see you.

15. You can stop your vehicle anywhere


While we may not know how to use our signals, we sure know how to use our distress signal. If you need to make a sudden stop anywhere – just anywhere – nobody bats an eyelid if you have your distress signal on. Bus stop and taxi stand? No need lah, use distress signal, bro!

16. Your idea of the yellow light is to go faster



In driving school, we learn that a red light means “stop”, green light means  “go” and yellow light means “slow down” but here in Malaysia, yellow light means “GO FASTER!”. Because late already lor, that’s why.

17. You use words like “cincai”, “kantoi” and “action”


The list is endless for the amount of words we use in our daily conversation that maybe up until now you didn’t notice that it doesn’t fit in anywhere else but here. For example, our usage of words such as “action”, “steady”, “settle”, “simply” and “perasan” are irrelevant elsewhere but everyone here knows just what you’re talking about. Not to mention, we also have some Malaysian-only words like “kantoi”, “cincai” and “abuden”.

18. You call anybody “Boss” or “Lou Sai”


For some reason, everyone is “Boss” or “Lou Sai” (Boss in Cantonese) in Malaysia. You can be the consumer, business owner, credit card salesman, mamak waiter or even janitor, you are the boss. Because in Malaysia, everyone also boleh.

19. You know how to play the recorder


Now, I know learning to play the recorder in music class isn’t exclusively a Malaysian thing but for what it’s worth, I’m sure all Malaysian kids can relate to this. We don’t know why we had to learn to play “Burung Kakak Tua” for one whole hour but at least we didn’t have to do Math!

20. You don’t trust our road signage 100%

highway signs

While our road signs are seemingly legit, they don’t always lead us to where we want to go. We find ourselves circulating that same location or ending up in an entirely different place if we solely relied on our road signs. We have developed a distrust, a betrayal so deep, we would sell our soul for Waze instead.

21. You have eaten steamed rice with durian



The idea of durian to some is already repelling but the thought of durian paired with steamed white rice? Now, that’s a concoction stranger than the fruit itself. But if you have tried this and eat it religiously during the durian season, then you truly are Malaysian.

22. You LOVE pasar malams


Oh, pasar malam. How will we live our childhood and our weekly lives without paying you a visit? We all need our weekly dose of apam balik, Arisan Fried Chicken and sugar cane, right? Plus, everything there is so cheap, your inner aunty jumps with joy!

23. You frequently use the Hand of God


It doesn’t matter if you are jaywalking across the main road or illegally crossing a zebra crossing, the Hand of God is our literal life-saver on Malaysian roads. Just raise your palms out and watch the whole world stop around you.

24. You have a collection of pirated DVDs stashed away at home


Before the existence of high-speed Internet, pirated VCDs and DVDs were the way to go. Each time we visit the pasar malam, we are bound to return home with a stack of freshly released movies to devour. We still have them stashed in a drawer somewhere for emergency (read: when the Internet is down).

25. You wait for a 50% discount before paying your “saman”


Oops, got a parking ticket? No worries, just hang around and wait for the annual 50% discount offer and pay your saman then!

26. You are a politics expert during elections


During the election period, everyone is suddenly an expert in Malaysian politics and quietly judging people who didn’t register to vote. We know all the dirty deets and we become a knowledge bank for all the names of our ministers. After the election period, newspaper also don’t bother to read already.

27. You take pride in local Malaysian food


Malaysian food is our pride and joy – it is something that we are genuinely proud of and we are so happy to be surrounded by all these colourful and aromatic cuisine. But don’t ever insult Malaysian food in front of a Malaysian or you will kena hantam kau kau!

28. You supported Lee Chong Wei because got public holiday


Speaking of pride and joys, another Malaysian pride and national treasure is our beloved Datuk Lee Chong Wei. Of course, we are truly proud of him for putting us on the map for a good reason but what we love most is the possible idea of a public holiday the next day if he wins. Go Datuk LCW!

29. If it’s free, you’re there. And so is everyone else


Whether or not we like what you are offering for free, we are still going to show up because “free mah, take only!”. If you are running a sample booth at a supermarket, be prepared to serve seconds and thirds and perhaps just cook for the entire family.

30. You have ignored sign boards before


For the most part, we are peace-loving people who follow the rules and abide by the law but when it comes to following what a sign says? Nah, we prefer to live life on the edge.

31. You’re kiasu and you know it


In general, most Malaysians are pretty innately kiasu. We are afraid to miss out on events and sometimes we are afraid to lose out on well… anything. If we find out that sugar prices are going to hike up the next day, we are going to sapu all the sugar on the aisle.

If petrol prices are going up by RM 0.20 the next day, we are going to queue up even if it is wasting petrol to wait and we have to pump again next week. If our friends are going DoTa and we have a paper tomorrow, we will still go for one game. That’s just who we are lah hor.

32. To you, the E-lane stands for Extra Lane


Traffic is our biggest daily enemy and we spend probably half our lives stuck in them. While everyone crawls through the spill, some of us are cheeky enough to take advantage of the clear and smooth emergency lane. Then again, we are probably running late. Again.

Malaysia Boleh!

Growing up in Malaysia, our multicultural society is a special privilege we sometimes forget. We are naturally bilingual from a young age and we all share so many unique experiences that only Malaysians can identify with each other. While some of them may seem ridiculous, it is no denying that it is simply just who we are and we should truly embrace that. Malaysia Boleh!

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