Since my days as an exchange student in the U.K., I’ve fallen deeply in love with life on the road. I love the idea of heading off to some far off place and exploring all that it has to offer. There’s just something incredibly liberating about that. However, despite my wanderlust and fascination with the unknown, I never forget my identity as a Malaysian.
In fact, whenever I see or hear about something that remotely reminds me of my home country, I well up with a little bit of pride inside. Which is why, after taking a few trips overseas, I began to realise that it’s actually pretty awesome being a Malaysian traveller.
Since we’re gearing up for Merdeka and Malaysia Day in the next few months, here’s a list of 7 reasons why I love being a Malaysian traveller, just to celebrate our unique Malaysian identity!
1. Our passports damn power
Did you know that our Malaysian passport is ranked the 12th most powerful in the world? As it stands, our passport allows us to travel to 166 countries without having to apply for a visa. While travellers from some other countries have to go through stringent (and sometimes expensive) visa-application procedures to visit some places, we can just waltz right in thanks to our awesome passports!
And, as a bonus, did you know that Malaysian passport holders are eligible to use the Automatic Immigration Gates (AIG) in Singapore’s Changi Airport? It was quite a pleasant surprise for me on my recent visit to Singapore!
Now if only our currency can be powerful too. Sigh.
2. Our language skills leave people shooketh
On average, Malaysians can speak at least two languages. But most of us can speak a lot more than that and many foreigners just can’t brain this. While people in countries like China and South Korea are used to speaking one common language, Malaysians can easily switch between languages and dialects at a moment’s notice. In fact, sometimes we do it so fast we don’t even realise it ourselves!
I made a friend from Mainland China while studying in Hong Kong. She spoke to me in English first because she (and many people from China) didn’t know that some Malaysians speak Mandarin.
When I finally spoke it, she was amazed at “how good my Mandarin was” (it wasn’t!). And then, I spoke to another classmate in Cantonese. At this point, my PRC friend gasped, “H…how is it that you speak Cantonese!?”
I’m sure this hasn’t only happened to me either. I have friends who, whilst studying in England, were complimented for their “good English”! Regardless of how people feel about us, it sure feels good knowing that they’re impressed by our language skills. Speaking of which…
2(b). We can pick up foreign languages in a flash
Because we’re so used to learning, speaking, and hearing multiple languages every day, Malaysians are really good at picking up foreign languages! Obviously, one of the perks of being able to quickly pick up a language is being able to blend into a foreign country seamlessly.
Last year, I self-taught myself a little bit of Korean for my trip to the country. And despite having only a month to study, I was able to communicate in very basic terms with the people there and the feeling was amazing!
In fact, even with the common languages we already know (Bahasa Malaysia, English, Chinese/Tamil), we can already pretty much go anywhere in the world and be able to communicate easily! So don’t go saying bad things about us, chances are, we know what you’re saying!
3. Our cultural awareness helps us adapt to any situation
Growing up in a multiracial country has made us more culturally perceptive than monoracial countries. As Malaysians, we find it easier to understand, accept, and appreciate the beauty in different cultures and beliefs. This makes us more aware of cultural and ethical taboos when visiting different countries, which helps us act more respectfully.
We are also more open to new cultural experiences. This makes it easier for us to adapt to different situations, helping us to enjoy our travels so much more! This is probably why most people I’ve met throughout my travels have been very accommodative of Malaysians.
4. We can eat almost anything!
Living in a country with diverse cultures means living in a country with diverse cuisines. Malaysians enjoy delicious food from various different cultures on a regular basis, so it’s not a long shot to say that our palette is slightly more developed than most other people. I mean, if we can bring ourselves to love durian that much, we can eat anything!
Thanks to our love and appreciation for different types of food, we’re always gung-ho about trying something new! And more often than not, we tend to like the things we eat on our travels, which is a major plus point if you ask me.
4(b.) We can also handle spicy food really well
Malaysians love spicy food, that needs no explanation. I think at some point in history, we became so good at eating spicy food that there’s no such thing as “too hot or too spicy” anymore. This is important because I think the best food in some countries are of the spicy variety, such as traditional dishes and kimchi in South Korea.
Being able to enjoy spicy food opens up a whole new spectrum of dining options for us. In fact, most of the time when we travel, we worry that the food is not spicy enough! I mean, how many times have you heard your Malaysian travel companion(s) say, “Ah, I wish we had some sambal right now” or “this would really go well with some cili padi”. Right?
5. We can easily see the fun side of things
When we travel overseas, we tend to come across things and experiences we don’t often get in Malaysia, like cool weather! While people who live in seasonal countries often complain about the “bitter cold” in winter, Malaysians embrace snow like we were born out of a snowman!
Basically, it doesn’t take something extravagant to get Malaysians excited on our travels, making us a fun bunch to travel with. We even appreciate and admire mundane things like faster Internet connection, efficient public transport, and smoother traffic, making us appear extremely chill to foreigners.
Once, when I was in the U.K., a man was ranting about the public bus being late and asked me how I could remain so calm about it. With a straight face, I told him, “Mate, in my country, we’re lucky if the bus arrives at all!”
6. We hear good things about Malaysian food
Whenever I tell someone that I’m from Malaysia, the first thing they immediately talk about is the food. Yes, my fellow Malaysians, our food is indeed famous around the globe!
I think because we get to enjoy these delicacies on a daily basis, we don’t often think about how delicious they really are. But hearing someone from Japan rave about how he missed nasi lemak and wished he could find it easily in Japan is quite an interesting conversation to have.
When I was on an exchange programme in Nottingham, U.K., I was part of the annual Nottingham Malaysia Festival celebration. I’m telling you, when our food stalls opened in the city centre, people flocked to us and we sold out really quickly! I’ll just go ahead and chalk this down as a #MalaysianPride moment.
7. We gain a new-found appreciation for our country
Throughout my travels, I don’t think I’ve ever come across anyone who had a bad thing to say about Malaysia. In fact, most people, especially those living in Europe, consider our humble abode one of their favourite travel destinations. This is down to our good food, friendly locals, and rich culture as a country.
I’ll admit, hearing these amazing reviews overseas really does strike a chord in my heart. It helps me realise just how lovely Malaysia truly is, plus it’s always fun to hear about people’s experiences in Malaysia as a tourist. After all, we don’t usually see or encounter the types of things they do.
We Malaysians often complain about things in our country, so to hear some positive feedback is quite liberating. And in fact, when I come home from my travels, I actually feel like I’ve grown to love Malaysia even more! And that’s why, amongst every other point written on this list, it’s awesome to travel as a Malaysian.