7 Malaysian Things You Never Knew About Malaysians

7 Malaysian Things You Never Knew About Malaysians

7 Malaysian Things You Never Knew About Malaysians

For newbies to Malaysia, many things make a Malaysian standout.  7 Malaysian Things and other quirks, I mean.

#1 A Malaysian Greeting

The Malaysian “HEY” is summed up in two words generally.

  • “Dah Makan?” (Malay)
  • “Chiak Par Boey?” (Hokkien)
  • “Sek Pow Meh?” (Cantonese) and
  • “Have you eaten?” (English, but of course)

This is Malaysian hospitality. They greet each other whenever they meet.

If they meet their friends at any restaurant, café, or Mamak, then the greetings change slightly.

  • “Makan ke?”
  • “Chiak ar?”
  • “Sek yeah.”
  • “Eating ar?”

Jom Makan! Malaysians generally hate to see a fellow Malaysian go hungry. So they will offer and ply each other with food.


It is a Malaysian thing to feel excited at the prospect of attending an “Open House” during festivities.

Office organized buffet dinners at hotels and Malaysian companies organized conferences and events have the maximum ‘refreshments’ and ‘tea breaks’.

Generally, it’s an expectation to be fed. <kaw kaw>


7 Malaysian Things You Never Knew About Malaysians

Author Billy Law’s caricature of a man with a huge mouth saying “Have you eaten?” Source: Billy Law.

#2 Malaysians Can and Do Eat Around the Clock

With Malay Mail naming Penang as a 24-hour street food experience, it is no wonder that Malaysia’s favorite pass time is EATING.

Malay Mail proceeds to list a mammoth task of eating around the clock with the pit stop for food and more food every hour on the hour.

Most visitors who have heard of the fabulous street food in Penang may balk at a Malaysian’s ability to stretch their stomachs down to their legs!

Do Malaysians have a sense of time?

A rubber time which makes appointments and lateness appear tardy, with a resounding YES.

Generally, when it comes to food and eating out, Malaysians have no sense of time whatsoever.

Malaysians can have a Teh Tarik, a Roti Canai, a Nasi Lemak, or soup even at three in the morning!

The flourishing 24-hour Mamak joints are a testament to this.

Eating is a national Malaysian sport! Seriously.

Ask any full-bellied Malaysian, they will hands up high and ready to sign up at a mere mention of an open house and FREE buffet.

Come to think of it, Malaysians only EAT one meal a day. It just goes on and on and on!

7 Malaysian Things You Never Knew About Malaysians

The long weekends draw Malaysians to the suburbs for local delicacies that they are willing to wait for hours for a table and another few hours just to eat. Photo: Doris Lim

#3 Malaysians Love Food Trips (Road Trips)

No distance is too far nor too farfetched to a Malaysian foodie.

  1. Claypot Crab in Chemor, Ipoh? No problem.
  2. Charcoal Fried Hokkien Mee “Tai loke mee” in KL, Sap-sap Sui (Cantonese for extremely easy).
  3. Penang Assam Laksa, Jom! (Malay for let’s go)

World Street Food Congress nominated Penang’s Line Clear Nasi Kandar Restaurant and Siam Road Char Koay Teow to the World Street Food Top 50 for best street food recently.

Line Clear has no problem as they have the manpower to cook and serve their customers speedily.

However, Uncle who operates a pushcart stall Char Koay Teow is stressed by social media attention.

His only helper is his son.

Viral Posts

A recent FB post by SmartDory went viral and grabbed the attention of many Char Koay Teow aficionados when they discovered that Uncle has taken a 10 Day hiatus.

The Star says, “A video uploaded on Facebook recently saw some 15 people queuing up at Tan’s “spot” in Siam Road even before he arrived. Chants of “Char Koay Teow! Char Koay Teow!” were heard as he pulled over.”

According to Says.com, “In a post that has gone viral on Facebook, it would seem that the Char Koay Teow uncle has elected to take a 10-day vacation throughout the Raya break and school holidays”.

World of Buzz says this, “In a recent post by Facebook page Smartdory, it showed a sign stating that his stall will be closed for 10 days, from June 24 to July 3. Amusingly, it was captioned, “UNCLE KENOT TAHAN THE STRESS. PLEASE BE KIND.”

We suggest going to other Char Koay Teow stalls in Penang which are equally good.

There’s even one in a café fried with duck’s egg reputed to “fight” any lard infused one in a Kopitiam.

For Malaysians, going the extra kilometer or even off-road for good delicious food is justifiable.

7 Malaysian Things You Never Knew About Malaysians

Malaysians make a beeline for the Siam Road Char Koay Teow in Penang. During the Hari Raya break, the anticipated crowd prompted this response from Uncle.

#4 Malaysians wait in Queues for Food

A recent phenomenon. Really. No joke.

Malaysians have joined the compliant queuing nations of the world.

Think Japanese waiting in line in Disneyland Japan, you get the idea.

Recently there was a queue formed way ahead of time. Even before the pushcart stall arrives with chanting.

This phenomenon is repeated in other stalls as well. Lines of people queuing for food are forming all over George Town.

7 Malaysian Things You Never Knew About Malaysians

Long queues are common now in George Town as customers line up patiently for their delicious street food. Photo: Doris Lim

#5 Sports Mad Malaysians

After all that food, it’s no wonder that Malaysians are Asia’s most obese! We’re not a sport playing nation like Canadians.

We’re an obsessive lot. Obsessive with the sports channel and watching sports live!

To Malaysians, the best place to watch live sports is not at home but any of the 24 hour Mamak outlets.

Malaysian love football and badminton not necessarily in that order.

Malaysians may bicker, mutter, and complain bitterly about policies and politics.

But all these bad feelings evaporate when its Thomas Cup season.

We forget our differences and cheer our national athletes!

Lee Chong Wei winning All England title in 2010, 2011, 2014, and this year 2017 makes Malaysians beam with national pride.

7 Malaysian Things You Never Knew About Malaysians

Top-ranked Lee Chong Wei won his fourth All England Open crown. Source: Reuters photo

#6 The Malaysian 555 Notebook

This unassuming, thin-lined notebook is so Malaysian that everyone knows it when “555” is mentioned.

It is pronounced triple five or in Hokkien “sar eh goh”. “555” fits in a shirt pocket nicely.

Most Malaysian will remember an older family member buying “555” notebooks in bulk by the dozen.

The  “555” notebooks cost 5 cents each back then and now cost about 20 cents each.

The little notebooks are used to record all sorts of things.

Daily marketing expenditures, tontine money (which is illegal), punter’s manual of supposed lucky numbers, doodles, scribbles and even meeting notes!

These are the Excel spreadsheets for old merchants who use it to record their daily transactions.

Chettiar moneylenders would wave this when hounding borrowers to repay their debts.

Before the advent of credit cards, credit was extended to all good-paying patrons by the grocery shops and kopitiams (coffee shops) owners.

Patrons and customers could pick up say a tin of butter from the grocery shop.

Yes, ask your grandma about canned butter before the advent of refrigerators!

Listen to some cool stories about making pound cakes form recycled butter time.

It’s was quite the norm to have your daily breakfast of eggs, toast, and kopi (coffee) which the Kopitiam boss will record in “555” booklets.

You only “jelas” (pay) when you get your month-end salary.

7 Malaysian Things You Never Knew About Malaysians

So Malaysian. The model 555 notebook remains a classic, evergreen multi-purpose personal recorder. Photo: Wilson Chew Facebook

#7 The Malaysian Dream Book

Malaysians love to dream a lot. They dream of winning BIG.

Win BIG go makan angin (dream vacation), get that dream car, BIG condo, and have a dream lifestyle!

Which explains why they punt, gamble, and forecast numbers.

There are many forms of gambling in Malaysia. In the 60s and 70s, the chap ji kee (Hokkien for ‘twelve numbers’) was a popular simplified version of the 4-D lottery. It was a system involving just 12 numbers.

To win, you must guess right the combination of two numbers.

The punters could bet the numbers vertically or horizontally. If vertical, the numbers had to come out in the stated order.

The chap ji kee ‘dream’ book is a passport (B5) sized dark pink booklet.

There are two pink ‘dream’ books in existence.

The cover has the Taoist deities “Tua Pek Kong” or “Guan Ying” on it for luck and prosperity.

The pages are divided into small columns and rows with tiny pictures. Each bore a double number at the bottom.

Dream books are the punter’s handbook for references.

Most old-timers would dutifully record this with a list of supposed lucky numbers in their “555” booklet.

7 Malaysian Things You Never Knew About Malaysians

Malaysian oldies have this beloved dusky pink dream book for reference and keep photocopied copies of forecast game results to play numbers. Photo: Doris Lim

Now that you know the 7 Malaysian Things You Never Knew About Malaysians, come to visit and stay for a while LAH.

You’ll grow to love our Malaysians.



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