Being Malaysian: What does it mean?

Words: @oliverinstead β€’ Location: PETRONAS Twin Towers, Kuala Lumpur

Whenever my ethnicity is questioned, I am always “Malaysian first, Chinese second” Y’know, except for the times I go undercover or register for free airport Wi-Fi… but that tends to raise more questions than it answers; fo’ real, what does it really mean?


For starters, being Malaysian means your ancestors had probably done their fair share of travelling since about half the Malaysian population is of non-native descent. In my case, all my grandparents came from some corners in Mainland China… but I claim to be no Chinaman!


Because the country is so rich in cultural diversity, being Malaysian almost always means being multilingual. As someone who travels to live, I cannot stress the importance of this attribute enough. It’s allowed me to navigate my way around many countries with ease – whether it’s Britain or Brunei, I could speak at least one of the locals’ languages.

travel-Malaysia-KLCC2On the flip side of that, being Malaysian also means your physical traits shall be subjected to scrutiny in the form of “yeah… but where are you really from tho?” and at times even “if you’re from Malaysia, why do you look *inserts another Asian nationality*?

In all fairness, it’s not unusual that I’m mistaken for a native when I travel to foreign countries neighbouring Malaysia. So it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that I could also be half-Thai / half-Filipino… with a pinch of Javanese somewhere down the line. #sarcasm


But I’m ok with that.


The fact remains : I’m still learning about my motherland and I probably learned more about it in the last seven, eight years since I moved away than I ever did growing up in this tropical melting pot. Nowadays, I build upon my understanding and appreciation by exploring a new region or six whenever I return… and truth be told : never had I realised more, that my home really does have so much to offer.

What about you? Have you ever been to Malaysia? What does being *inserts your nationality* mean to you? I want to know so spill it all in the comments below!! x


Oliver β€

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  • Reply
    katya willems
    March 12, 2017 at 5:28 pm

    Hi Oliver. What a lovely piece! I’m afraid to say I’ve only be through Malaysia on a bus on my way from Singapore to Thailand (it was a long way!). I hope to return one day!

    • Reply
      March 13, 2017 at 11:47 pm

      Awww… Next time you def need to stop by somewhere in Malaysia! I’d say it’s quite different from both Thailand and Singapore… but yeah, that is long journey!! 😱

      Oliver x

  • Reply
    March 12, 2017 at 5:36 pm

    Love the post Oli!! I know exactly how you feel, when I lived abroad I would return to England every summer and we would travel up and down the country, but when we moved back here we hardly travelled at all. I always say I need to spend more time exploring the place we call ‘home’ x

    • Reply
      March 13, 2017 at 11:50 pm

      YES!! There’s always this mentality of “it’s not going anywhere, I’ll do it one day…” and you don’t even go out and see things! I’m glad I moved out of my country so I can have a different and better appreciation for it.

      Don’t stop travelling in the UK, Asma!

      Oliver x

  • Reply
    March 12, 2017 at 7:07 pm

    Hi there Oliver, this is such a fantastic write up! Happy blogging Mel :) x

  • Reply
    March 13, 2017 at 10:55 am

    Great post, Ol!

    I have been to Malaysia a few times and loved it. I’ve not travelled as extensively as you but I have been to the two states in Borneo as well as KL, Ipoh, Melaka and Penang. I must explore the East Coast one day.

    I am Scottish first and British second. Being Scottish means people have trouble with my accent when I visit England – but not in France or elsewhere in Europe. Being Scottish means I don’t use banknotes bearing a picture of the Queen. Being Scottish means…lots of things!

    • Reply
      March 13, 2017 at 11:52 pm

      Well, I think you’ve been to Malaysia more than “a few times” πŸ˜‰ The East Coast is definitely overlooked by most, myself included so I’ve made it my mission to go there next time I’m home!

      Oliver x

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