Malaysia Overview

History and Politics

From the ancestors of the Malaysians to the colonization of the country

The ancestors of the current residents of Malaysia probably came from southern China and settled around 300 BC. In what is now Malaysia. Since trade between China and India started early, Hindus and Buddhists also immigrated to the country. Groups from Java, Thailand (formerly Siam), Sumatra, but also people from Persia and other countries came to the country.

In the early modern period, around 1500, when the European powers became more interested in the riches of Asia and they conquered the world with their ships, the Portuguese were the first to reach Malaysia. They were primarily interested in the spice trade: spices that were not known in Europe and that were as valuable as gold at the time. Then came the Dutch and finally the British, who brought parts of what is now Malaysia under their control and made them a British Crown Colony.

Independence and Elective Monarchy

In 1957 Malaysia gained independence from Great Britain, but was still part of the Commonwealth, so the country did not gain its full independence as a state until 1963. The Malaysia Federation was founded in 1963, with Singapore in the south and Sabah and Sarawak in the north of Borneo. Singapore left the Federation in 1965.

As of this year, the country has been an electoral parliamentary monarchy. What does that mean? Sultans rule in the different regions of the country and they elect a king from their ranks every five years. There are a total of 13 federal states, nine of which are run as sultanates as in earlier times. Then there is the capital Kuala Lumpur. That is why the national flag also has 14 stripes, the 13 states plus the capital. There are also three federal territories.


Again and again people immigrated to Malaysia, workers from China and later also from India. Most of the time they had to toil as workers in agriculture or in mines. This resulted in a mixture of peoples and religions that still shape the life of the people and the culture of the country today.

Malaysia History

Everyday Life

Caution confusion of language

Often you hear the terms “Malaya” or “Malaysia” or “Malay” or “Malaysian”. But what is the difference? “Malaya” was the name the English called the Malay Peninsula, and this term is still sometimes heard today. But rightly it is called Malaysia, this is today’s state. But it’s only been called that since 1963. So a Malaysian is someone who has citizenship in Malaysia. He can be Malay, Indian, Chinese or other origin.

What’s what?

Hijab, burqa, chador, takke? There are different types of clothing in Islam. Some Muslims just don’t wear any of it. Here you can find out the respective names. On the pictures below you can see a few examples of what each item of clothing looks like.

State religion Islam

The Islam is the official religion in Malaysia. Every Malay born in Malaysia is a Muslim at birth. Nevertheless, there are other religions in the country, such as those of the Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, followers of the natural religions. Nevertheless, life is essentially determined by the culture of Islam. The discussion about whether to open up to the West is not taking place in public. Islam has an impact on many political decisions.

Celebrate in a multi-ethnic state

As a country located in Asia according to computerminus, Malaysia is a multi-ethnic state because many different peoples live there together. It is often the case that the cultures do not connect with each other, but live side by side. Then everyone maintains their old traditions and customs.

Many of the population groups also have their own religions. Because there are so many religions, Malaysia has a number of public holidays. So there is the New Year several times a year: Christians celebrate the New Year on January 1st. The Islamic majority then celebrate New Year at the end of Lent. And the Chinese have their very own New Year celebrations, which always take place in February. The Indians then celebrate the New Year in October. The indigenous people have a completely different count, they usually celebrate after the harvest, which takes place in May or June. So if you like to celebrate the New Year, you have to go to Malaysia and you can celebrate several times a year.

Human rights in Malaysia

The human rights are not always respected in Malaysia. This applies, for example, to freedom of expression. One may not always express a free opinion, and often only to a very limited extent. Malaysia is a modern country in many ways, especially economically. But people must continue to fight for their political rights and, above all, for their right to freedom of expression.

Eating in Malaysia

The Malaysian cuisine

The many cultures and peoples that live in Malaysia have also left their mark on the country’s food. There is all sorts of things from Indian and Chinese cuisine here. Most important – as everywhere in Asia – is the rice called nasi and noodles.

The Malaysians love sambal, which is a very hot shrimp paste that is mixed with hot chilli and garlic. Spices can be found everywhere in the food. Beef, chicken, goat, lamb and, in many coastal regions, also like fish are eaten. There are also curries. However, curry is not the yellow spice you may be familiar with, but describes a sauce that in Malaysia is often refined with coconut, ginger, hot chilli or other ingredients such as garlic and spices.

Eating Chinese in Malaysia

The Chinese who live in Malaysia have kept their cuisine and often have their own kitchen. Here are the popular spring rolls that you may have already eaten in a Chinese restaurant. But the Chinese cuisine is also different, of course, there are many regional differences here. Sometimes the kitchens also mix.

Indian food in Malaysia

The cuisine of South India must not be forgotten. There is a large selection here, especially for vegetarians. How about some lentil mush? Or spinach with cream cheese? Thin pancakes are also often baked and then filled with a curry – a sauce, for example with vegetables.

The popular naan comes from northern India, which is a very thin bread that is very similar to the Arabic flatbread. It is then traditionally baked in a tandoor, which is a clay oven. This oven is also often used to cook meat dishes. The meat becomes particularly tender in such an oven.

How do you eat in Malaysia?

Many people in Asia eat with chopsticks. In Malaysia, however, this is not the case, unless you are Chinese. In Malaysia, people otherwise eat with their hands, more precisely with the right hand, the left hand is considered to be unclean. In order to be able to clean your hands, there are always small bowls on the table.

In restaurants, a fork and a spoon are placed on the table, whereby the spoon is also used to reduce the size. The food is then skewered with a fork. Knives are never used as cutlery in Asia, because a knife is a weapon and, according to the Asian understanding, does not belong on a table.

In Malaysia, people also sit on the floor to eat. Most of the time you take a seat around a collection of dishes and plates. Then it is shared and everyone tries what they want.

Please note

If you should ever be in Malaysia and be invited to dinner, you should know the following: If you are invited as a guest, it is best to always leave a little bit on the plate, otherwise the hosts may well refill immediately. And a full plate would end up being seen as rudeness and the Malays attach great importance to politeness. In Malaysia, sharing is even more important than perfect table manners. If you visit the country yourself, you will quickly find that Malaysians like to give away a little of everything. The saying “joy shared is joy doubled” applies here.