Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The difference between

Moving back to a place I merely formally consider 'home' has been a very strange process. In the five years I've lived away, I have grown both mentally and physically and it feels like there exists this unbridgeable chasm between the mature adult and the teenager that remembers life differently (simpler). I will be Malaysia-based until further notice and I am gradually acclimatizing to the different living/social conditions here. While that's working out, I can't help but point out some traits that I find uniquely Malaysian:

1. Restaurants pile on the ice before pouring in the drink which leads to a cup of very diluted Coke after two minutes. Perhaps it's got to do with the warmer weather here, but man, 3/4 cup full of ice seems a tad extreme to me.

2. Of all the places I've traveled to, only in Malaysia do official forms require you to state your race. Given Malaysia's history, the topic of race is undoubtedly highly contentious. I have to wonder if there are ulterior motives for making the public divulge this little tidbit of information apart from census reasons. Which brings me to my next point.

3. It's a well-known fact that corruption is rife among our local government here. The fact that that is an undeniable fact, and not mere speculation or conspiracy theory trips me out muchly. People here are very passionate about bitching about the state of things.

4. I completely forgot how Malaysians mix other languages nonchalantly in their everyday conversation. Honest to blog, I don't know how that little Malaysian quirk slipped my mind considering it's so prevalent. It's rather amusing to have a conversation where one party is speaking in Cantonese while the other is answering in English.

5. In unrelated news, I actually detest the term 'honest to blog' which if you can't remember originates from Diablo Cody's Juno. I like the show well enough but I have to admit that the first 15 minutes annoyed me greatly with it's new-fangled hip lingo (observe: "That ain't no etch-a-sketch. This is one doodle that can't be un-did, homeskillet." ????!!!!?!?!?!?) and twee Moldy Peaches soundtrack to the so-cute-I'm-a-diabetic-now credits. Eeek.

6. Moving back on topic, the speech patterns and local slang here are definitely one-in-a-kind. I get called out for acting pretentious when I speak English, when really the only difference is I accentuate different parts of a word. I've never really used the 'localized' English commonly known as Manglish (Malaysian English) much, and I don't fancy being called a snob just because I refuse to ruin the English language in order to fit in. As if I don't get enough flack when speaking English, I also get called a banana when attempting to speak Cantonese/Mandarin and a poser when whipping out Bahasa Melayu. Sometimes I just can't win.

7. Malaysians like their brands very much - clothes, bags, cars. Is it a curious fact that snatch theives and robbers operate highly efficiently here?

8. I also forgot just how passionate Malaysians are about their food. We will drive to the other side of town for good satay or risk contracting food poisoning for the best seafood that is located at the dingiest ports. Hell, they'd probably drive all the way to Melaka to talk politics over a plate of chicken rice.

9. I suppose the last thing that stumps me about Malaysia is the fact that the international movies screened at local cinemas follow no certain order here. Australia follows the US quite closely in terms of new releases and being aware of the seasonal movie offerings in the States you learn to expect certain things. Like summer season in the States (June/July/August) means fun, frivolous movies for the fun seeking people on holiday. That means lots of comedies, kid-friendly flicks and mindless fluff, eg Tropic Thunder, The Dark Knight, Mamma Mia etc. while fall might mean more serious flicks, Oscar contenders and the like. The system in Malaysia seems not to acknowledge any of this. Wall-E and The Mummy 3 is out but so is Deception and Penelope, the former which bombed in Australia and the latter which doesn't even have a release date yet. I am so confused. This messes up everything.

10. And I'm not even going to start on movie censorship in Malaysia. All I will say is there is no point rating your movies if you're going to cut out all the cuss words/sex scenes/violent bits regardless of classification anyway.