Society and Culture in Malaysia

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Malaysia has a population of about 25 million. It is a multi-racial country whose social integration has become a model for the rest of the world. Almost 80% of the total population occupy Peninsular Malaysia.

There are three main races in the country. The Malays, who are Muslims, form the majority in the country. The other two main racial groups are the Chinese, who are mostly Buddhists and the Indians, who are mainly Hindus.

Other groups that make up the population include the Eurasians and the more than 50 indigenous groups from Sabah and Sarawak like the Kadazans, Dusuns, Muruts, Ibans, Orang Ulu, Melanau, Bidayuhs, Penans, just to name a few. The different races have their own traditions and customs which gives Malaysia a colourful heritage. The important festivals of each race are a public holiday in the country (so there are a lot of public holidays here!) and celebrated by all regardless of race and religion.

In terms of dressing, most Malaysians, regardless of their race, wear Western clothes. However, during special occasions and festivals, many will don traditional costumes complete with their elaborate accessories.However, It is a common sight in Malaysia to find women whose hair and upper torsos are covered. The head covering is called tudung in the Malay Language, which literally means “to cover”. But with a democratic government and liberal constitution, Muslim women are given freedom of choice regarding dress.

The lifestyle here is progressively becoming more and more modern with great exposure to the western culture. There are some native families who speak mainly English within their household. Many Malaysian youngsters enjoy going out to discos and bars, and the scene may not be very much different from that in other countries. In Kuala Lumpur in particular, the way of life does not stray too far away from what is happening in the Western world now.

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