Culture Shiok!

11 03 2007

When? 10 March 2007, Where? Pahang room, Shangri-la hotel

No toilet paper? So many cats with no tails? Eating something that smells like rotten eggs and actually loving it? Who knew that there could be so many “shocking” and “shioking” (Ed: Slang for the feeling of awesomeness) things about living in Malaysia through the eyes of our foreign friends?

First up was Danny Marks, a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar who is studying Peace Studies in Malaysia. Coming from the small town of Lexington in USA, Danny is no stranger to being in foreign lands as he has travelled to 23 countries.

Danny found it interesting that Malaysians have strong family values and religion is more prevalent in their lives. Everyone is nice except the taxi drivers (a common comment by all our speakers!). But most of all, he was impressed at how even though there are complaints between ethnic groups, everyone lived together without fighting and violence.

Iranian Farzaneh Razavi, a Masters student at UPM even dressed up in a traditional Kurdish outfit. Farzaneh shared with us how Iran was so big that there could be 4 different seasons at the same time in different parts of the country. Farzaneh found that when it comes to celebrating festivals, Malaysians are more open and welcome anyone to come & visit as compared to Iran where people are more private. She added that luckily in Malaysia, many people could speak English and are more outgoing compared to back home. It was interesting to learn that the two Iranian girls found Malaysian food including chocolate cake very salty! The one thing they won’t miss once they return home though are the cicak (lizards)! 🙂

We were also lucky to have a group of the Rotary International Youth Exchange Students to share their v.humorous experiences (you should see their expressions while talking about their close encounter with durians). These students are given a chance to stay for a year with local host families and go to local secondary schools.

German Carl Sandmann found many many differences between Malaysia and Germany. The most shocking (in which he could devote an entire chapter) was the toilets! In fact, he claims to be the only person who has needed an introductory course on how to use Malaysian toilets (basically many places don’t provide toilet paper and expect you to wet wash… well, contact Carl if you need more details… hehehehe)! Let’s not even go near the two weeks he spent there, thanks to his first encounters with Malaysian/Indian spicy food!

Brazil has always been well known for football, carnivale and bikinis. So predictably, Juliane Rodrigues was always asked “Why choose Malaysia?” and “How is Malaysia compared to Brazil?”. Her answer is simple – where else can you learn/experience 3 different cultures in a place smaller than her home state!

Juliane shared the experience of having banana leaf rice as her first meal in Malaysia. In Brazil, they eat with a knife and fork and eating with your hand is considered extremely disgusting. So having to do so here was difficult for her especially since she is left handed (which in Asia, is considered the “dirty” hand).

For Australian Alexis Kusinski, everyone she has met here has either been to Australia, studied there or knows someone living there. Although, after 3 months here, she is still a novelty in school where everyday new people come up and say hi to her. She also found it weird how students here are very study oriented – after school they have tuition and homework and are constantly worrying about their studies. In Australia, she and her friends usually go shopping or hangout at the beach after school.

Mexican Cristian provided many funny moments with his hilarious expressions and stories. He is the one person who found Malaysian food not spicy enough – “i have eaten spicier candies in Mexico!” He found the climate quite similar to Mexico only it’s hotter over there because he lives on an island and the beaches over here are quite similar to those on South of Mexico. School is also much more relaxed in Mexico and his school here is quite strict with so many rules (He was fined RM26 on his first day, RM1 for each rule he broke).

Overall, the session was very enlightening especially for those of us who never get to travel much. Learning about how someone sees our country through a different set of eyes was amazing as we never realised what we take for granted.

We all adjourned to Suzi’s Corner for some local food – nasi lemak, cheese naan, otak-otak, satay and so on where we shared more rib-tickling culture shocks and culture shioks.

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