Teh Tarik: Our Culture and Identity.
What is Malaysian culture? How do we define it? For a Malaysian, our culture is akin to a special Malaysian salad dish known and enjoyed locally; it’s called ‘Rojak’. ‘Rojak’ is a local salad dish that is only unique to Malaysia. Now, what’s so interesting about this dish? As ‘Ser Shaw Hong puts it, “ It’s a blend of ingredients that is influenced by the taste profiles of three races”.
Ser Shaw Hong is a professor of cultural studies, based in Thailand’s Chulalongkorn University. In his talk, he discussed on the ethnic diversity and the identity of being, a Malaysian. Malaysia is made up of Malays, Chinese, Indians and a small percentage of mixed ancestries and natives. Any foreigner coming to Malaysia will experience something that is different. Shaw Hong points out that most Malaysians can speak and read more than one language, dialect, and Malaysian has a unique identity as its people has assimilated and adopted cultural differences.
Of all the TEDx talks presented that day, His was most enjoyed and well received. His jokes were sartorial and aimed at Malaysians themselves. Few examples sited by him drew tremendous applause and recognition simply because the audience identified very well with the examples given. It certainly brought the audience a new meaning and perspective of being a Malaysian.
Even in the language, one will find something uniquely Malaysian and only a Malaysian could understand, non-Malaysian will be clueless as to what the message was. His gregarious example of our Mandarin colloquial usage of ‘Wait a Minute’ (等一下), Apparently, Taiwanese, Mainland Chinese does not use this phrase at all! This phrase was borrowed from the Cantonese origin and is widely accepted in all Malaysian Chinese community.
One memorable account which he shares with the audience, ‘If you wish to let your foreign friend to know more about us Malaysians, bring them to a Mamak Stall!’ And with that, the audience laughed and approved in unison. The Mamak stall is definitely a Malaysian institution. It’s a restaurant, could be in an open air alfresco dining environment or in a shop lot and it is where one would see all three races, let’s just say: All Malaysian will hang out, and catch up with friends. If there’s one thing that unites all Malaysians, it’s the Mamak stall.
Shaw Hong’s 18 min of enlightening talk is a beautiful reminder to cherish and appreciate the diversities of the Malaysian culture, to be proud of the heritage and uniqueness of this community. ‘We’re Malaysian lah’!