What Malaysians Get Homesick About While Living Abroad

Home is where the 'lah' is.

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What Malaysians Get Homesick About While Living Abroad
Image: Bianca Massang
Passport, check. Photocopy of passport in hand-carry luggage, check. Photocopy of the photocopy passport in the check in luggage, check – there’s no shame in admitting to this. You then proceed to the airport and before you know it, you’re soon onboard. Finally, on the way to fulfil your wanderlust cravings. Two or three movies later, sandwiched between an uncomfortable nap session and an overpriced, bland, so-called nasi lemak special meal, there you are.

This is exactly it. (Image:
You have arrived at your dream destination. The airport is left behind and you head straight for the hotel, or in my case, it was the university. You see, I had gained admission for higher education in the Netherlands. And although it was slightly nerve wrecking, it was also very exciting.
At first, it was all fun and laughs. New culture. New experiences. New people. However, somewhere deep down, I did miss home. I missed Malaysia. We all do.

Things changed one fine day. I remember waiting outside the lecture theatre for our very first class to begin. Next to me was a fellow first year student. He was an Iranian. He asked, “Where are you from?” And I responded, “Malaysia”. What happened next left me flabbergasted. He said, “Oh, Malaysia. Okay lah.” As it turned out, he had previously lived in Malaysia.

That one sentence changed everything. It reminded me of home. That one "lah" made me believe that maybe, just maybe, Malaysia ain’t that far after all.

With that being said, here’s the low-down on things we, Malaysians, miss the most when living abroad:

Uncle, tapau chicken rice satu!

There you have it. Five words, three languages, and one scrumptious meal. Malaysia’s cultural diversity is well documented all over the globe. However, at the heart of this diversity lies our language. Call it Manglish or bahasa rojak. There’s no denying that at various points in our lives, especially for those who have lived abroad, we do indeed miss our language. We miss the “lah”, the “walao wei”, the “ek eleh”.

The aesthetics of Manglish. (Image:
And let's be honest. For some of us who drive abroad, our Malaysian slang has certainly been put to good use as soon as the other driver cuts into our lane without an indicator. And for the non-Malaysians reading this, if you were to ever encounter a fellow driver cursing using three different languages, go ahead and place your bets on them being a Malaysian.

Aunty, uncle, abangan neh and boss

There are very few places in this world in which every random stranger that you come across appears to be related to you. The elderly man who cooks wantan mee at the hawker centre?He’s an uncle. The elderly lady selling hot vadai and curry puff by the street? She’s an aunty. What about the guy who works at the Indian spice store? He’s an an neh. And last but certainly not the least, every waiter at every mamak appears to be your boss.

All things Malaysia, including our very own "boss". (Image:
This is Malaysia. And this is the very best of Malaysian hospitality. Try referring to your local butcher down in London as uncle and you probably will be greeted by a confused "Huh?".

Scorching mornings and afternoons, wet 'n' wild evenings and nights.  

On how many occasions has the Malaysian weather gotten on our nerves? It's almost impossible to walk a short 100m in the blazing afternoon heat without returning with a sweat patch or two. And as for the evenings, good luck making it in time for dinner with the downpour and KL’s good ol’ federal highway jam. Times like these are exactly when we wish to be living abroad. Living in a slightly more forgiving climate. Living in a climate that enables us to experience all four seasons.

The heat ain't so bad after all, eh? (Image:
However, when we do indeed move abroad, there are times when we will miss our Malaysian weather. Who in the right mind would even hesitate to swap layers of jumpers, sweaters, beanie, mufflers and boots for shorts, flip flops and a tank top? That’s right, nobody.

Yee sang, ketupat, muruku and so much more

Chinese New Year, Hari Raya and Diwali. These are not even half of the celebrations and festivals that are held in Malaysia. Yet, they each represent a significant part of our lives. Wonder why? Because of its holidays! It’s no secret that Malaysia has an abundance of holidays, thanks to these celebrations. Together with an extra day off or two here, along with the last minute trip to the doctor (hush hush), you would soon end up with enough days off to satisfy the wanderlust cravings buried deep down inside of you.
Throw in some exciting firework displays, and a lovely spread of food of course, and this make it almost impossible for Malaysian emigrants to not reminisce about the celebrations held back home.

The best of Malaysian festivities. (Image:

Boss, roti kosong satu, potong, banjir, kari ikan dan dhall!

This, needs no introduction. Food. Arguably Malaysia’s most alluring charm. No amount of wannabe hipster cafés on some cobbled street and a 20℃ setting could ever do justice to local Malaysian food. Yes, they have a cleaner surrounding, a more serene ambiance, shinier plates and cutleries. But they do not have the entire Malaysian dining experience.
It begins from the moment when you spend an eternity looking for parking. Then, sitting down on a slightly crooked pavement and a stained chair, yelling "boss" and placing your order. Right up to the moment when your food finally arrives, and you set about to devour it. This is only available here. And that is exactly why it is immensely precious.

There's no shame in admitting that we sometimes miss Malaysian food more than our own family. (Image:
So there you have it – things we Malaysians miss most while living abroad. Now, having returned home to Malaysia, I have to admit, I do indeed miss the Netherlands. Well, who is to rule out a return someday... that is if it’s possible to walk away from my current guilty pleasures of late night trips to the mamak and the ease of adding “lah” to all my sentences.

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