Malaysia is home to many ethnic groups, each co-existing in harmony and helping to enrich the country's cultural lifestyle. Its collective blend of food, traditions, clothing and customs ensure there is much for the visitor to experience here. Local cuisines can range from hot and spicy Indian and exotic Mediterranean to Western and popular Chinese dishes.
The multiculturalism has not only made a gastronomical paradise, it’s also made Malaysia home to hundreds of colourful festivities. Malaysians love celebrating, and socializing too in fact, where their laid back, warm and friendly mannerisms make them as approachable as you can imagine.
Geographically, Malaysia is as diverse as its culture. Cool hideaways can be found in the highlands, while those who have a sunnier disposition will be able to kick back and chill at warm, sandy beaches and rich, humid mangroves.
Today, the Malays, Malaysia's largest ethnic group, make up more than 50% of the population. In Malaysia, the term Malay refers to a person who practices Islam and Malay traditions, speaks the Malay language and whose ancestors are Malays. Their conversion to Islam from Hinduism and Theravada Buddhism began in the 1400s, largely influenced by the decision of the royal court of Melaka. The Malays are known for their gentle mannerisms and rich arts heritage.
The second largest ethnic group, the Malaysian Chinese form about 25% of the population. Mostly descendants of Chinese immigrants during the 19th century, the Chinese are known for their diligence and keen business sense. The three sub-groups who speak a different dialect of the Chinese language are the Hokkien who live predominantly on the northern island of Penang; the Cantonese who live predominantly in the capital city Kuala Lumpur; and the Mandarin-speaking group who live predominantly in the southern state of Johor.
The smallest of three main ethnic groups, the Malaysian Indians form about 10% of the population. Most are descendants of Tamil-speaking South Indian immigrants who came to the country during the British colonial rule. Lured by the prospect of breaking out of the Indian caste system, they came to Malaysia to build a better life. Predominantly Hindus, they brought with them their colourful culture such as ornate temples, spicy cuisine and exquisite sarees.