Monday, May 07, 2007

Ignorant On Malay Customs

Yesterday my family was invited to our neighbour's "Majlis Kesyukuran" (Thanksgiving). I was happy to be invited as I haven't really had a chance to meet the neighbours since moving in last year. My DH is better off than me as he joins the Rukun Tetangga (patrolling the area at night) and has made friends with some of the guys. As for me, I have only talked to my left-right neighbours and even then, the meeting is scarce because they are at work most of the time. Sad to say, I can't even remember their names. Aiyoh, I know... bad of me.
This is a neighbourhood of young families. And as far as I can see, I dare say all of the husband-wife work. So, I hardly see them around, especially the women folk.

Anyway, back to the "majlis". Ooooo... forgot to mention that we were the only chinese (or rather, non-Malay) there. We waited outside in the tent as they did their prayers. Guessed they were finished when I saw people coming out of the house heading towards the buffet. Naturally, I tended to my children, getting them their food. I also took for myself and sat down next to them. With baby on my lap, I started to dig in. DH left to sit elsewhere as some kid had taken his seat. As I was eating, I looked around and felt a bit funny. I wondered... where are the women? I could only see guys and a few children. Anyway, baby started to fuss and so I put my eating on hold.

After a while, I saw my next door neighbour walking towards the buffet. She came to me and apologized for forgetting to invite me into the house. It seems that the women usually wait till the men finish before they start their "chow" time. She wanted to come get me but she didn't dare as there were already too many people around the eating area. Alamak! I felt sooo 'pai seh' (feeling bad and shy).

I'm so used to how we do it at church. The order of things has always been children first, then women, then men. I thought this was universal. Boy, was I wrong. This is what I get for not learning the Malay customs. Of course they are all so nice and I know they won't hold it against me. But still can't help feeling like a lost sheep. And I think my mistake felt worse because I stood out like a sore thumb -- like I mentioned before, we were the only non-Muslim there.

Anyway, I quickly gobbled up my food. Told my DH I was taking baby back home as he was restless. I think that was the one time baby's crankiness came in useful -- gave me the perfect excuse to escape. I just felt like a fish out of water.

So much for my opportunity to get to know my neighbours better. In fact, I would look at the women and wonder if they were my neighbour or not??? I don't even know how some of my neighbours look like. I know what their children look like and I know the children's names. But I don't know what the adults look like. Hahahah. Funny eh?

So, anybody has a quick lesson on Malay customs for this ignorant Malaysian?


  1. LOL! if it makes you feel better - I am also not aware of this custom.

  2. i'm half malay but in my family, we don't practise this. we eat together, even if there's a celebration like weddings, when a child finishes reading the quran, or get circumcised etc

    i guess maybe the family is quite religious? kelantanese? men and women can't have fun together?

  3. Oh my! I think I will be like you - lost if I'm there too! Very embarassing also. Not sure about malay custom too. Have you try asking your malay friends?

  4. Alamak, i feel malu too lar!

    The 'thanksgiving' party for what yea? think we really need to know more.... :p

  5. Hi--not Malay, but I can understand being in a new place and bumping into new rituals. If they are truly good people, it will not be a serious problem and someone will help to explain.

    It is interesting the separation of male and female.

    Thanks for sharing this interesting dilemma!


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