Malaysian Culture

Family

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As in most collectivist cultures, extended families are seen as the basic unit of society – the first group a person becomes a member of at birth. Therefore, families are perceived as having a collective face. In this way, the act of an individual can impact the perception of the entire family by others and the interests of the family supersede those of the individual.


The links a Malaysian person maintains with extended family overseas are much closer than those maintained by most people in Western societies. However, some members of the younger generation are less family orientated.


In rural and agricultural areas, households tend to include the extended family as well. However, in modern industrialised Malaysia, this tradition is becoming more difficult to maintain and the nuclear family is becoming the predominant household structure. The Malaysian preference is to have a large number of children; therefore, it is common for men to choose young women as their brides, to ensure that the couple will have plenty of time to have many children.


The patriarch of the household is often the father in Malaysian families. However, it is the elders who handle the important family matters. The oldest members of the family are consulted before any major decision and demand the most respect. In Chinese-Malaysian households, filial piety is displayed at all times.


The mother’s role usually involves the traditional domestic duties of a household and caring for the children. Though gender roles are changing in the younger generations, women do not have as much power as men. Even those who go on to have careers will depend on their husband or father financially at some point. Furthermore, family lineage, guardianship and inheritance are codified in laws in favour of males.


Marriage and Dating

Malaysian parents usually assert that their children cannot date until they have finished their education (including university). However, children often start dating at around the ages of 17 and 18. In urban areas, most other Malaysian dating and marriage practices are relatively liberal and similar to Western standards.


Malays may be more traditionalist about relationships and marriage. It is common for them to look to marry immediately after they finish their tertiary studies as a precursor to finding a job. Once a couple is settled, they then begin taking on the responsibilities of adult life.


In rural areas, dating habits are more conservative. Marriage is often expected to be the end result of dating. Parents arrange some marriages, but the choice is more commonly left up to the couple. However, the whole family is usually consulted prior to all marriages. This is important as marriage is considered to be the joining of two families in Malaysia, not only the couple in question. Some rural Malays may still practise polygamy, with a man having multiple wives. This is not common in the cities or among the well educated.


Homosexuality is illegal in Malaysia and same-sex relationships are strongly stigmatised.

Malaysia
  • Population
    30,949,962
    [July 2016 est.]
  • Languages
    Bahasa Malaysian [official]
    English
    Chinese (Cantonese, Mandarin, Hokkien, Hakka, Hainan, Foochow)
    Tamil
    Telugu
    Iban
    Kadazan
    Other indigenous languages
  • Religions
    Islam [official] (61.3%)
    Buddhism (19.8%)
    Christianity (9.2%)
    Hinduism (6.3%)
    Confucianism, Taoism and other traditional Chinese religions (1.3%)
    Other (0.4%)
    No Religion (0.7%)
    [2010 census]
  • Ethnicities
    Bumiputera [Malay (50.1%) & Orang Asli/indigenous (11.8%)] (61.5%)
    Chinese (22.6%)
    Indian (6.7%)
    Other (1%)
    Non-citizens (8.2%)
    [2010 census]
  • Cultural Dimensions
    Power Distance 100
    Individualism 26
    Masculinity 50
    Uncertainty Avoidance 36
    Long Term Orientation 41
    Indugence 57
  • Australians with Malay Ancestry
    46,079 [2016 census]
Malaysians in Australia
  • Population
    138,364
    [2016 census]
    This figure refers to the number of Australian residents that were born in Malaysia.
  • Average Age
    39
  • Gender
    Males (45.5%)
    Females (54.5%)
  • Religion
    Buddhism (25.2%)
    No Religion (16.3%)
    Catholic Christianity (14.5%)
    Islam (6.2%)
    Other (37.7%)
  • Ancestry
    Chinese (62.1%)
    Malay (13.2%)
    Indian (5.8%)
    English (4.2%)
    Other (14.7%)
  • Languages
    English (32.6%)
    Mandarin (24%)
    Cantonese (23.1%)
    Malay (8.1%)
    Other (12.2%)
  • English Proficiency
    Well (92.5%)
    Not well (6.5%)
  • Diaspora
    Victoria (34.2%)
    New South Wales (23.5%)
    Western Australia (21.5%)
    Queensland (11%)
  • Arrival
    Prior to 2001 (56.3%)
    2001-2006 (16.3%)
    2007-2011 (24.1%)
Where do we get our statistics?
Country MY Flag