We Malaysians are a diverse lot. With
three many different races living together (Thanks to our reader, Charis Quay for correcting us! We sometimes get caught up in the majorities), you’re bound to have some differences set you apart. But there are some things that all Malaysians have in common and using our incredibly sophisticated analytic tools of observation and uh.. being Malaysian, we’ve identified the six things that the rakyat agree with unanimously.
1. Milo & Maggi
Ok, so this should be two separate things but we know you love these two-for-one deals.
Before we get into why Malaysians love these two brands, let’s shine a little light on the history of Milo and Maggi in Malaysia. Milo, a chocolate and milk powder product of Switzerland’s Nestle, was first developed in Sydney by Mr. Thomas Mayne in 1934. Milo has been on our fair shores since 1950 and was first marketed as “Milo Tonic Food Drink“. Milo was in fact, responsible for our “Malaysia Boleh” slogan, the result of some brain storming between Nestle and the Olympic Council of Malaysia in 1992.
Maggi, another brand under Nestle, first made itself known to us via their tomato ketchup and chili sauce in 1969 and was swiftly followed by everyone’s staple meal/Plan B/mamak favourite; the 2-minute instant noodle.
So, why do Malaysians love Milo and Maggi so much? For one, Maggi and Milo are deeply ingrained in our local culture and palate.
As schoolchildren, one of the best parts of school sports days is the Milo truck with their annoyingly inimitable cold Milo. No matter what concoction you experiment with, no Malaysian alive has come close to replicating the Milo truck’s secret sludge. And not only is Milo a drink that can be consumed any time of the day, its versatility has even lent itself to madcap creations such as Roti Milo, Milo Dinosaur (this link is highly disputable) and most alarmingly, Maggi Mee Milo.
Maggi’s importance to Malaysians is even higher, as any Malaysian will tell you that at a certain point in his or her life, Maggi instant noodles got them through some tough times. If you’re living abroad, the Malaysian version of Maggi takes on a higher value, given the diluted taste of those silly foreign versions. This actually works well for students who need to do some bartering on account of their budget. One example of the baffling love for Maggi is the countless people who order Maggi noodles at a Mamak store when they can make it themselves at home for free.
Being convenient, relatively cheap and most importantly, tasty, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that every home and even office in Malaysia surely has one of each product in supply.
Now wrap your mind around these staggering statistics:
1. 1.3 million packs of Maggi instant noodles are consumed every day in Malaysia
2. 4 million cartons, equivalent to 240 million single packets of Maggi were sold in 2012
2. 7 million cups of Milo are consumed daily by Malaysians
4. 2 billion cups of Milo were consumed by Malaysians in 2012
This inevitably brings us to the next post on…
2. Food Pride
We live to eat. Literally. What other nation creates businesses based on the completely unnecessary (but highly desired) need for supper? Would mamak stalls (subtle foreshadowing here) be able to succeed in any other country? We think not.
Although international gourmands don’t give our local cuisine a fair go most of the time (possibly down to our lacklustre marketing) even the most debatable lists can’t help but feature one of our culinary gems.
There’s also the never-ending bad blood between us and our beloved neighbour down south over the rightful ownership of certain dishes but any foodie worth his or her salt knows that Malaysia owns Singapore when it comes to food.
To settle any food related argument with a Singaporean, simply say “Your food, much like your country, is a pirated version of ours.”
Surely there’s no explanation needed here. The mamak stall is unique Malaysian food establishment that caters to people from all walks of life, tempting us to indulge in tasty local fare that provides instant satisfaction but leaves lingering side effects like over-consumption of sugar.
Mamak stalls offer food and service standards in varying degrees but most of the time this does not matter to us Malaysians. Convenience and location are the main criteria for mamak stall selection. Cleanliness and hygiene standards are also not expected but must be concealed from public view. In fact, Malaysian people have built up a resistance towards unhealthy food from years of patronizing mamak stalls.
But besides silencing those pesky cravings, mamak stalls serve important social and economic functions. At a glance, the mamak stall is the perfect reflection of Malaysia’s diversity. It’s the one place where Melayu, Cina and India gather without regard for status, race or class as all distinctions are neutralized over a glass of teh tarik. Mamak stalls are also good indicators of the Consumer Price Index as prices of roti canai or teh tarik are heavily scrutinized by patrons.
4. A permanent connection to the Net
Malaysians really love the Internet. 66% of the population uses the Internet. One third of us has a 3G subscription. And half the country’s on Facebook at some point or another. You could say that this high Internet penetration and long hours spent online is down to our Asian nature to be non-confrontational. Or our fondness for complaining without doing anything about it.
Some of the most attention grabbing news that gripped the country of late all spread virally, a situation you can’t imagine happening back in the good old days of newspapers and RTM. From steering lock sisters to politician bungles, to vegetation memes and sudden sinkholes, Malaysians are quick to sensationalise online stories to the point of jelakness. And of course, this comes at the price of productivity.
We’re never too far away from the next Internet trend taking us by storm and there’s always some unfortunate individual getting caught with his pants down.
5. Majulah Sukan Untuk… Cuti?
Now if there’s one thing that Malaysians love more than rooting for the national football or badminton teams, it’s rooting for the team when there’s a public holiday at stake!
Being one of the top ranked countries in the world when it comes to number of public holidays definitely doesn’t stop us from wishing for more and everytime there’s a sporting event final in which the national team is in, you can bet your bontot that support will come in droves. Never mind the political pandering or pessimists out there who deride such generous granting of off days, Malaysians love coming together to back the boys, especially if there’s a little something in it for themselves the next day.
6. Malaysian Spirit
2014 has been without a doubt, one of the worst years in Malaysian history. The loss of two MAS aircrafts and hundreds of lives has seen the national sentiment take a severe beating. The damage to the country’s reputation may take decades to repair and the economic implications are being felt across all industries.
There have been disappointments and bad news on other fronts too – the Malaysian badminton team’s loss in the Thomas Cup final, the on and off again haze and water crises, the passing of a national treasure and ongoing political shenanigans among others.
But you know what, the rakyat has shown time and again that it has the strength to band together to bear the country’s collective weight and overcome these tragedies, even if it takes one day at a time. We do have it in us to look past petty diferences and misgivings toward each other.
Families of MH370 victims who were still in mourning, offered their support and assistance to the kin of those involved in the MH17 tragedy; an empathetic response that would flood the tear ducts of the most hardened cynic. Candlelight vigils to honour our lost compatriots were also seen across the country, bringing together Malaysians regardless of race, religion or creed.
It is wholly unfortunate that we only witness national unity in times of trouble but at least we know that when the going gets tough, the tough get together-gether.
We’ve been through many ups and downs and there’re more to come, but it’s easier to weather the storm when we realize that “Malaysia Boleh” is becoming more of a state of mind and less of a slogan.
If you doubt that deep down, all Malaysians are really family, you just have to watch the latest Merdeka TV commercials made by Maxis and Digi. Coincidence… or a reflection of our dormant collective nature?
Here’s to you, Malaysia. Happy 57th.