Clear beaches, lush greenery, and beautiful villages filled with a strong cultural background, that’s what makes East Malaysia different than the West. I mean, there are differences of course, but a look at a tourism Malaysia’s ad like this…
Would suggest that Malaysians are proud of Borneo for its beauty. But when you come from a place that is constantly portrayed in a certain kind of way, people can easily get the wrong idea.
Here are some of the most common misconceptions!
1. Some people think you wear traditional costumes at home (or they ask you what do you wear at home LOL)
The traditional costumes are cool and all but those beaded outfits need a lot of tender love and care. Not only are they uncomfortable to wear to sleep, do some west Malaysians assume that we don’t know what sweatpants and T-shirts are? Come on.
2. West Malaysians tend to ask us Sabahans and Sarawakians when did we arrive to Malaysia.
I’m unsure if we all learn the same thing in geography class but even though Borneo is an island on its own, it is essentially a part of Malaysia so when people us ask us questions like this… it is mind-boggling!
3. Questions regarding transportation in Sabah and Sarawak.
I don’t know about other East Malaysians but I came to Kuala Lumpur with an airplane back in the early 1990s although I’ve been asked if I travel with a boat. Also, we’ve been asked about our mode of transportation as if we don’t have cars there.
4. The assumption that food in East Malaysia is as exotic as the people.
When in reality, Sabah is immensely popular for their fresh and affordable seafood while Sarawak is the go-to place for mee kolok and laksa Sarawak. You can definitely look for delicacies like sago worms if you’re adventurous but no, it’s not something we all eat.
5. Stereotypes that are just plain hilarious!
My personal encounters include the stereotype that I’m a good dancer and that I’m extremely fertile (what is this all about?).
Of course this might’ve happened to only me but I’m pretty sure other Sabahans and Sarawakians have similar experiences that are out of this world.
6. Explaining your race because you either look Malay, Chinese, Indian, Indonesian, Filipino or even Thai.
There are lots of races in Malaysia but in the West where there is predominantly Malay, Indian and Chinese, other races from East Malaysia are often excluded despite schools teaching us from a very young age about all the tribes in Sabah and Sarawak. *shaking my head*
7. Lastly, some people still think we worship trees!
Historically, we’ve all practiced Animism but high school history also taught us about the spread of mainstream religion that is now widely practiced.