Posts Tagged ‘malaysian table manners’

Malaysia, America, and Australia

September 16, 2010


“Brekkie” known as breakfast food is very similar to food served in the United States. Scrambled eggs, toast, cereal, oatmeal, and muffins are common food items. Vegemite on toast is something I never heard of until reaching Australia. Vegemite is a spread that consists of a yeast extract. An Australian may put Vegemite on bread, toast, crumpets, or crackers. Banana bread is also a common breakfast item.  People eat Vegemite throughout the day.


Sydney Opera House

Sydney Opera House

The City

Growing up, I always envisioned Australia as an exotic and faraway place. My perception of Australia has drastically changed since living in Malaysia; it is no longer an exotic, but familiar place, one that reminds me so much of home. Sydney is a diverse city. I heard local Sydney people refer to themselves as a  Sydneysider. The city’s population is roughly 4.5 million, where Chicago’s population is close to 2.8 million. Sydney is an affluent city.

America really influences the rest of the world. Although there are lots of Australian companies, I still see stores such as Kraft Foods, Dunkin’ Donuts, Baskin Robbins, Krispy Creme, Mc Donald’s, and Hungry Jack’s (it’s own by Burger King, they just couldn’t use the name because it was already copyrighted). Soft drinks are also very common in Australia as in the United States. With develop comes a higher cost of living and many people find their way to eating cheap food for nourishment. Obesity is high in Sydney, Australia due to poor eating choices such as fast food and sugary carbonated soft drinks. Diet soft drinks are also common, something that is unheard of in Malaysia, unless one goes to an expatriate grocery store looking for it. People who can afford soft drinks as part of their diet (which I don’t recommend) are from developed nations.


Being in Australia, there was a huge emphasis on manners when I was observing people in the community. According to the Webster Dictionary, “Manners are enforced cultural rules that are accepted among the community.” Australian manners and American manners are quite similar in nature since our cultures both stem from the British. However, I must confess that being in Sydney for two weeks only gave me a glimpse into the culture. Unfortunately, I cannot give a detailed account of cultural similarities and differences due to my limited time in absorbing the culture. My travel to Sydney gave me the opportunity to explore the topic of manners.

Malaysian Table Manners, American Table Manners

Table manners in Malaysia vary due to cultural differences in ethnic groups.  Sometimes, a cultural norm in one cultural could be another culture’s unacceptable  in another person’s culture. For example, in a Chinese household,  it is perfectly acceptable to begin your meal when one receives a serving of one of the five dishes at the table. In American culture, the rule is that all people should receive their food first before starting a meal.  Cultural differences are inevitable and are a great way for people to re-explore their cultural norms and cultural expectations when living in another country. My point of view slowly altered after assimilating into the culture.

My Chinese Household Experience

• If someone states that grandma or someone made the food dish, and one has not tried it yet, it is best to try it to please the cook.

• Sneezing away from the table is strongly encouraged. Many people express that sneezing in one’s shoulder or sleeve is more hygienic than sneezing into one’s hands and then washing them.

• Always serve elders first and make sure that they continuously get served throughout the meal.

• A younger person should always serve tea to the older family members and guests. A tea-cup should always be re-filled throughout the meal.

• You can begin eating even though people are not completely served all the dishes on the table.

• It is very common to constructively criticize the food at the dinner table.

• Burps and farting are common at the table and no excuse me’s are necessary.

• Blowing your nose into a cloth napkin is okay at the dinner table.

Malay  Food Manners

• The right hand is always used for eating. People wipe with their left hand and leave the right one clean for eating.

Indian Food Manners

• Eating with your hands is completely acceptable. Make sure to wash your hands before having a meal. Rice, breads dipped in curry, and other food items are all eaten with the hands.

American Manners

• Remember always to say please and thank you when receiving food or items during the meal.

• Men are not allowed to wear hats at the dinner table.

•  As a guest, keep comments to yourself if you dislike the food.

• Burps, farting, stomach growls, and blowing one’s nose at the dinner table is unacceptable behavior.

• All people should receive their food first before starting to eat.

•Never eat mashed potatoes with a spoon; it’s not proper.

• Never slurp soup or drinks. Do not blow bubbles from a straw into a glass of liquid.

Malaysian Manners

  • Cover part of your mouth when cleaning your teeth with a toothpick.

Aussie Food

I absolutely love eating Aussie pies. I love steak pies, but they pretty much resemble what we Americans refer to as pot pies. There are all different kinds of meat pies: steak, chicken, or stewed beef. Those people who go on Bush Tucker tours can get the opportunity to try kangaroo and emu meat. Some people have a stigma towards eating these meats because they are considered to be wild and not domesticated products. I find the same way of thinking back home where ostrich, venison, and alligator meat are considered to be gross by some of the population.

Aussie Pie

The Australian biscuit (cookie) consists of oatmeal, coconut, honey, and other tasty ingredients and is known as an ANZAC biscuit. ANZAC stands for the Australian and New Zealand Army Corporation. I heard that the biscuit got its name during World War I, when women sent the food item overseas for their husband’s to eat because it did not spoil easily.

ANZAC biscuit

Aussie Things

  • Macadamia nuts
  • Sandalwood
  • Eucalyptus oil
  • Wool sweaters
  • Ugg boots,
  • Tim Tam biscuits
  • Vegemite
  • Aussie pies
  • ANZAC biscuits Lamington desserts