The fact that Malaysia is a melting pot of different faiths and ethnicities is a matter of national pride.

However, despite the sheer diversity of the population, there are some habits that almost every Malaysian has.

These habits are quirks almost certainly unique to Malaysians, and even when abroad, you can spot another Malaysian as soon as you notice these habits popping up.

For one, every alternating sentence should end with a “lah”, and insulting Malaysian food is one way to get bombarded with death glares.

What other habits make Malaysians surprisingly unique, you ask? Here are 10 of the most common ones.

1. ‘Malaysian timing’

Malaysians are notoriously incapable of good timekeeping. (Pixabay pic)

Have you ever arranged to meet with friends at a specific time? And even though you remind them countless times to be punctual, they proceed to arrive half an hour later?

That’s what most people call “Malaysian timing”. It’s not known why Malaysians generally have a bad sense of timekeeping, but it happens anyway.

Perhaps the generally laid-back attitude of most Malaysians contributes to this lack of urgency.

Also, whenever you call someone to enquire how much longer you will have to wait for them, never take their word for it.

“I’m nearly there” is the codeword for “I’m still at home.”

2. ‘Hi, Uncle/Auntie!’

It doesn’t matter if you’re not biologically related; every elderly person is your “auntie” and “uncle”. (Rawpixel pic)

Talk about having a big family! Malaysians have a strange habit of calling elderly men “uncle” and women “auntie”, even if they have no biological ties to each other at all.

It is a practice that is almost unheard of, especially in the West, where children are expected to address non-family members more formally.

Young Malaysians are taught to respect the elderly, and the terms, “uncle” and “auntie” are just the local way of showing said respect, whether it’s to the grocer or the hawker selling Ramly burgers.

3. Traffic busybodies

Traffic crawls are mostly caused by gawking onlookers rather than the accident itself. (Bernama pic)

A traffic accident has happened on some highway and the affected vehicles have been pulled to rest on the emergency lane.

So why on earth is there a snaking line of vehicles stretching for kilometres? There’s nothing blocking the road after all, so what’s the hold-up?

Simple. Malaysians just have the need to slow down and gawk at roadside incidents, even if it’s as uninteresting as someone’s punctured tyre.

4. The hand of God 

Raising one’s hand is often enough to bring traffic to a standstill. (Rawpixel pic)

According to the Bible, Moses used a divine wooden staff to part the Red Sea and cross from Egypt to the Holy Land.

In Malaysia, however, you have no need for a staff to part through the sea of traffic; all you need to do is to hold up your hand.

Holding one’s hand up seems to have two meanings on Malaysian roads, the first being a request for oncoming traffic to stop.

The other meaning is often one of thanks, given from one motorist to another especially when an act of courtesy, like giving way, is displayed.

5. ‘Have you eaten?’

It’s no surprise that food often enters everyday conversations between Malaysians. (Pixabay pic)

Malaysians love food and it is not surprising that food would be a large part of the everyday conversation.

Whenever families and friends happen to run into each other, the question of whether a person has eaten will almost always crop up.

It’s essentially an equivalent to “How are you?” and sometimes, it will lead to an invitation to dine together at the nearest hawker centre if one party has an empty stomach.

6. ‘Every centimetre of the road is a parking space.’

Double parking is a common issue in Malaysia’s densely populated cities.

Residents of densely populated urban centres such as George Town, Kuala Lumpur, Petaling Jaya and Johor Bahru will always have to live with the never-ending issue of double parking.

Malaysians generally prefer to drive, even to nearby destinations, rather than walk or use public transportation, thus adding to road congestion.

As a result, double parking is a common sight especially in commercial areas, with more considerate motorists leaving their phone numbers on the windscreen while others simply don’t bother at all.

7. ‘Did you just say ‘free’?’

Malaysians will buy anything as long there is a free gift attached.

Planning on launching a promotional event for your new business? There is one sure-fire way of getting Malaysians to throng your store, even if they have never visited before.

Just make sure to print the word “free” in big letters on a banner, and you will certainly see a surge in customer numbers.

Malaysians don’t care for what they are buying, provided there’s a free gift that they can take home.

8. ‘Instructions are suggestions’

Some Malaysians are recalcitrant when it comes to following simple instructions.

One of the most ironic scenes in life can often be spotted under municipal signboards warning against littering, with piles of rubbish underneath.

Malaysians can have a bit of a recalcitrant streak when it comes to instructions, and often seem to be selectively blind when it comes to signboards.

Little wonder why you can find smokers puffing away in no-smoking zones, men riding on women-only coaches and able-bodied motorists parking in disabled spots.

9. ‘What’s a queue?’

Orderly queues are unfortunately a rarity rather than a commonality.

In the average Malaysian school, students are drilled to queue in orderly lines before class begins, maybe to instill some form of discipline in them.

Unfortunately, by the time, they reach adulthood, queues are little more than inconveniences.

At train and bus stations, it is quite embarrassing to see passengers barging into the vehicle without giving time for disembarking passengers to leave.

10. ‘What shall we eat?’ ‘Anythinglah.’

Malaysia’s culinary diversity often leaves people overwhelmed by choices when it comes to meals. (Flickr pic)

The abundance of food in Malaysia is something of a blessing and a curse, with people generally being indecisive about where to have their next meal.

Some people make their decision based on pricing, others on proximity to where they are and few just let their stomachs decide.

Still, it doesn’t stop restaurants and cafes from being the most likely spot for people to meet and chat, over a round of drinks and possibly some snacks.