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By | 2012, Asia | No Comments

In preparing for this semester abroad we were told that it was very important to view this trip not as tourists but as pilgrims; that we should observe and learn the culture, and to be open to new ways of thinking. That being culturally appropriate was of the utmost importance and if we offended someone, we would forever be “shamed and exiled” from Southeast Asia.

One doesn’t have to go to another country to experience different cultures. Families, communities, and individuals all carry with them their own ideas, beliefs, and ways of doing things. SSU alone has its own culture: from holding hands and praying before meals and clapping in thanks after, to heading over to the Fitch residence for class.

It is never a question of ‘if’ you will offend someone, more a matter of when and it is our job to not take offense. Back in Canada our minds are not plagued with the fear of being culturally inappropriate. Our understanding is that with different people come different ways of doing things. By simply observing and getting to know the people around you, cultures become quite apparent and sensitivity and grace go a long way in making genuine connections.


“Malaysia: Truly Asia”

By | 2012, Asia | No Comments

I have been gathering the impression that people seem to think that the entirety of Asia is made up of poor developing nations, that progress and modernity are limited to the west, and that real Asian culture can only exist in a traditional world.

Having been colonized, Malaysia’s culture has been influenced by outside cultures (one of the stronger influences being the west). This does not mean that one can say the culture is entirely western, despite the strong presence of mega malls and McDonald’s restaurants. Being in Kuala Lumpur, one might find them self feeling as though they never left home in the first place. In reality, anyone with this mentality is missing out on what is right in front of them.

One doesn’t need to leave the city for some distant primitive fishing village just to experience the culture of Malaysia. KL is full of diversity. The different people groups of Indians, Chinese, and Malay can be divided into even more intricate subgroups; from fashion choices to economic status, Malaysia is a conglomeration of cultures and individuals. There is not necessarily a ‘Malaysian identity’, with this in mind they seem to have a high value for their heritage, as well as a fearlessness to embrace the future.