Malaysia, Truly Asia?

A coun­try’s slo­gan should re­flect the coun­try and its peo­ple.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Travel - star2­[email protected]­ Leesan

I AM quite im­pressed by Malaysia’s tourism slo­gan, “Truly Asia”, as I think it is an ap­pro­pri­ate de­scrip­tion.

“Amaz­ing Thai­land” and “In­cred­i­ble In­dia” cap­ture and hold peo­ple’s at­ten­tion, while Ethiopia calls it­self the “Land of Ori­gins”. Egypt goes by “Where It All Be­gins” and Peru is the “Land of In­cas”. And then there’s “All You Need is Ecuador!”

All these nice slo­gans are meant to in­tro­duce each coun­try and its peo­ple to the world. How­ever, some tourists may find that these slo­gans don’t re­ally go with the ac­tual re­al­ity of the coun­tries they visit.

These days, when you walk on the streets of New York, Lon­don, Syd­ney, Sin­ga­pore, Tokyo, Dubai or any ma­jor city in the world, the lo­cals are made up of a mixed group of peo­ple. They are of dif­fer­ent na­tion­al­i­ties who have be­come part of the so­ci­ety. They play im­por­tant roles in the na­tion.

Within Malaysia’s tourism in­dus­try, many for­eign­ers work in the hos­pi­tal­ity and F&B sec­tors. When tourists visit hawker stalls in Kuala Lumpur’s fa­mous Jalan Alor, they would as­sume that the work­ers who serve them are lo­cals when in fact they are more likely to be Burmese. Is this what Truly Asia re­ally means?

The world has changed - it’s some­thing that ev­ery­one thinks of all the time. Un­de­ni­ably, the world is now a melt­ing pot of cul­tures and so­ci­eties. And the main rea­son for this change is sim­ply the mi­gra­tion of peo­ple from one con­ti­nent to an­other. For ex­am­ple, the na­tions in Mau­ri­tius, Sey­chelles and Mada­gas­car are formed of im­mi­grants from In­dia, Bor­neo and Africa.

Usu­ally, when we travel, we are in­ter­ested in ex­plor­ing the cul­ture of the na­tives. Such as the Maori in New Zealand, Amis in Taiwan, Sami in Fin­land and Ainu in Japan. But in some places, the in­dige­nous peo­ple have be­come mi­nori­ties in their own coun­try.

In coun­tries like Aus­tralia, Bri­tain and the United States, im­mi­grant com­mu­ni­ties con­gre­gate in places like Chi­na­town, Italy street, Mid­dle Eastern town or Lit­tle In­dia. Be­hind these touristy streets are mi­grants who, de­spite hav­ing to adapt to the new cul­ture, are also adamant in keep­ing their roots. Their ar­chi­tec­ture, food and life­style are some of the things that they are able to re­tain.

For ex­am­ple, many Chi­nese youth are con­sid­ered the “ba­nana gen­er­a­tion” – “ba­nanas” be­ing peo­ple who are weak in their own mother tongue and cul­ture. These are the peo­ple who have assimilated into the melt­ing pot of multi-cul­tural com­mu­nity.

In re­cent years, the im­mi­gra­tion poli­cies in var­i­ous coun­tries have changed. For ex­am­ple, Sin­ga­pore has ac­cepted many mi­grants from main­land China. In Fin­land, there is a growth in the mixed-raced se­cond gen­er­a­tion due to marriages with Thais and Viet­namese. Aus­tralia, the US and Bri­tain have started re­tain­ing for­eign grad­u­ates from uni­ver­si­ties. Mid­dle Eastern coun­tries and Japan have at­tracted the mi­gra­tion of In­dian IT ex­perts.

The mass in­flux of mi­grants has made it hard to recog­nise who comes from where. When I boarded a taxi in Man­hat­tan, New York, the driver was Tan­za­nian. When I sat in a cof­fee shop in Sin­ga­pore, the waiter was from main­land China. When I vis­ited Qatar, al­most all the ser­vices were run by mi­grant work­ers from more than 30 coun­tries. In Aus­tralia, as I walked on the streets in a big city, I felt as though I was in Sin­ga­pore.

I feel as though so many coun­tries have lost their lo­cal iden­tity. In the course of our trav­els, we need to man­age our ex­pec­ta­tions. Oth­er­wise, we have to slot in an ad­di­tional itin­er­ary to visit a cul­tural vil­lage specif­i­cally built to show­case lo­cal cul­ture. One of these fa­mous spots is Ainu Vil­lage in Hokkaido, which the Japan tourism au­thor­ity has billed quite aptly – “End­less Dis­cov­er­ies” !

Leesan, the founder of Ap­ple Va­ca­tions, has trav­elled to 119 coun­tries, six con­ti­nents and en­joys shar­ing his travel sto­ries and in­sights. He has also au­thored two books.

Ap­ple Va­ca­tions

Nowa­days, a coun­try’s pop­u­la­tion is made up of peo­ple from many na­tion­al­i­ties. —

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