I get to Kuala Lumpur almost two weeks ago and it’s been intense time for me. Meeting new people, and more people, going out with friends for dinner and trying local food, exploring the city.
It is the 9th country in which I’ve been living so far, after Poland, England, Turkey, Italy, Germany, Romania, Costa Rica and Panama. In fact, Malaysia reminds me Panama a lot. You might think, how is that possible? Two countries in two different parts of the world. Yet there are many things in common, starting from geographical perspective through the culture and the way of living.
Both of them have tropical climate with lots of humidity: Panama is around 9º North of the equator and Malaysia more than 2º North. You can easily find such fruits like papaya, mango or bananas, and many others which I’ve tried, but I don’t know the name of them. Where there are plenty of fruits, there is also a variety of fresh juices. For locals rice is the base of the meal, rice and everything that can be fried. Banana leafs are also widely spread in these countries.
Another similarity is intercultural environment in the capital cities. In Panama you can find big Chinese community, rarely interacting with others, as well as Jewish, Colombians, Spanish, many Americans who come and go, as well as Indians, who are much more connected with Panamanian culture. When you look at Malaysian society, you will easily see how international it is: Malays make up around 65% of the population, Chinese 26% and Indians 8%. Indigenous groups are spread among these two countries.
Neither in Panama, nor in Malaysia, I can pretend to be local. From the very first moment people can recognize that I am a foreigner. It requires some extra effort to truly understand local culture and people, to become a part of the society. Getting to know other perspective, different behavior and certain values, makes us go beyond our borders; beyond certain cultural boxes in which we were put into. For me exploring these aspects is important. This is what enriches me as human being, what makes me feel confused, unsure, willing to know more, what and when I can recognize some similarities, like between Malaysia and Panama, I already know how to start exploring this new place for me, place that is becoming my new home.