Life, culture and food
Malaysia is a very open and friendly country. All of us, whether German, Danish or students from Australia, were all welcomed to the university with an open heart. Basically, you can say that they always had an open ear for us. Malaysia is a multi-cultural state. This is particularly evident in Borneo. The population is made up of many different cultures and ethnic groups. You saw that at our university too. The native Malays correspond to about 60%, whereby these in turn are composed of many different tribes. Furthermore, many Chinese and Singaporeans make up a large part. Another cultural influence comes from India. You also meet a lot of Africans who either live in Malaysia for work or to study. Finally, the Middle Eastern influence can also be found in Malaysian culture.
The special thing about Malaysia is that this colorful mixture of people live together without much difficulty or racism.
Religion is also a big issue in Malaysia. Although the state religion is Islam, there are also many Christians – most of them Chinese, Buddhists and Hindus. Basically there are many mosques to be found, but also some churches and temples. Still, I have to say that although Islam was visible, it did not have a dominant influence on our everyday lives or on local students. There were no restrictions on alcohol, cigarettes, or clothing. In other parts of Malaysia, the Islamic influence is more noticeable, but that is not a bad thing. Whether Muslims, Christians or Hindus, in Malaysia all religions live peacefully side by side. See more student reviews of universities in Asia on ehuacom.
Of course, the culture and behavior of the people are very different from ours. The Chinese in particular keep their tradition. We often had some communication problems with the Chinese students. In Chinese culture, it is considered impolite to express your opinion directly, or to generally say ‘no’ to something or to decline a request. In general, one should avoid treating people directly or too brusquely and rudely. Irony or sarcasm are also often a foreign word for many students.
In addition, the Malays still have some problems with punctuality. The courses often start later and many students are often late. The group work with fellow students often starts an hour later than previously agreed or planned. As a European and student you enjoy a high reputation and a high level is expected from us.
Now for the food in Malaysia. First of all, it has to be said that the different cultures naturally also influence the food, drinks and restaurants. The really very good news is that I and the other internationals went out to eat every night. In these entire six months there were no more than two times that we cooked at home. Even though we had a fully functioning kitchen with enough kitchen utensils, the main reason for eating out was that it was simply a lot cheaper to eat in restaurants or food courts than to buy and prepare food yourself at home. On average we spent around 10 RM every evening, that is the equivalent of 2.50 EUR.
Personally, a warm meal in the evening was more than enough for me as I often had no appetite at lunchtime because of the heat. However, you don’t have to worry. The university has a cafeteria on campus with lots of small booths. Such places are also called food courts. Among other things, you will find a burger stand as well as a shawarma stand and a small pastry shop. In my opinion, however, the highlight is the Indian and its ‘naan’.
Naan is the Indian flat bread that is baked in the tandoori oven. On my entire trip through Southeast Asia, I haven’t found a better ‘naan’ than on our campus. My recommendation is either the ‘Naan’, which is available in different variations, to enjoy pure with the sauce served with it, or to order a ‘Tandoori chicken’ with it.
There is also a stand with many deliciously varied rice and pasta dishes. The Fried Rice Seafood is very tasty if you like seafood.
Since I was usually not hungry over lunch, I usually treated myself to a fresh and healthy snack. You can buy a variety of fresh fruit at one of the stands, so I often had a fruit salad. Those who prefer various fruit shakes will also get their money’s worth. Fresh fruit and vegetable shakes and other drinks are prepared in the cafeteria.
In general, one can say that Malaysia offers a very colorful mix of food options as well as many culinary delicacies due to the various cultural influences. All the restaurants or food courts are particularly full in the evening, as it is common for Malays to eat out.
The national dish of Malaysia is nasi lemak ‘and consists of rice or fried rice, with chicken, dried fish and peanuts and egg. Another specialty that Sarawak is known for is the ‘Sarawak Laksa’, a type of noodle soup with chicken, egg, bean sprouts and shrimp in a shrimp paste.
In the city, i.e. downtown, you will find enough restaurants and food courts where you can end the day in the evening. One of the best restaurants downtown is the Borneo Delight near the waterfront. We loved to eat there and also often. Various pasta and rice dishes are on the menu. They also have the best laksa in Malaysia.
At the waterfront itself you can try the nasi lemak in one of the many street restaurants and enjoy the beautiful view.
I can only recommend taking one of the water taxis for 1 RM and going to the other side of the river. There you will find two large food courts with great different dishes. In my opinion, they had the best fried rice there.
An absolute favorite spot for tourists and also for us internationals was the big open air food court Top Spot. It’s like a big fish market. There you can find everything, every kind of imaginable seafood and animals are available. Since it is a share principle, it is best to go as a large group. We ate the best fish there. We spent most of the special dinners there, such as birthday dinners.
If you like to combine pleasure with dinner, you should definitely stop by the ‘Little Lebanon’, also on the waterfront. There are delicious lamb and chicken skewers and you can treat yourself to a shisha after dinner and end the day comfortably with friends.
But there are also many restaurants away from the city center. If you have to sit in the library until late in the evening because you are still studying or finishing a housework, then there is the Indian restaurant ‘Bombay’ very close by. There you can enjoy the most delicious fine Indian food and walk back to university. It takes about 20 minutes on foot. Or in the same area you can find a nice Arab, the New Atmosphere. There you can either eat from the buffet or order from the menu.
With us it was the case that we often ate near our apartment, in Chong Ling Park. There was the ‘Mai Mai’ restaurant there. There are also many different favorite dishes here.
Of course you can also find the big fast food chains like McDonalds or KFC here – as almost everywhere in the world. After the partying, McDonalds is a popular meeting place, but you should manage it so that you get to the restaurant before four, otherwise you only get the breakfast menu.
Otherwise you can also go shopping in the surrounding supermarkets. There is a small shop in town called Ting Ting. Most of the smaller things can also be found in every 7 Eleven that is on every street corner. Otherwise you can also shop in the big supermarket like the Giant. It should be noted, however, that you have to do without German bread, cheese or sausage more or less. In general, breakfast is very difficult because the Malays eat warm in the morning.
Leisure and travel
Kuching is a very busy city with a lot of tourists, especially on the waterfront. In addition, Kuching actually offers all leisure activities. There are several shopping centers with everything your heart desires. We were often shopping in Spring Mal, which is opposite the university. In this large mall you will not only find clothing stores, but also a very large and inviting cinema and a karaoke bar. Karaoke is a popular leisure activity for many young people and also students. I can only recommend giving it a try. Of course there is more to see and do in Kuching. If you feel like swimming, you have two or three large outdoor pools and indoor swimming pools to choose from. There is also a bowling center near the university.
Kuching also offers a very colorful and well-known nightlife. We had set the schedule so that we always had Fridays off. At the end of the week we usually met with the other internationals and locals to have a drink in the infamous Monkee Bar. The Monkee Bar is where most Swinburne students meet and spend an hour or two before it then goes on to the clubs right in town. The Monkee Bar has the cheapest beer prices. A bucket costs around 30 MR, as Malaysia is a Muslim country, the alcohol tax is very high. This makes the Monkee Bar perfect for pre-drinking.
The clubs in the city are becoming increasingly popular. There you will not only find many friends of Swinburne but also a lot of young tourists and backpackers who like to party on the weekend. The funny thing is that during the day the clubs are normal restaurants like Junk, Havana and Mozzo, but after 8 p.m. they turn into the popular clubs. Another advantage is that these clubs are all next to each other and you can do club hopping without having to run big. In addition, you haven’t had to pay an entrance fee, but the drinks are a bit more expensive. I can only say it’s totally worth it. It’s always a lot of fun and it’s a nice change to see your classmates outside the library. In the evening you could walk home without any problems. It takes about 20 to 25 minutes from the city center.
We went on as many weekend trips as possible. Around Kuching itself there are many national parks that you can visit. Baku and Cuba National Park are recommended. There you can not only admire exotic animals, especially monkeys, but also the vegetation and its changes. In Cuba you will be rewarded with a super beautiful waterfall, in which you can refresh yourself after hiking. Another highlight is the Santubong mountain, which you can climb, and Damai Beach, which is directly opposite. Since we had our scooters, we were very mobile and it was easy for us to get to the places mentioned. Of course, there are also extra shuttle buses to the national parks, but you are not bound to them with the scooter. Apart from that, the longer scooter tours are a lot of fun and you have the opportunity to to see something of the country. We have also done many weekend trips in Malaysia ourselves. If you want to see the turquoise-blue sea and powder-white beach, you should definitely go to Kota Kinabalu. We were also in Penang for a long weekend. The city is famous for its street art. Langkawi and of course the capital Kuala Lumpur are still recommended.
The low-cost airline AirAsia makes it easy to get anywhere from Kuching. Hand luggage is completely sufficient for weekend trips, so we flew there and back for an average of 50 EUR. In our semester break we spent a week on the dream island of Bali. Many of our trips were very spontaneous and not completely organized. But we rarely had any problems with it. Of course, we also traveled to other countries in Southeast Asia after our exams, such as Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam and the Philippines. A little tip: Always find out whether you need a visa for the respective country or not.
I had a great semester abroad. I would always choose Malaysia and Kuching as my destination. Malaysia is a beautiful and very diverse country with probably the friendliest inhabitants. My semester abroad gave me the opportunity to get to know a completely new culture and broaden my horizons. I was allowed to see many different places and have gained many new experiences that I do not want to miss. Through Swinburne University I made a lot of new friends who come from all over the world. I have to say, Kuching and Swinburne University offer the perfect mix of fun and learning. I also spent a few hours in the library and wrote my assignments, but I still had plenty of free time and a lot of fun. Although the first official language in Malaysia is not English, I have to say that I had no communication problems at all and that I was able to significantly expand my vocabulary and improve my English.
I collected a lot of great impressions and took them with me to Germany that I won’t forget anytime soon.
I can recommend a semester abroad at the Swinburne University of Technology Sarawak Campus to anyone who wants to experience something new, is in the mood for adventure and is open to getting to know new ways of life, people and cultures.
I would like to thank our university in Koblenz, which advocates a semester abroad and of course Collage Contact for the wonderful mediation and I wish everyone who chooses Malaysia a lot of fun!