Alright, so, finally, we have the second culture shock's Final Boss.
Picture adapted from http://scorpiocupoftea.blogspot.com/
Now, if you look in Wikipedia, it describes multiracial as "people whose ancestries come from different races". However, in Malaysia, the word 'multiracial' has a different meaning altogether. (Of course, we also have people whose ancestries come from different races. We call them mixed.) For Malaysia, when we say multiracial country, we refer to at least 100 ethnic and sub-ethnic groups which make up the country. Especially in my hometown Sarawak, there are about 40 sub-ethnic groups, mainly the Iban community which make up 30% of the population, not mentioning the various sub-communities/ethnics of the Chinese population.
For a Japanese, this is something absolutely unimaginable. Although there have been an increase in the number of immigrants, creating cities like Oota in Gunma where there are big communities of Brazilians, Koreans... However, most of them cluster in their own groups and do not mix with the Japanese.
Now, this was so in Malaysia too. However, now, the situation has changed so much. Of course, we have our share of conflicts, misunderstandings and prejudices. But at least we are more willing to communicate and share our differences and more free to express our individual thoughts than ever.
In Sarawak, there are more Muslim women who do not cover their heads in public than in Semenanjung. This included one of my friends. When my Japanese friends met with her, they didn't know she was Malay. Until I told them of course.. And they were like "oh, really? hmmm" with a big frown on their face. I think they were thinking, 'well, everybody is malaysian.. what about malay, or chinese?' In a Japanese' mindset, nationality is race. But for a Malaysian, nationality and race are totally different things.
Oh, one more thing. Malay = Muslim. I also forgot to explain this fact to them, which is something everyone knows and doesn't need to be explained in Malaysia. I only found out I forgot to explain it to them (because it's so normal to me I didn't even notice they didn't know) after talking to a Japanese cameraman in Sarawak.
What's worse, in their minds, they had an image that Muslims equal terrorists. Yes, we have our share of Jemaah Islamiah troubles and Muslim cults, but Malaysian Muslims, and many other country's Muslims, including Malaysian Muslims, American Muslims are moderate and irradical.
I think this is one cultural difference that a Japanese will have the hardest time understanding about Malaysia. This is also one of the things I love most about Malaysia. I believe this diversity has changed and made our food culture, language, and mindset so much more different and special than any other nation in the world.