Kuala Lumpur City Guide | Culture and Traditions in Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur is the capital city of Malaysia and is located on the west coast of Peninsula of Malaysia. Covering some 243 sq km, it lies approximately 40 km from the coast. Kuala Lumpur – or KL as it is commonly known to locals – lies in a valley surrounded by jagged hills.

Kuala Lumpur was originally a mining settlement in the late 1800s where tin was discovered at the confluence of the Klang and Gombak rivers.

Although KL’s tin trade has declined since, the prosperity of the city has continued to grow. Today, Kuala Lumpur is home to more than 1.5 million people within the city area, and more than 4 million in the surrounding metropolitan area.

You will find that Kuala Lumpur is a very interesting place. The city is a mix of three major cultures although the majority of people in Malaysia are Muslim. The three cultures include Malays, Chinese and Indian.

With these three cultures comes three different religions (Muslim, Budhist and Hindu), three different types of fantastic food, and three different sets of amazing cultures.

There is also a sizable community of Sikhs and Eurasians to compliment and add spice to the harmonious mix of Kuala Lumpur culture. You can expect to see young and trendy Chinese women wearing make up and skimpy clothes next to Muslim Malays woman wearing long skirts and long sleeve shirts with head cover known as tudung.

With a well-known past as a popular trading post between the East and West, it comes to no surprise that Malaysia has grown into a multiracial country. The mingling of locals with foreign traders of the past, and the later colonialists and immigrants has created a unique multiracial society rich in heritage and culture.

Such a harmonious mix promises a colourful potpourri of Kuala Lumpur culture and traditions for you to discover. The various beliefs, religious practices and customs of the different races has left a unique mark on Kuala Lumpur culture in the form of colourful festivals, ceremonies, rituals and traditional
costumes.

The interaction of the various races is clearly displayed in the unique art forms, exotic dances and inspiring music of the country.

Let’s have a closer look at the three unique cultures that you can find in Kuala Lumpur.

Malays

The Malays or Melayu are the largest of Malaysian communities and all Malays embrace the Muslim faith at birth. Although the majority of people in Malaysia are Muslims, the people also practice freedom of beliefs for other races.

kuala-lumpur-culture-muslim-01The Malay community from different states speak a number of different dialects and thus, inherit a variety of customs. The dialects commonly spoken are unique to the states such as Kelantan, Terengganu, Perak, Kedah, Penang, Negeri Sembilan, Sabah and Sarawak.

If Malays from Kelantan speak in their dialect, the Malays from other states may find it hard to understand. The same goes if people from other states communicate in their own dialects. A person from Kedah won’t have a clue what a group of people from Negeri Sembilan are talking about.

With such a variety of spoken dialects, how the Malays come to a common understanding? It’s not as hard as it seems because we have our National Language, Bahasa Melayu or Malay Language, which is taught as a compulsory language in all schools.

When the Malays from different states come to Kuala Lumpur either to work or to further studies, they use Bahasa Melayu as the main language. Bahasa Melayu is also used in communication with Chinese, Indians and other races.

The Malays have some interesting artistic talent and intricate craftsmanship inherited from their ancestors, such as batik printing and songket making. The wonderful art of wau making is also part of Malay culture.

Chinese

The Chinese community are actually the descendants of immigrant Chinese from different provinces in China. Therefore, the Chinese community of today speak a number of different dialects and maintain various customs and way of life. Among the different dialects spoken are Hokkien, Teowchew, Cantonese and Hakka.

kuala-lumpur-culture-budhist-01The Chinese have brought with them the amazing “lion” dance and famous Chinese New Year. Chinese belief that having a lion dance group performing at their houses during Chinese New Year and at newly opened establishments any time of the year will drive out evil spirits and usher in luck and prosperity.

The acrobatics of the agile and talented “lion” as it twists, climbs, hops and jumps from stilt to stilt to the beat of huge Chinese drums, is a colourful sight and the sounds promote an echoing boom in your heart.

Other interesting Chinese cultural festivals that you can observe include the Chingay Festival, Chap Goh Meh, Mooncake Festival and processions of the deities.

Indians

kuala-lumpur-culture-hindu-01Indians account for about 10 percent of the population. The community comprises mainly of Tamil Hindus from southern India. Speaking Tamil, Malayalam and Hindi, the Indians have brought with them the beautiful culture of an ancient civilisation.Indian dance forms tell you the tales of love, faith, bravery, honour and sacrifice to the beat and sway of music played loudly to bring you to a place of divine beauty and wonderful joy.

Amazing Hindu festivals include the carrying of the famous Kavadis during the Thaipusam festival. The drawing of the Kolam, meanwhile, is a practice in detail and beauty.

You can enjoy the different cultures of Malaysia all in one place through Colours of Malaysia, a sensational month-long extravaganza. This annual parade is an unforgettable experience of the enchanting cultures of this multi-racial country. The first in the new millennium, Colours of Malaysia 2000, was launched on the 27th of May in Kuala Lumpur, along the 1.5km route along Jalan Raja Laut and Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, with over 4,000 performers of cultural dances and traditional music all wowing the crowd of inspired visitors and proud locals.