If you are planning to go to Malaysia as a student, a tourist, or as an expat worker, chances are you may have already heard some things about the country from other people. Although it is good to ask other people’s opinions about the country you’ll visit, it is also good to do your own research about it or experience it for yourself before making any judgment. 

The negative thing about bringing those misconceptions about Malaysia with you is that they will most likely affect how you interact with other people. For example, if people tell you Malaysians are not a direct bunch of people (a common misconception), it might make it difficult for you to trust what people are saying, especially prospective local friends. 

Read below to learn about the common misconceptions people have about Malaysia and its people. 

Malaysia is an Old-Fashioned and Traditional Country 

Although Malaysians love to maintain their culture’s important traditions, it does not mean it is still very old-fashioned and very traditional. The country has already undergone a lot of changes, and traded and interacted with various cultures since it achieved its independence in 1957. 

In fact, if you visit Malaysia now, especially its big cities, such as Kuala Lumpur, you will find out that it is as modern as it gets. The people, for example, know what’s currently trending, in terms of fashion and even in their attitude. 

Also, when it comes to infrastructures, the country is home to the once tallest building in the world, Petronas Tower (which is taller than Chicago’s Sears Tower), and held that position until 2004. 

In terms of the economy, the country is a leading Southeast Asian country when it comes to it. Plus, the country is also known as the global leader for Islamic banking which already says a lot. 

Malaysian Women Do Not Have Enough Freedom 

This misconception may stem from the fact that the country’s official religion is Islam. However, this is not actually the case. Although some rules related to their religion may ask women to dress modestly, for example, it does not mean that women do not have a voice in Malaysian society. In fact, Malaysian women have held positions and jobs in various fields and industries, such as politics, businesses, and even in the army. 

Some Malaysian women are even pioneers or have greater roles on the global stage. For example, Dr. Mazlan Othman, Malaysia’s first astrophysicist is also the founding director of Angkasa, Malaysia’s own National Space Agency, and has been instrumental in sending the first Malaysian astronaut into Space. She’s also been appointed Director of the UN’s Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), not only once but twice! 

It is a Homogenous Country and Everybody’s Muslim 

First, Malaysia is one of the most diverse countries in Southeast Asia. In fact, the country’s population is multiethnic and multicultural and its three major ethnic groups consist of Malays, Chinese, and Indians. Also, all three ethnic groups can maintain their ancestors’ cultural traditions and still live together harmoniously. 

Second, not all Malaysians are Muslims, despite its official religion being Islam. In fact, aside from Islam, other religions in Malaysia are Buddhism (the second largest religion in the country), Hinduism, and even Christianity. 

Misconceptions about Malaysia and other countries you are not familiar with are common. However, although most misconceptions may not sound dangerous, on a personal level, those misconceptions may affect how you interact with people from specific countries. Thus, it is always important to do your research first, especially about another country’s culture, or avoid judgment before visiting another country. 

Learn more tips about studying abroad. To start, check out MSM Unify’s article on International Students: Tips for Study Abroad.