With the long strange Chinese New Year holiday (or holidays as in a pluralized version) finally winding down, it’s time to reflect on lessons learned. Residents of Southeast Asia for about eight months now, Diane and I realized from the start it takes an entire year to asses all the various multicultural events, holidays, religious celebrations and everything else that makes Malaysia as different from North America as night and day. Unlike North America, life in a Chinese dominated island revolves around the Lunar New Year and affects everyone’s daily life from shoppers to non-Chinese workers. Adding to the confusion, Penang is basically the only place outside China sporting a large community of Hokkien Chinese people. Unaware that Hokkien Chinese have a mysteriously different language, history, culture and ambition level compared to Cantonese and Mandarin speakers, here’s a non-comprehensive and very unscientific list of what we learned this month.
Never visit the wet market on the weekend before Chinese New Year
Having been to the local market in Tanjung Bungah about 100 times, we’ve never seen any real crowds. Akin to a local Wal-Mart the day before a hurricane, the mad rush on everything and anything edible, especially animals, means fending off hundreds of patrons and even the Asian discount goes away if you don’t speak Hokkien Chinese. In their defense, however, Hokkien Chinese are not very aggressive and the least pushiest Chinese people anywhere which probably comes from living with non-confrontational Malays. Don’t visit at this time.