When guests visits... the Malaysian way and how to prepare your children for the visit?

How do you prepare your children about the different culture and habits that they will be experiencing

For those of us who have spent many years away from our home country, and bringing up children in a foreign country, will understand this sentiment.

Before I go any further, let me share with you what the differences of visiting relatives and friends in Penang, Malaysia, and how that differs from Australia and other countries.

In Malaysia:

  • We are allowed to drop by our friend’s or relatives’ place without calling or making appointments.
  • When we get together, we tend to talk about food more than anything else, i.e. where is the new “char koay teow stall”, which one is nicer or cheaper etc.
  • We must always bring a gift when visiting friends or relatives.
  • The host would normally have some food as a standby in case of unexpected guests dropping by.
  • When family or friends go out to eat together, we tend to “fight” each other to pay for the meal, maybe to show one’s hospitality.

So when you are expecting guests from your home country to visit and possibly staying with you, how are you going to not only prepare yourself but your children of the impending conflict of beliefs and habits that you foresee are going to happen?

What I really mean is how to set the boundaries, by ensuring your guests abide by the ‘ways’ you are accustomed to in your new home land without offending them.

For example: In some Asian countries, smoking is common at home and in public places; however, in Australia, we have established that smoking at home is a big no-no. Further, now the government has even banned smoking in enclosed public areas. So the challenge is how do you tell your guests to not smoke in your home without offending them?

Another example is when we go out to eat/have a meal together, how do you tell your guests that you are the hosts and that you are happy to pay, or even suggest going dutch?

At the same time, how do you prepare your children about the different culture and habits that they will be experiencing? This exercise it to bring awareness of the cultural differences while being sensitive towards the guests. Understand that the guests don’t do it on purpose, and do not intend to upset your family.

How to guide your children:

  • So firstly explain to your children your cultural habits and how they differ from the way they were brought up.
  • Make them aware that the guests have no ill intentions, and they are just not aware of the home “rules” and habits. Suggest they help to explain to the guests in an understanding manner.
  • Get your children to share their thoughts and habits with the guests, such as they would normally ring their friends first before seeing them.
  • Family members like to ask about your work and how much you earn etc. It may seem impolite, but answer them subtly without being rude, such as “I love my job and  have just enough to get by without having to reveal your salary …” etc.

It is healthy to have such conversations with your children every now and then, and share with them our way of life in Malaysia. It creates an air of openness and better understanding, and most times it helps to bridge the many small differences. This understanding will give you more energy to focus on enjoying the company of your guests/relatives.

Love to hear your thoughts. Share with us your experiences below.