What being Malaysian is all about

-A +A

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s multicultural landscape has played a crucial part in shaping the food and festivals that locals and tourists have come to enjoy.

However, unlike these main attractions, a less talked about side of Malaysia’s racial and religious diversity is the romantic relationships that cut across these lines.

This Malaysia Day, couples tell us about their experiences being in a cross-cultural relationship.

Mohamad Yusoff Sultan Sahib (40, publications officer) and Guee Handayani Muhammad (33, doctor)
“A lot of tolerance and patience goes into making an interracial relationship work,” said Mohamad Yusoff, who has been married to Guee for four years.
They have a son who is almost two years old, and they intend to educate him on his rich heritage.

“Luckily, there haven’t been any huge ups and downs for us. We were born into interracial families, so we are already accustomed to that lifestyle. It was our parents who went through a lot of trials and tribulations,” said Mohamad Yusoff, who is of Indian and Chinese descent.

Guee witnessed her mother’s struggles as a Javanese woman married to a Chinese man. Added to that stress was the fact that she had come to a foreign land, and the language barrier became a source of friction with the Chinese family she had married into.

Guee herself rejects the idea of being identified by one’s race.

“It was confusing and suffocating growing up not knowing who I was or where I belonged. I do not want to be seen as a race category on a form. It is only when I come home to my husband and child that I feel comfortable,” she added.

Sheryl Ho Su Lynn (28, public relations agent) and Iskandar Mohd Hishamuddin Hamzah (29, economics teacher)
Sheryl and Hisham were colleagues in a private school, working in different departments, when they first met. They started bonding over a weekly meeting where certain staff members gathered to do test runs on board games for students.

“When people looked at us, they saw a million reasons why we would not make it,” said Hisham.

“We’re from two different worlds — I’m a Malay from Kuala Lumpur (KL) who went to a private school and studied overseas, whereas she is a Chinese from the outskirts of KL who studied locally up until university. I’m very passionate about sports, whereas she is an artistic person with a flair for dance and singing. However, we were determined to make this work,” he said.

Sheryl, who describes herself as a devout Christian, said she was willing to take any challenges head on, including dealing with an ultimatum from a close friend.

“She told me it’s either I leave the church or I leave him. However I wasn’t prepared to lose him over something like that, even though we were only in the first week of our relationship at that point,” she said, adding that this was one of the toughest episodes she had faced. — The Malaysian Insider (See full story in www.themalaysianinsider.com)

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on September 17, 2014.