A Muslim couple walk in the street of Kuala Lumpur by sunset

Why Malaysia is not a country for love

Remember the amazing James Brown’s ‘This is a man’s world’ sung in his distinctive raucous voice? Nowhere else is this more true than Malaysia, or, actually, any other Islamic country. Severely traditional and religious societies are not uncommon in Europe either. However, I still firmly stand by my opinion stated in one of my previous posts that there truly isn’t a more retrograde force in this world than the Mohammedanism. For some reason, this religion has decided to take masses of followers on an incessant journey backwards, where any intellectual or spiritual progress is not only undesirable but also forbidden. Logically this doctrine penetrates into all spheres of life including romance, love and marriage. Yes, I confess. Malaysia is not a country for love.

A wooden pier overlooking sea and mangroves on the horizon with small balloons in the shape of heart attached to the wooden poles holding the pier
Hearts can be found anywhere. But love?

Love like democracy

You may suggest that love is a complicated business anywhere in the world. And you will be right. Some may even add that it’s like searching of the Holy Grail, a chase after an illusion, a flawed belief or a myth. Others would stay more down-to-earth and simply state that it’s like finding a needle in a haystack. Any way you look at it, it’s hard. And our backgrounds, expectations, experiences and many other external factors don’t make this any easier. However, leaving those aside, I am sure that for anything to flourish, including love, the society and its people must be prepared for it. You see, love is like democracy. It requires a great deal of maturity. And Malaysians, as a nation, are anything but mature.

 

Six years in the country

As much as I loved this country for it had provided me with incredible opportunities and experience, there were obviously things which I didn’t like and which made life dull. However, this post is not an outcry of a desperate girl who couldn’t find her soulmate. I stopped looking a long time ago. Rather, it should be treated as a breakdown of factors that I observed in Malaysia as well as on frequent travels in the region and that were compelling enough to be made known.

Seeing, not looking

On the one hand I said I wasn’t looking, and that’s true. On the other, however, my open-mindedness, genuinely non-judgemental nature and slightly inefficient relationship patterns were still with me and alive. So I’m confident to say that aside from astute observations, I’ve also got plenty of hands-on experience. I clearly made some blatantly wrong choices – talk to me about those strange patterns again – but even if I hadn’t, it would be absolutely inevitable for my personal background, convictions, experiences and beliefs to severely collide with the incredibly outdated local cultural norms.

Malaysia – dead end for romance

The verdict therefore really is and always will be, that in terms of romance and relationships Malaysia has nothing to offer, at least not to an ambitious, educated, fiercely independent and self-sufficient woman. Like myself for example. That is except for heartbreak, disappointment and culturally painful clashes which luckily serve as an eye-opener and material for publication.

Two figurines with cut out faces with my face in one and the other one empty
The best relationship you will have is with yourself

About women

 

Woman is inferior

This is a no-brainer indeed. I have collected so much evidence of this that it could be enough for a whole book. Regardless of what you may read and what some seemingly progressive Muslims might try to tell you, in Malaysia women don’t have much of a say. Most Malays still hold traditional views where the man is a breadwinner and the woman gives birth to babies and takes care of the household. Although if on top of that she works and makes money, it’s even better. Men make the majority of important decisions, despite often not having the mental capacity to do so, and the woman has to follow. Every now and then some wannabe enlightened political figure blurts pro-female claims in the media such as ‘wanita (woman) is our future’ or ‘we must protect our women’. But trust me, it’s just political gibberish without any real base trying to attract votes from the female population as well.

Public toilet cubicle with the male figure complete, but female missing
That won’t need fixing.

Please be a doormat

Here’s a more accurate way of thinking local men traditionally impose on women – a pretty verbatim translation of a conversation between a father and his daughter right before marrying her off in a soap opera (I used to watch lots on TV when trying to learn bahasa Malaysia so this is not just a one-time occurrence): “Be a good wife to your husband. Do not oppose to him. Do as he says and try not to make his life difficult.” I mean Holy mishmash! You can see how deeply ingrained this is, can’t you? A father trying to muzzle his daughter, instructing her to be a doormat, willingly, because that’s what’s expected of her. No wonder women here are so meek and can’t hold even the simplest conversations. Most of them are brainwashed into obedience towards males from day 1 of their existence and any kind of revolt is clearly undesirable. Oh Bob Marley, those men don’t cry for their women, I can tell you.

Note for women not to watch Wordl Cup as excitement is sinful
Do I need to say more?

Reversed gestures

Another observation that makes me believe women are inferior is the custom of women kissing their husbands’ hand. Often this happens during simple day-to-day activities such as when saying goodbye before going to work or at more solemn occasions or during some Islamic holidays. While European men, and potential suitors, used to kiss women’s hands, in Malaysia Muslims turned this around.

A man gesturing with his hand to a Muslim female seller
That’s enough…

Remarks that sting

Your point will be also proven by countless daily remarks of men you interact with. I recall a conversation with a guy who said Malay women can’t smoke as otherwise they wouldn’t be able to have a baby. ‘Really?’ you raise eyebrows as dozens of science-backed arguments about nicotine damaging sperm flood your brain by the speed of light. Nevertheless, you must suppress the urge to comment on this as any ideas or explanations will certainly fall on deaf ears. Clearly impotence would be the woman’s fault. End of story. Too bad I’m a non-smoker because the sweetest way to show how wrong that man is would be to light up a cigarette and indulge in smoking it right before his eyes, blowing smoke toward him. But even then he wouldn’t get it. It would be a wasted resource and unnecessary damage to my body.

A man smoking shisha, looking at a mobile phonesmoke covering his face up.
Smoking – strictly for males

Personal experience

In my story about an enemy in Tioman I describe an annoying Malay who made my stay quite eventful to say the least. At some point, when he became disturbingly obnoxious and tediously intrusive, my otherwise calm demeanour was put to a test. Long story short, I couldn’t bear listening to that horny idiot any longer and simply snapped at him. Unfortunately, this happened when we were surrounded by other Muslim men and his friends. In return, I was told off and quickly reminded by one of them to watch my behaviour. It was made clear to me that such manners toward a male are not acceptable. I was angry AF but I couldn’t do much aside from quickly retiring to my room. You can’t reason with fools, let alone Islamic cavemen with no education whatsoever.

These are only a few examples. If I had to list all, it would be a way too long article. But I guess you get the idea, don’t you?

A group of men sitting outside on a high stone construction saying hi
Treat them as distant friends only

Marriage, dating and so on

 

Let’s seal the deal

Of course the above comes down to mere traditions. One of them is that Muslims don’t date. They marry. The only thing males have to do if they fancy someone is ask the parents of the woman, have some dowry, and if all falls into place, the deal is sealed. While I don’t believe in marriage out of blind love, I also don’t believe in arranged marriage or marriage completely void of love. Knowing full well that thousands of girls worldwide are forced into unions with men who will only bring nothing but misery to their lives, it’s only logical that I feel apprehensive towards this. In Malaysia it doesn’t look that bad on the outside but what if I told you about a paradox.

A married couple posing in traditional Malay wedding wear
Can you feel love?

The Islamic marriage paradox

So in Malaysia you traditionally can’t have sex nor get married before the age of 21. Islam says so. However, the legal marrying age of a Muslim woman is 16. It doesn’t make sense, does it? Well, welcome to Malaysia, folks, as here very few things make sense. Basically what this means is that if say a Muhammad aged 50 fancies a Fatima aged 16 he is legally, under the Sharia law, allowed to pull this off, provided the parents of the girl agree. Recently, the Malaysian government were mulling over a law, where legal marrying age of women would be made 18.

Females on a platform waiting for a train, looking ahead, photographed from the back, wearing traditional Islamic wear, a mosque is in the horizon
It will take time before this gets better, if ever at all…

New law, new hope?

Now make a guess – do you think the law passed? Obviously… Islamic religious conservatives deciding about changes in conservative Islamic laws. I mean how could anything good come out of that? The worst, however, is that if that old dude Muhammad fancies a Fatima of for example 12 years of age, he can still marry her, if her parents agree. Child marriages, despite not being exactly legal, are still very common across Malaysia and as usual the brides have absolutely zero decision power in this. Basically, girls and women are sold as a produce to fellow Muslim men at their parents’ discretion. Are you disgusted? You should be. Oh, Allah is so gracious to those Muslim folks.

A man sleeping at a bus stop with a banner that says "Children have their rights"
You wish…

Is it really all lost?

 

Courting – Is there really none?

But even if you were lucky and met a more progressive guy – it’s 2022 after all – you won’t get far anyway. Developing a reciprocal relationship will be nearly impossible as that’s not how Malays are wired. Courting is not local men’s forte. As stated above, they have no idea what dating is and how to approach it. Some will be quick to boast about exposure to the Western world by making bold statements such as “Oh I lived in the States” or “I studied in Europe” or “My uncle lives in London”.

Myself sitting at a table in a restaurant in the evening
Before a relationship in Malaysia

I know the West, I know you too

You would be naive to think this would change anything. On the contrary these hybrids would often feel that their exposure grants them certain privileges, claiming they perfectly understand the western culture too while deep under the surface they are strict adherents to Islam. No wonder – you can take Mohammad out of a Muslim country but you can’t take the Muslim out of Muhammad. Never. Simply, don’t fall for it for it’s only a diversion from the reality, which sadly remains that they have no bloody idea how to approach and treat women.

Wrong perception of Western women

As if all the above wasn’t enough, there’s also the racial profiling. White women have an incredibly difficult position in Asia. On the one hand any association with a white westerner grants tremendous face, on the other we are considered an easy catch, cheap, open-to-sex-24/7 objects. I’ve perceived this behaviour especially in Middle-Easterners and my experience with those I met in Malaysia was terrible. They treat western women incredibly badly, often being inappropriate right from the start, making sleazy advances in order to get laid.

A Middle-Eastern man driving leaning outside the window to speak to me while being photographed
Hey babe, wanna jump in?

Woman? Open to sex? = Dirty!

Malays are neither as invasive nor annoying in their behaviour, but often their mind set is pretty much similar. There are some though who are vocal about wanting sex with you. If things were more or less equal, there would be nothing wrong with this. But they are not. Once you have sex with someone, especially without the intention of getting married or starting a relationship, you will be judged and considered ‘dirty’. Sad state of affairs, isn’t it?

Communication and Humour – what’s that?

Another aspect that renders most relationships with Malay Muslims impossible is communication. I could tolerate a lot if a guy could communicate. But they can’t do that. They are like fish. They open their mouth but nothing solid comes out. The only questions you will get asked will be about breakfast, lunch and dinner. Most consider “You had your lunch?” the highest form of interest shown to you and you won’t get past that. They won’t ask you about anything else – your background, family, interests, education, experiences – they couldn’t care less. They won’t discuss with you. They won’t initiate debates or opinion exchange. They won’t get your jokes. They won’t make any either. On a Friday afternoon you will be left wondering whether that question about lunch is meant as a slap in your face or whether it’s a genuine attempt for communication since it came with a striking regularity every day since Monday. Add to it their incredible attention seeking and expecting all the work to be done by you, and you are ready to be shot to the Moon.

A figurine of a woman looking like a witch, covered in blood with lights on the staircase being her
After a relationship in Malaysia

What if you still date or marry?

Developing communication and trust is always hard, in any kind of setting, but with a Malay man it’s impossible. Firstly, because like I said above, being seen or associated with a westerner grants tremendous face and I suspect most of them are in it for the status, money, sex or all of these combined. On the one hand they might boast about dating a white woman, on the other they’ll be unable to do even the bare minimum to keep you hooked. You can forget about planning dates, romantic nights out, inspiring and stimulating conversations, spontaneous trips and genuine interest. If you want this, you will have to do all the work yourself. While I’m cynical to the bone, every relationship needs that sense of romance, surprise and creativity. Unfortunately the only creativity Malays will commit to is making a baby. Sometimes many of them with multiple women.

A woman holding see through balloons for sale, a man sitting behind her
You work, I oversee

Polygamy anyone?

Monogamy – that is from the male’s side obviously – is not exactly worshiped here. If you date a relatively well-off individual and God forbid marry a Muslim, which I would never recommend, there might come a point where they will bring another wife to the ‘team’. Unfortunately, even not so wealthy ones could do that, shirking all the financial responsibilities that polygamy bears with it and just enjoy the fact that they can have variety in life. After all, spreading their genes and having as many kids as possible is what’s important here. It doesn’t matter if you can’t even take care of yourself, let alone a baby. You must breed, breed, breed! That’s what Malays heed.

A mam holding his baby and showing it to me to take a photo
Babies are the ultimate goal

Twisted history

Historically, polygamy used to be a tool for helping women from poor backgrounds get a better life. The rule of thumb is that a Muslim married to more than 1 woman must treat all his wives equally in all areas of life – physical pleasures, finances, material security and so on. I mean isn’t that flawed already? How’s that even possible? That would require some high order planning, frankly. Nowadays, however, it’s a privilege that many men enjoy just because they can. When I asked my ex-boyfriend what he thought of this,  he said he wouldn’t mind having more wives but he would be afraid if he could financially sustain it. Well, here you have it. And I can guarantee you that it’s not only my ex who has this kind of mind-set. After all, he got inspired by his father who married three times and the ladies from the last two marriages shared one household. Think about it before you date a Muslim.

 

Marriage?

If you are desperate or crazy enough to go for this and if you for some inexplicable reason decide to marry a Malay Muslim, be prepared to convert to Islam. Again, Allah is so tolerant and wishful that you must do as your man says because otherwise you wouldn’t be a proper human being to him. In fact, only Muslim brothers and sisters are proper human beings, all non-Muslims are considered less. If you think converting to Islam is going to be a culturally and spiritually enriching experience as for example in Charlotte’s case in Sex and the City when she converted to Judaism, you are fooling yourself. You will be forced to convert so that you can be stripped of your dignity and leave all your previous dirty convictions behind. Only as a Muslim are you worth those men.

 

Men with baggage

Another sad truth is that it’s unthinkable to find a guy without baggage. All of them are either divorced with kids or worse still married but open to experiences with other women. Malays get married very young, mostly in their 20s. The reason for this is very simple. As I said above, Islam normally doesn’t recommend sex/marriage before the age of 21, unless parents decide otherwise. Logically this drives most youngsters crazy and once they reach the so-called maturity, they all rush into marriages with people they barely know so that they can get laid. Obviously they produce offspring very early on too, because first of all contraception and being careful is not important and second of all having babies is the ultimate goal of any union. As a result, by the age of 25 a lot of Malays have often more than two babies. By this time many also consider a divorce because they sadly realised that it somehow wasn’t what they thought it would. ‘Oops, it’s not working’ they often end up thinking, resorting to adultery too. I mean of course it’s not working if you married the first person you slept with and have no clue whatsoever what relationships and marriage are about.

Two men carrying a baby on a bridge in Kuching, Sarawak
In Sarawak and Sabah things seem more relaxed and natural.

Divorced men damaged goods

Now, remember what I said about women. Most really have to take a lot of bullshit from their men. They don’t have a say and divorce under the Islamic law isn’t the easiest thing. The woman must ‘prove’ that her husband fails in some areas of marriage before they get a divorce. Now imagine, that as an obedient female she is not supposed to complain nor oppose her husband. Her role is specific. And it has me thinking. If men can’t even withstand these ‘privileged’ conditions then it means that they are really lousy husbands. This also means that the women are brought to a point where they can’t stand it anymore and apply for a divorce.

 

As long as she holds

The man as such probably doesn’t care much because he can neglect family duties, be unfaithful but as long as his wife is okay with it, the marriage can last forever. Turns out, even the brainwashed women are not exactly okay with it and want to get away from their entitled husbands. And like this it’s virtually impossible to meet a guy who doesn’t have an ex-wife or two, and a few kids under his belt in his 30s. Does it matter? Well, it does. Because unlike Europe or the West where a divorced man could be actually a good catch as they have experience with marriage that didn’t work and potentially drew some lessons out of that, Malay divorced men mostly proved to be highly incompetent husbands and fathers who by their reckless actions drove their meek, obedient wives to a divorce.

Two photographers shooting a Muslim married couple in the street of Kuala Lumpur
It starts and looks all nice but who knows …

Kids unimportant

Another sad thing is that often after a divorce most men go on a quest for finding another female and often drop all their responsibilities from previous marriages. Kids stay with mothers and divorced fathers come and go as they please. Sometimes never, sometimes once a year during Hari Raya. Sometimes only when their ex-wife demands it. Often, kids are just accessories. I must say the Malay parenting style is tragic and disturbing. It’s not about taking care of the kids; it’s about having them in the first place. Once this is done, it feels as if it were a mission completed sort of thing. Again, not everyone is like that, but I have observed this attitude a lot.

 

Getting physical

This will be another painful chapter. As a woman your tiny muscle of passion will be seriously deprived. It’ll be ignored. It’ll be omitted. It’ll be made unimportant. Why? Well, in this regard Malays can be divided into two groups. One that don’t know what and where love button is, and one who know but will, most likely intentionally,  ignore this piece of information to show you who the boss is. Either way, you can forget about orgasm. It’s a misery and if all the above reasons are not important to you, this one could be. Well, well, well… Allah must be really doing something wrong out there.

 

What about the other races?

Ethically, Malaysia is a diverse country. Aside from the Malay majority, Indians and Chinese form part of the population. Would dating them be any better?

Trying luck with Chinese?

In one of Anthony Bourdain’s episodes of Parts Unknown featuring a Korean town in LA one of his Korean guests boldly claims: “If you must date in Asia, go for Chinese”. I’d sort of second that. While I never dated one, I see where he’s coming from. Chinese respect women and treat them nicely.  So in Malaysia indeed, they are your best bet. But again, as a westerner your chances of getting into a relationship with one are very low. Why? Chinese rarely mingle with other races. They are in fact incredibly racist. They want to keep it all enclosed in their own circle. Although Chinese girls often date Westerners, which would be a topic for another chapter and a whole book could be written about white males dating in Asia, it seldom works the other way round. What’s more, dating is rather a practical matter which should also naturally lead to getting married and having kids. Unlike Malays who have kids without thinking, Chinese have it all planned. So don’t expect spontaneity or much romanticism either. It’s just to meet certain ends. Truth is, however, you can mostly rely on these men. Unless you choose a jerk of course, which is always a curse regardless of ethnicity. Those are everywhere.

A DJ with his minimally clad girlfriend during mixing at a night club
These guys are more fun for sure

And Indians?

Well, I’ve had this experience and I can tell you that mostly you are in for a roller-coaster ride. Grown up men acting like 5-year olds, out of the blue arguments followed by long silent treatments, unreasonable and inexplicable walk-aways every time you say something that is deemed inappropriate. It tends to be too emotionally charged with these guys and not always in the right way….I don’t think this could work for most women. Unless you are lucky and meet an enlightened, educated and progressive guy who’s gotten away from the tight grip of their own traditions too and who knows what respecting a woman entails. Unfortunately though, and similarly to Malays, there’s that weird gut feeling that rather than a woman you are seen as a piece of meat. Harsh, I know, but I got this vibe way too often for it just to be bad luck. Of course, they are not all the same but I guess that Korean dude in the travel documentary was right.

Two young Indian males sitting on their motorbikes greeting me
Cute, smiling but don’t go beyond

 

Southeast Asia style

Overall though, it’s not only Malaysia where things are difficult. I’ve observed extremely misogynistic tendencies in Indonesia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Philippines as well as Myanmar. While Islamic religion plays a huge role and Muslim countries are definitely more obvious and aggressive in their inducing obedience in certain populations, it seems that the male dominance is simply a way of living across the region regardless of beliefs. I mean there’s still a degree of inequality in the West, so we shouldn’t expect miracles in Asia either.

 

Dating an expat, perhaps?

The irony of it all is, however, that a western woman rarely stands a chance with expats either. Unfortunately, there’s no way western males would go for an independent, educated woman with needs and wants, opinions and expectations, if they can have a submissive, obedient and beyond imagination agreeable Asian girl. Food served in bed, sexual desires always met, low expectations, low maintenance. Then remember what I said about association with orang putih (white man). It’s a win-win. And a vicious cycle nearly impossible to break.

A woman at a rooftop bar looking at the horizon by night
Stop dreaming. It’s what it is

Summary

You see, dating is difficult everywhere but in Malaysia it’s a complete minefield. From severe gender inequality, xenophobia and huge misconceptions about the outside world there are more obstacles than pleasures. Dating the way you know it from the western world doesn’t exist here and I’ve come to the conclusion that expecting it from such a backwards thinking society is flawed. But I only understood this after I tried it myself. God knows I made mistakes in the process, terrible mistakes. It’s part of the learning curve. But even if I had done things differently, I would have ended up with the same result. Six years is indeed a long time enough to be able to arrive at quite precise conclusions. Therefore, my ultimate verdict is, that creating a functional and inspiring bond with a local man or a Muslim is almost always a lost game and any expat woman who wants to go this route should drastically lower their expectations if they are seriously thinking about it. There will always be a lot of bad treatment from men with fragile egos or a severe lack of education. Either way, you are doomed. You are better off taking up new hobbies, which is what I did, or buying a pet.

14 thoughts on “Why Malaysia is not a country for love

  1. This is an eye opening post! I didn’t know much about Malaysia except that it’s mostly Muslims so to read about women treated inferior, side remarks and 16 years for marriage for girls as opposed to 21 for men feel so wrong. I hope the new laws change few things in favor of women

    1. Thanks Nishta. Change, if any, will take a long time but will be impossible if conservative Islamic parties with caveman mindsets keep ruling the country. Sadly, this is not something uncommon in other Islamic countries either where women are oppressed.

  2. We have visited Asia several times as some of my hubby’s family used to live there. I like that part of the world and had some really romantic time with my hubby on our holiday in KL, however I’ve also personal experience of dating a guy from that culture and many things were just like described in the article… Now, I don’t want to generalise, but the stereotype seems to be very realistic in those countries. Whilst I still believe there are exceptions, you’ve stated a few reasons why I personally, after splitting up with the guy, have chosen rather not to date a guy from that culture anymore…

    1. Smiley, what a pleasure to read your feedback. I really appreciate your sharing that personal story with me here. Honestly, I also don’t want to generalise nor tar everyone with the same brush but God knows that in six years of giving the benefit of the doubt to Muslims, be it Malays or even Bangladeshi or whoever, I am more than sure that certain stereotypes are deeply ingrained in certain societies and nothing, simply nothing can change that. Unfortunately, Islam doesn’t help here. I was patient and trusting for 6 years. Therefore I’m confident with certain conclusions. Thanks again for the great comment!

  3. This is a fascinating topic and your vulnerability in sharing makes for a great story. Sounds as if single is the way to go for Western women there.

    1. Thank you so much. I was inititally hesitant and didn’t want to publish it, but then I thought it’d be a shame if it stayed in drafts. So I do appreciate your comment about vulnerability here.

  4. I love the humour you infuse into serious experiences. I haven’t been to Malaysia (and I’m already married ;)) Sounds like a good thing.

    1. Thanks for appreciating the humour Karletta! I’m really glad you picked up on that 🙂 Asia ain’t a continent for love indeed so am happy to hear you are doing fine in your married life:)

  5. A very insightful and interesting read I must say. I admire your courage to talk about such issues. Though, some of the things mentioned here aren’t new to me but I can only imagine what it must be like living in such a setting. Talk about guys acting like 5-year-olds– oh, the horror! You didn’t lie.

    1. Thanks for commenting. Yeah, for a single Western woman like this really is not the most inspiring setting indeed.

  6. Very interesting and eye opening post. A lot of these points are not new to me as a Lebanese Armenian but it’s interesting to read it from the western perspective. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Hi Sonia, I wanted to wish you for the new year but lost all your numbers, so this is the only way! So happy for you to hear that you are on to a new adventure – and what an adventure it’s been! You write beautifully, with so much detail, depth and personal insight that it is a joy to read. Best wishes to you on your continued journey, and Happy New Year!!! PS. And just remember, “wheresoever you go, … “

    1. Rava, thanks for commenting. For some reason my response got lost. As I do remember replying to this comment earlier.
      Hope you are well. All the best to you and thanks for your compliments on my writing.

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