CYBERJAYA, MALAYSIA: Experiencing a Malaysian-Indian Wedding

I love weddings. Even in Germany I am excited if I am able to attend a wedding celebration. A very special part of our semester abroad was when we were invited to a traditional Malaysian-Indian wedding, by a dear friend called Ameer. We met Ameer during the first months of our stay in Malaysia. His sister had planned her wedding celebration during the four months of our stay and joyfully agreed that my roommates and I could come to her important day. Weeks before we were already really excited and nervous about this event. Questions like what we should wear, what type of present should we give the bridal couple and what kind of gift could we bring for the parents, were racing through our minds. The presents were important to us, since we were invited into their home.
Friday evening we arrived at the beautiful big house of the wedding couple in the Malaysian state Kelantan. On our way there we already discussed what would be an appropriate form to greet the parents of our friend, Ameer. We learned that you do not always greet someone with a handshake in Malaysia. The traditional salutation among the Muslims is the Malaysian Salam. You stretch out both arms and the hands only touch lightly at the fingertips. After that the right hand moves to your chest, as a sign that this salutation comes from the heart. Only people with the same gender are supposed to shake hands. Therefore, we only greeted the mother of our friend. We saluted his father with a nod of the head. Later, we could observe that the sons, grandsons and male cousins saluted the father by kissing his right hand.
Before entering the house, we had to take off our shoes. The whole platform in front of the entrance was covered with several pairs of shoes. We were welcomed with immense amounts of politeness, openness and warm-heartedness. As soon as we took the first step into the house, I felt at home. First of all, we got some overly sweet welcoming drinks and some food, which was typical for the Malaysian culture. I already had many experiences, where food was the priority and first interaction at Malaysian events. They served rice with chicken and anchovies, which tasted very good. Later on we got some salty crackers and had the chance to taste the famous durian fruit, which did not satisfy our German taste. However, since we wanted to show gratitude and interest in their local culinary delights we tried the fruit anyway. During the first hours of our stay we spent most of our time eating, talking with each other and getting to know the parents and the bridal couple.
The next day we dressed up in our extensively planned wedding outfits. Since the family is not that strict about their religious values I was allowed to wear a dress, which does not cover the shoulders, but was long enough to cover the knees. As a sign of respect I chose a scarf, which I put on while there were many guests, to cover my shoulders. I was very surprised and overwhelmed of the three wedding dresses the beautiful bride chose for only this one day. The first dress looked like a dress of a princess, the second dress was a traditional Malaysian wedding dress and the third dress showed another Malaysian wedding outfit.
The bride looked stunning beside her groom, who always wore a perfectly matching suit to the bridal dress. The basic idea is that the bride and the groom feel like a queen and a king for one day. The wedding couple stayed in their beautifully decorated wedding court located in the house for the whole day. It was a festively decorated place, which included a bench in the centre of a little platform, where the bridal couple was sitting. This court constituted the perfect surrounding for taking pictures with the family and all the wedding guests. The interaction between the bride and the groom attracted my attention. While they were taking pictures and received congratulations from guests they acted cautiously with each other. They smiled and laughed at each other, but there was no exchange of touches or kisses. In the evening we had the honour to accompany the bridal couple, while they were taking intimate pictures on the rooftop terrace. Only the photographer and we were present. I was surprised how tender and sensitive they were interacting, but it made me realize how deeply in love with each other they are. I felt honoured that the couple let us be part of their honest feelings. Still, no kisses were exchanged the whole day.
The most important thing for the Malaysian people is food. As already mentioned, food plays a big role at any time of the day and in all situations. The buffet presented delicious food, the most enjoyable food we have had so far during our time in Malaysia. As always rice, vegetables, chicken and beef were the main components of the Malaysian food served. As all the wedding guest were eating with their hands I also wanted to try it. It took me some effort to lead my hand stuffed with rice, chicken and sauce to my mouth. Our Malaysian friends showed us how to lead the food with the thumb easily into the mouth in an aesthetic way. Furthermore, we learned that we always have to take the right hand, because the left hand is seen as being unclean in Malaysia. It gave me a positive feeling to try a new way of eating and leave my old habits behind, which allowed me to fully experience the Malaysian culture. The meal tasted much better when I was eating it with my hands. Furthermore, we were told never to point at someone or something with the index finger. The Malaysians use their right hand thumb to show the direction they want to show you.
All in all, staying at the home of a local family and experiencing a Malaysian-Indian wedding was the most interesting and impressive adventure during my semester abroad. The memory will always stay close to my heart. I learned a lot about the Malaysian cultures, tried new things and had to overcome unpleasant situations. Through this I learned a lot about myself, such as being comfortable with new situations and getting better in articulating myself in English. I overcame my shyness of meeting new people, because the ones I met were all very friendly and open to me.