Malaysia’s multicultural make-up is hardly a concern for expatriate children, say the teachers of a kindergarten here in Mont Kiara attended by a good number of expatriate families.
On the contrary, the families seem to welcome it.
“Malaysian children cannot tell the difference between races,” said Teresita Lopez, a teacher at the Babies and Casa Montessori kindergarten in Plaza Mont Kiara, who hails from Cebu, Philippines.
Lopez noted that not counting Malaysians, most of the children at the centre came from countries like Japan, Korea, Brazil, China and from around Europe.
“They have no problems adjusting. They’ll be speaking Korean, or Japanese to each other — different languages — but they’ll understand each other nonetheless.
“They use hand gestures, anything that will get the message across,” she said in an interview with FMT of her young charges, who are aged from three to six.
“Even though they may be of different colours, they don’t care.”
Another teacher at the centre, Jane Christiana, an Indonesian expatriate from Bandung, said the children also had the opportunity to understand and celebrate cultural differences seen during the various Malaysian festivals.
“Every year, we celebrate Deepavali, Chinese New Year and Hari Raya.
“The expatriate families come together and we explain to them and their children the significance of these festivals,” the 25-year-old kindergarten teacher said.
As for the teachers themselves, they have had no trouble assimilating with Malaysian culture over the past few years.
Lopez, who started teaching here in Malaysia in 2014, said there were not many adjustments to make since the Filipino and Malaysian cultures are so similar.
“It’s not just the language, it’s also the general sense of hospitality.”
One of the parents, a Lithuanian expatriate, noted that being an expatriate here did not necessarily mean that you had to be European or be Caucasian.
Victoria Gunasinghe, 33, said her husband, a Sri Lankan expatriate, would occasionally run into misunderstandings with locals, who would think that he was a driver or servant.
“It’s quite frustrating sometimes. But it’s also quite funny.
“We also sometimes take taxis, and the driver could be an Indian man, who’ll start talking to us about the different races. But it’s not particularly bad for us; we’re used to it.
“Other than that, it’s great. Four years here. It’s a lovely country.”