Due to the evolving global environments that we are in, culture is constantly changing. In this day and age, culture is the identity of society and is one of the reasons that maintain harmony within the community. Culture has a strong influence on the values and lifestyles of individuals. It constructs changes, and therefore, their consumption patterns. Everyone has a different cultural identity and every one of them is unique in their way. Culture is what builds up a person to who they are today and what they believe in. There are differences in culture such as the western and the eastern culture hence the culture they adapt to also proves the diversity in the world we live in. Cultural identity is divided into different categories such as ethnicity, beliefs, status, and many different more. These categories are how I acknowledge my cultural identity and shaped who I am today. Malaysia is one of the countries that consists of a multicultural population. Malay, Chinese and Indian are the largest racial groups that exist in Malaysia. With living in a multicultural country where many different types of ethnicity exist allows me to experience and have a look into different cultures people have adopted in their lives.
I was born in Melaka but my family lives in Segamat, a small district in Johor. I am 100% Chinese. My father is Hokkien and my mother is Hainanese. Both of my great-grandparents came from China specifically Anqi, China, and Wenchang, China. Growing up, the most memorable memory I always have is during the Chinese New Year. As a tradition, every year the seniors will give out red packets to the younger generations as a blessing and in return, the younger generation will shower the seniors with words of blessings like wishing them good health and prosperity. This has been a tradition not only in my family but I believe most Chinese families adapt to this tradition as it has been passed down from generation to generation. Before the festival, my mother and aunt will bake new year cookies and give them out to my other family members. They would bake pineapple cookies, peanut cookies, and many more traditional Chinese New Year cookies, and every year before Chinese New Year, the kitchen will smell like a cookie factory. Our family will also do spring cleaning before the festival to clean out the bad energy or luck as some may say. We also use the opportunity to decorate the whole house with red packets of lanterns and fish as well as pasting the red ‘?’ sticker which means good fortune in front of our door. Chinese New Year is one of the most meaningful festivals in our family as it reminds us to always gather together as a family and that nothing is more important than your own family.
In addition, another one of the most important events while being a Hokkien is that our second first day of Chinese New Year falls on the 9th day of Chinese New Year, it is a special celebration specifically to Hokkien people known as “Pai Thien Kong'' which means praying to Heaven God. According to Wong (2021), Hokkien people believe that it is the birthday of the Jade Emperor (Thien Kong) who protected the Hokkien people in China. During the massacre, Hokkien people will hide in a sugarcane plantation from the 8th until the 9th day of the Lunar New Year which also occurred to be Thien Kong’s birthday. This is the reason why many Hokkien people will prepare traditional food like red tortoise buns (Ang Koo), prosperity cakes (Huat Kueh) and pink miniature pagodas to put on a table for the Jade Emperor and they will also burn tons of offerings in front of their house as a thanksgiving prayer for him. When I was young I always prepared all this stuff with my grandmother, we would be out the whole day to gather all the stuff needed for the ceremony and my grandmother would buy stacks of joss paper and we would fold it one by one to be burned in a bonfire on that night as well. The prayers will start at 11 pm and at 12 am many people will start to light up fireworks and firecrackers. It was always an exciting experience to do that every Chinese New Year and be able to do it with my grandmother.
My family is somewhat traditional in Chinese culture and they raised me with strict rules and principles while I was growing up. One of the most important principles that they could not emphasize enough is for us to be respectful. Being Chinese we are always reminded that we need to respect others to be respected. Compared to western culture who called their seniors with first names, growing up we always address the seniors around us with respectful names like Aunty Lian or Uncle Muthu. We also called out all the seniors’ names at the dinner table before we started eating. I am grateful that my parents did teach me how to be respectful to others growing up as it will make our lives easier in the future. Another principle that my parents always remind me and my sister to live by is to treat others the way you want to be treated. Throughout my 20 years of living and what I have experienced and watching others experience. I strongly believe that Karma is real, whatever you do to people, it will come back to you one day. If you help people whenever they are in need, one day when it's your time to seek help, there will always be someone willing to help you because you helped them before. When you do bad things to people, one day it will happen the same thing to you or even the people around you.
As Chinese myself, we tend to take care of our image and status in the public. The Chinese place great significance in interpersonal relationships and social interaction. Although Chinese cultural values have undergone rapid due to factors such as economic advancement and social changes, the values and system of overseas Chinese mostly have not changed (Yau, 1998). Throughout the years of Chinese culture, they highly value the concept of ‘face’ when it comes to communicating with others. As stated in Jung and Kau (2004), they mentioned that the Chinese tend to place high importance on the protection of ‘face’ as it will reflect one’s family's cultural values and how their parents teach them as in the way they behave and their manners towards others. Many Chinese parents always tell their children to only buy stuff that they need as Chinese people prioritize saving money for future use. Lin (2013) proves that Chinese consumers are more likely to make purchases that give them a good reputation in public, but they tend to be more retrenched in private, regardless of income level. They are willing to spend more in public as they don’t want to be viewed as stingy or poor, which will affect their reputation. Furthermore, Chinese consumers’ preferences and choices are affected by their desire to gain a much better image. Lin (2013) also suggests that Chinese consumers make purchasing decisions by considering both gaining reputation and gaining actual use from the product. For my family, we usually just get stuff that we need like daily necessities or food for our home. Sometimes we will also buy some miscellaneous stuff for entertainment purposes. When it comes to loyalty to a brand we will keep buying from the same brand until either they are no longer restocked or we get tired of it like skincare products. According to Mokhlis (2009), Chinese with high ethnic attitudes are less likely to enjoy shopping and to experience confusion caused by choice compared to Chinese consumers with low ethnic attitudes. Based on the people around me, I found out that most Chinese will be loyal to a brand when they actually like the quality and function of the brand. They would not mind the price and will buy it because they actually enjoy the product and the product did bring benefit to them. They will also be alert when the brand comes out with new products and will not hesitate to try them.
In conclusion, culture is important in reminding a person to stay true and connected to their roots and it also gives one a sense of belonging. As the year goes on, culture will keep on being modernized but there are still parts of a culture and tradition that will not be forgotten. With culture, society is able to blend together well, live together in peace and learn from each other’s culture so that everyone will have different perspectives and be understanding while looking into different situations or matters.