The immigrant story is one that resounds all over the world, no matter which corner of the globe you’re from.
From the traumatic mass migration of war victims in Europe to the more peaceful movement of individuals across borders via job offers, the world is now smaller than ever and no country is without its fair share of immigrants.
That is the case with Malaysia as well. A nation built on the shoulders of natives and immigrants together.
76-year-old Janaki was born in Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia in 1932. A Chinese adopted by an Indian family (a phenomenon quite common in the olden days), she grew up in a palm oil plantation as a Malaysian Indian and attended one of the local schools in the estate.
She was married to an Indian trader from Thanjavur by the time she turned 17 and moved to India with her husband and three children when she was 21.
“He was the only child so he decided that he wanted to be with his parents. I had some distant relatives there as well so the move wasn’t that bad,” says Janaki, who left for India via Port Klang. It was only 26 years later that she returned to her home country, but as a foreigner.
In the course of one year, she had exchanged her Malaysian passport to an Indian one. “When my son got a job in Malaysia after his studies, I knew I needed to move back here. Right now, some of my children still live in Malaysia but I’m happy to be back because I know in my heart I’ll always be a Malaysian,” she said.
Another Malaysian at heart is 26-year-old Kayven Dave who hails from the Philippines. Moving here with his mother when he was only eight years old, he grew up in Penang and attended St Xavier’s Institution.
“When I first moved here, I immediately fell in love with the certain naiveté and generosity that Malaysians had. I’ve made some amazing friends in Penang that I would never trade for anything in the world,” Kayven declares.
An aspiring singer-songwriter and YouTuber, Kayven is grateful to have spent his adolescence in Malaysia and continues to live here.
“In the Philippines, it’s not easy to break into the entertainment industry due to the tremendous amount of competition. Here I stand a chance because Malaysians in general love Filipinos and our novelas, and my ability to speak Malay alongside Tagalog gives me that edge and marketability,” he said.
Also riding on the good relations between Malaysia and other countries is Naho Miyamoto from Japan.
Naho first came to work in Malaysia in 2008 for two years and fell in love with the country so much she searched for another job that allowed her to return in 2012, bringing the total number of years she’s spent here to almost eight.
“I love so many things about Malaysia. The friendliness of the people, the constant availability of food, and the proximity to beautiful beaches.
“I love to travel and Malaysia is the perfect place to be,” said Naho, who is currently working in IT after previously spending time in the F&B industry.
Although Malaysia had a bloody past with Japan, Naho is appreciative of how Malaysians have put it behind them.
“Most of my friends here have parents or relatives who were around during the Japanese occupation. But nobody brings it up around me or even talks about it in general. I’m glad that Malaysians are always excited to have a Japanese in their midst,” she said.
This article first appeared in uppre.com