Growing up in Malaysia: 5 Memories that will Evoke Nostalgia in Every Malaysian

Malaysia scenery
Written by: Cindy Banun

Although we all have different childhood experiences, we can all attest to the fond memories that we had while growing up in Malaysia. Malaysia is, as we all know, a multi-cultural country where all races live peacefully. Throughout our childhood, we had the opportunity to make friends from different races and ethnicity, and from there, we learned a bit about each other’s languages and slang. Mingling with others is made easier as almost everyone is at least bilingual or multi-lingual. That’s because we were required to learn both English and Malay language in school.

Personally, I think that growing up amongst friends gives me the edge that allows me to be more accepting of others’ cultures, opinions, and mindsets. Back then, the internet is still a relatively unknown concept, and we mainly relied on face-to-face interaction to communicate. Sometimes, I even remember hogging the house phone and chatting with my friends for hours on end.


I wonder, have you ever experienced this in your childhood?


The NILAM Project

Children reading

Let’s take a short trip down memory lane. It was the early 2000s, and back then I was still in primary school. Back then, things seem much simpler than it is today. I often look forward to recess, where I would go to the library to borrow books to read. After that, I’ll fill out the pages of NILAM book that I would always bring along in my backpack. This book is actually part of a reading program introduced in schools back then. The NILAM program stands for (Nadi Ilmu Amalan Membaca), which roughly translates to: ‘Reading Habit is the Pulse of Knowledge’.

Prizes were awarded to those who read the most number of books every year. However, I never managed to come close to being in the running for the award. However, I think of the NILAM project fondly today, as it has managed to foster a good reading habit for younger me.


Toy Capsule Vending Machine

Toys from vending machine

Those bright yellow machines and their enticing prize were always the focal point of my visit to the nearest mom-and-pop stores. These machines can not only be found in local sundry shops, but also in small bookstores or stationery stores, kopitiam, and so on.

I remember hogging all the 20-cent and 50-cent coins, with the parliament building motif on the other side. With my pockets heavy with coins, I would try my luck with the toy capsule vending machine, hoping to get the prize listed on the front of the machine. However, my hopes would almost certainly be dashed whenever I get a cheap plastic ring or a rubber lizard inside the plastic capsule.

My visit to these stores would not be complete without twisting the knob of the vending machine and bringing home at least one capsule. I would then excitedly open and play with the toy during the car ride back home.


Mom-and-Pop Sundry Shops

Sundry store

Speaking of which, does anyone still remember those old-fashioned sundry shops? These stores were the norm before the days of convenience stores such as 7-Eleven, KK Mart, MyNews, 99Speedmart, and so on. These sundry shops stock almost everything that you’ll need in your daily life, including all the dry ingredients and spices that you’ll need to prepare a delicious dish of curry chicken for the whole family to enjoy. You can also find a section for personal hygiene goods, brooms, and laundry detergents at the back of the shop.

I would immediately experience the myriad of scents whenever I would step foot into these stores. Smells of dried anchovy, herbs, and hard-to-place fragrances are prevalent in these quaint stores. If these stores were anywhere close to your neighborhood, there is a pretty high chance that the friendly owner over the counter is also one of your neighbours. The owners will also help deliver the goods over to your house if you’ve bought anything too heavy for you to carry. This helped my family a lot since we don’t own a car back then. Depending on how well your family get along with the owners, you may even get some free snacks too!

Some nostalgia-evoking snacks such as Mamee Monster snack, Choki Choki chocolate sticks, White Rabbit Milk Candy,  etc. can still be found in stores today. For me, the one snack that I really loved (and still do), is the Iced Gem Biscuits. They’re really delicious and addicting. You can still buy them in certain stores to share the memories with your family.

You can even go a step further and make them yourself! Here’s a recipe that I’ve found, that you can make with your spouse or children.


Monthly Children Magazine Orders

Back then, when I was still enrolled in primary school, I would beg my father for money to buy monthly children’s magazines. There are different publications, most of which I don’t even remember anymore, except for one that is focused on science. This magazine occasionally comes with small toys that I loved playing with. The magazine follows a comic book format, with some articles and quizzes as well!

Besides, I would also spend my pocket money buying books from the Scholastic Book Order Form. I would always read the synopsis of the books listed on the form carefully, and decide what books I wanted. At the same time, I need to check the prices of the books as well, and priortise the books that I really wanted. I would then borrow the rest of the books from my classmates to read. This allowed me to read all the books that I wanted, despite not having enough money to buy them all.


Cartoons on the Local TV Channels

Cartoon on local channels

Before ASTRO, a paid satellite television channel became prevalent across all Malaysian households, my family used to only watch the local television channels. These channels provide news, drama shows, and telenovelas, and so on. I and my siblings would mainly watch TV for the cartoons, which were our first exposure to anime (Japanese cartoons). These shows were usually dubbed into the Malay language with subtitles. Looking back, I have realised how these cartoons helped us in learning Malay, while also building our vocabulary with the English subtitles.


Now, the times have changed. I wonder, how different will our children’s childhood be, compared to our own experiences? Let us introduce and teach our future children about the joys that we have experienced in our lives. Not only will it be a great bonding moment, it’ll also be a great way to pass down our heritage and culture.


We at TYT Malaysia work hard every day to educate our customers about traditional Chinese medicine, confinement products, and the must-have multipurpose Herbal Medicated Oil. Your support will help wonders in helping us keep the knowledge and tradition alive. Thank you for the decades of support and we hope that you will continue supporting us for generations to come.