The Federation of Malaysia is a parliamentary democracy and is made up of:
- The Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur
- The Federal Territory of Labuan
- The eleven states of West Malaysia (total 130.000 km2)
- The two states of East Malaysia on Borneo (Sabah and Sarawak) (total 200.000 km2).
West and East Malaysia are separated 640 km apart by the South China Sea. Miri is the oil town of Sarawak in East Malaysia
Population: 29.24 million in total, Miri has 300.000 residents.
Capital: Kuala Lumpur
Official Language: Bahasa Malaysia (Also spoken in Brunei and Indonesia).
English is widely spoken.
Currency: Malaysian Dollar or Malaysian Ringgit (RM) divided into 100 sens (sen).
Average temperatures are 32 Co by day and 22 Co by night. Annual rainfall is about 380 cm2. Months May to August may be relatively dry and the months December to February may be especially wet. Average humidity is at least 75%.
There is usually a pleasant onshore breeze along the coast during the afternoon. Be prepared for thunderstorms that can be frequent and heavy. Due to the tropical climate, there are many mosquitoes and sand flies.
Shell expatriates including staff under direct hire contracts live in Miri. The community is made up of a broad range of nationalities..
Miri is the oil town of Sarawak in East Malaysia. Sarawak is known as the “Land of the Hornbill” and the hornbill bird is the state emblem. Its capital is Kuching, located 1000 km south of Miri. Sabah and Sarawak were British colonies from 1946 until they joined the Federation of Malaysia at its formation in 1963. Miri achieved city status in May 2005.
The official language in Sarawak is Bahasa Malaysia (“Bahasa” means “language”). It is a standardised form of the Malay language. There are 10 dialects of Malay used throughout Malaysia. The native tribes speak their own language. English is also widely spoken. It is an active second language in many areas of Malay society.The middle-aged staffs in government offices speak good English; the younger generation is likely to be more fluent in Bahasa. Several Chinese dialects are also spoken in the shops. It is not necessary to learn the local language but it would be useful when going to the markets or when travelling inland (i.e. when visiting a long house). Courses in Bahasa Malaysia are available and are reimbursed by SSB in certain cases i.e. if learning the language is to increase job opportunities.
Islam is the official religion but many other religions are practised in Sarawak as well, e.g. Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism. As in Miri, the population consists of Iban, Chinese, Malay, Indian and other indegenous groups. The different races and religions live in harmony with each other and the main festivals of all the faiths are celebrated in Sarawak.
It is difficult to give general guidelines about courtesy that will apply to all the ethnically diverse groups of the Malaysian population. You will find a few basic rules in the “Miri Information Guide” and a more extensive list of do’s and don’ts in the books “Culture Shock Borneo” and “Malay Etiquette” that are found in the Outpost Miri office.
In general, local people live on very low wages. It is not advisable, therefore, to show off too much jewellery, expensive handbags, etc.
Malaysia is a very tolerant society and Malay people will forgive a foreigner their social mistakes, but they will also appreciate it if you try to follow some basic guidelines. Islam is the official religion so basic Muslim etiquette is in place, e.g. do not serve pork or alcohol when inviting Muslims for dinner. Take your shoes off at the entrance to a house.
Most religions represented in Miri have their own places of worship: Buddhist, Anglican, Baptist, Catholic and Evangelical, Methodist, Reformed, Hindu, Mosques and a Sikh temple.