What Do You Call Yourself If You Are Born And Raised In Kuala Lumpur?

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Let’s face the truth, compared to other states, Malaysians who hail from Kuala Lumpur are arguably the least patriotic people in the country.

Now reading this sentence, some of you who hail from Kuala Lumpur (KL) are probably up in arms now, ready to proclaim your pride towards your city.

If you won’t take my word for it, take the word of the Federal Territories Minister, Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor.

It got to the point last year where Tengku Adnan even called for the Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) to distribute less flags for the people in the city during the run-up to Merdeka celebrations, saying that rather than being hoisted proudly, the flags are more likely to end up in the trash.

“The city folks are seen as unappreciative of the gift from DBKL. Better to reduce the number given out free rather than to waste them,” he states.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not trying to bring down KL-ites, or unfairly compare them to other states, I am just merely stating an observation.

This observation stemmed from what I’ve seen throughout my whole life. In university, I’ve seen so many of my fellow peers from KL who adopted the identities of their family’s hometown, rather than being proud that they are from KL.

As a KL born and bred myself, this brings a tinge of disappointment and sadness to me. Why do these people identify themselves as someone from other states, when they are KL born and raised?

Some of you reading this might think that I’m making a mountain out of a molehill, but let’s put this in perspective. As of 2016, it is estimated that Kuala Lumpur is home of 1.73 million people in only 243 km2 of land, which makes it one of the densest places in Malaysia. Then why is a place filled with so many people, is one of the less, if not the least patriotic states in Malaysia?

Which is why in conjunction with the Federal Territories Day, I went looking for answers.

So I went around and asked some people I know regarding this issue. Unsurprisingly, out of more than 20 people I asked, agreed with my observations. Some of them admitted that they preferred to be identified as someone from other states rather than KL.

In my quest to understand this mindset, I asked several KL-ites to reflect on this perception and get deeper insight on this point by asking them to share their thoughts on the matter.

“When I Was A Child, The Kids Used To Laugh At Me For Having To Spend My Raya In KL”

Syafiq Samad, a school teacher from Setiawangsa, admitted to me that he is one of those who used to identify himself as being from other states rather than KL.

“During my studying days, I used to tell people that I was from Johor,” he admitted.

But the truth is, Syafiq is a KL-ite through and through. He lived in Setiawangsa almost his whole life, and his parents are from Datuk Keramat.

When asked why he did this, he said that it’s because it’s more of something he did to fit in.

“I just did it to fit in, to seem cooler. It just seemed cooler than being from KL,” he said.
And the reason he thinks that it’s cooler is the years and years of teasing he got when he said that his hometown, or his “village”, is KL.

“When I was a child, the kids used to laugh at me for having to spend my Raya in KL. While everyone was having fun in the countryside, visiting relatives and what not, my Raya is filled with empty shopping malls, and endless reruns on the TV,” Syafiq confessed.

But now that he’s older, surely that has changed right?

Not according to Syafiq.

“One of the things I appreciate the most about being married is that my wife actually has a real village in Kluang, Johor. I look forward to celebrating Raya with her family more than mine actually, and finally having a real hometown,” said Syafiq.

But Syafiq also said that this doesn’t mean that he is ashamed of being from KL, but more of a lack of things to be proud of.

“There’s just not much to be proud of, you know? KL is a collection of tall buildings, and nothing more,” said Syafiq.

After speaking with Syafiq, I reached out to radio personality Tyler Lim, or more popularly known as TylerBoy, a radio DJ from the IM4U radio station to share his thoughts as well.

Radio DJ Explains What It Means To Be KL Born And Bred

Tyler tells Malaysian Digest that he sees himself as someone from KL through and through.

“Other than the first three years of my life where I lived with my grandparents, the rest of my life was spent in KL. That makes it 24 years as a KL-ite. Me and my siblings are the first generation of KL-ites in our family though, as my dad is from Selangor and my Mum is from Perak,” Tyler recalled.

Tyler Lim/TylerBoyTyler Lim/TylerBoyWhen asked regarding the dwindling sense of patriotism and belonging among KL-ites, Tyler said that he does agree, although he feels differently.

“For me myself, I feel very proud to be born and raised in KL. But I do agree that most people are not really that proud of the same thing though,” said Tyler.

But all the same, Tyler also said that he understands those who feel this way.

“KL is more of a melting pot of cultures, where every other culture and norms can be found here, but it lacks its own distinct personality.

“For example, Penangites are usually proud of their culture and heritage, especially their food. Penang is known for being one of the best food destinations in Malaysia, with their cuisine like Penang Laksa, Nasi Kandar, and the rest.

“But KL does not have anything like that. Sure, KL have their own versions of these cuisine, but it can’t beat the original, surely,” Tyler explained and proceeds to elaborate why he is still proud of being from KL and wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I feel that growing up in the melting pot that is KL, it helps people to be more open minded and progressive. Growing up in KL certainly exposed me to the world more. I grew up surrounded by all sorts of people, and I don’t feel segregated by religion, races or anything that might separate us as Malaysians,” Tyler gratefully shared.

Finally, Tyler also offered his thoughts on what can perhaps be done to instil some sense of belonging.

“I think that what we all should do is for us to be more humble and appreciative of what we have. I guess another reason to why KL-ites are not very patriotic is because we also do not appreciate what we have.

“Once we realize that we are lucky to be born near the big city, we would automatically appreciate KL more, and be more patriotic towards it. After all, not everyone is lucky enough to have the kind of opportunity that we have,” Tyler added.

After getting Tyler’s two cents, I decided to reach out to another prominent personality from KL, Naim Ramli, a celebrity chef and a TV host for multiple cooking shows.

Celebrity Chef Laments The Lack Of A ‘KL Cuisine’

Much like Tyler, he is also a KL-ite through and through. But unlike Tyler, his whole family is from KL.

“My dad is from KL, my mom too, I was born in Hospital Kuala Lumpur, and I’ve lived my whole life in KL. Even my grandparents live in Ampang, which is part of Greater KL.

“So it’s safe to say that I am a KL-ite through and through.

Like Tyler, he also agrees that those born and raised in the city-state lack a sense of identity.

Chef NaemChef Naem
“Yes, I agree that KL-ites are not as patriotic towards their own state as other people from other states. I’m not sure, but I think this has something to do with the fact that most KL-ites are never really exposed to the sense of pride of being from KL.

“We were never taught that we are from KL, and we should be proud of being from KL. Unlike other states, we are not exposed to that kind of thinking,” Naim observed and offered up a surprising new perspective on this matter.

“I think that one of the reasons why KL-ites are not as proud of their state as others are is the fact that there are really not much for them to be proud of.

“For example in football, no one is really that proud of the KL football team, unlike other states. And you can see that with the rise of teams such as the Kelantan Red Warriors and the Johor Darul Ta’zim FC, that the sense of patriotism from these states star t to ramp up,” Naim opined.

Other than that, Naim feels there is a sense of disconnect between the city from the other parts of KL.

“I feel that another reason why the people of KL are not really patriotic of KL is merely due to them not feeling like they are from KL.

“Most of us associate KL with the city centre, and everyone who is not from right in the city centre will not think of themselves as being from KL. But they relate more to people who live in surrounding states, such as Selangor,” Naim offered his observation.

Speaking on his area of expertise, Naim also agreed that there is a lack of individual cuisine distinct to KL.

“Even when speaking strictly about food, there is no KL cuisine. There is Melaka cuisine, Kelantanese cuisine, Perak cuisine, but there is no KL cuisine. I think this shows the lack of culture in KL,” Naim lamented.

When asked what can be done to help instill a sense of patriotism, Naim thinks that a mixture of two things might do the magic.

“First, I think that we need to perhaps focus on our sports. Maybe some success in our football teams will help more KL-ites to be inclined to be patriotic towards KL, and maybe even get that sense of belonging upon them.

“Secondly, I think that education plays a role too. We are always taught that KL is the economic hub and the capital of the country, but we are never given any real reason to be proud of KL,” Naim concludes.

At this point, I realized that almost all the people I asked regarding this issue are from the younger generation. So how do the older generation think?

I headed to the one remaining area of Kuala Lumpur that can attest to several generations of KL-ites reaching back to the pre-Merdeka era.

The Younger Generation Take KL For Granted

Kampung Baru archwayKampung Baru archway

Ghani Mahat, a restaurant proprietor took a moment to share with our readers about growing up in Kampung Baru in the heart of Kuala Lumpur.

From what Ghani told me, he has been living in KL his whole life, and so did his parents. In fact, the restaurant that Ghani runs is passed down to him from his father.

“From what I can see, residents, especially those living here in Kg Baru are as patriotic as anyone from any other states.

“We here in Kg Baru get excited whenever the Independence month rolls around, and my neighbours and I always try to outdo each other with the decorations,” Ghani recalled.

Ghani also shared that perhaps the reason that some KL-ites are less patriotic is due to the lack of a sense of belonging to a larger community in their place of residence.

“We still act as a community, and we try to help each other when there is trouble. Some places might feel a little bit detached as everyone is only looking out for themselves, but not here.

“We still have a working community, where almost every one of us looks out for each other,” Ghani shared about life in Kg Baru.

Ghani also said that he thinks that the lack of patriotism is generally attributed to the younger generation.

“They just don’t understand, and don’t appreciate the beauty of KL. Back in the 1990’s or the 1980’s, KL was the place to be. And it still is now.

“Almost everyone wanted to move to KL, seeing it as the place of dreams and hope. That is why there are a lot of songs made about KL, or the city centre.

Ghani concluded by stressing the importance of inculcating a sense of history, “but the younger generation lost sight of all that,” he advised.

“Just because they were born here, and known this place their whole life, they fail to appreciate the true beauty of KL.”

Perhaps in Ghani’s heartfelt reflection lies part of the answer.

Could it be that KL-ites do not feel the sense of belonging towards KL as the urban diaspora has led to a loss of the sense of community?

The Answer Lies In The History Of KL, Says Prof Emeritus Tan Sri Dr Khoo Kay Kim

I also reached out to prominent historian Prof Emeritus Tan Sri Dr Khoo Kay Kim to provide some historical context.

After all, KL is the first federal territory in Malaysia, and it was only established in 1974, a solid 17 years after independence.

And according to Prof Khoo, the history of KL does play a significant factor.

Prof Emeritus Tan Sri Dr Khoo Kay KimProf Emeritus Tan Sri Dr Khoo Kay Kim

“In the first place, KL was not even a state. It was a town in the state of Selangor. KL was not even the capital of the state at that time.

“Back then, the capital of the state was where the ruler lived. In the case of Selangor, this was actually Kuala Selangor before the residence was moved to Klang,” he went on to point out that in the early years of Malaya, Selangor was not even the most rapid developing state.

“British intervention in Selangor occurred one year after the Pangkor Treaty (1874). Perak developed faster than Selangor. Taiping was the earlier town to emerge and then beginning from the 1880s, Ipoh.

“In 1895 the British federated Perak, Selangor, Negeri Sembilan and Pahang and chose K.L. as the capital although Taiping and Ipoh had progressed more rapidly. It was chosen because it was centrally located between Penang and Singapore the two most important ports in Malaya,” he explained.

From there, the British authority back then showered all their resources on KL, and the rest is history as we know it.

What about KL-ites lack of patriotism, and their struggle to find a sense of identity and belonging in KL? Prof Khoo added further insight.

“Like other Malayan towns, within the town itself each community tended to focus on a particular area. In KL, the Chinese occupied the town centre gradually taking over from Mandailing and Kerinchi. Eventually Kampong Rawa and Kampong Jawa were also lost to the Chinese and the Indians. The Indians came to trade and also to work in the railways. To bring the Malays back to KL. the British founded Kampong Baru in 1900 originally known as The Malay Agricultural Settlement,” he briefly detailed KL’s rich historical past.

This caused the people of KL to be splintered, and rather than being proud of the entire city, they sought their sense of identity in a part of KL.

“It is not that residents of KL do not think of KL. They tend to focus on particular areas in KL like, Kampong Baru, Brickfields, Sentul,Ulu Klang. Damansara, Chow Kit Road, etc.

“After KL had been made the federal capital it became increasingly progressive and many people more used to smaller towns refused to stay in KL. because it was more expensive to live there,” he concluded.

Due to the high cost of living in the city, more and more people who were born KL-ites started to move away from the city while people from other states migrated into the city, who had better education and was well off. These people brought with them their own sense of identity from other states, which they will pass down the generations.

So perhaps on this Federal Territories day, let’s renew our appreciation towards the great city of KL, and count our blessings to be one of those people lucky enough to be born in the bountiful and beautiful capital of Malaysia.