What Sabahans (and perhaps even Sarawakians) want to tell you.

There have always been a misconception that people have on what is happening in Sabah (and Sarawak). We have appeared more like a mythical creature to some people and that is really interesting to know! Haha! Here are some myth (or rather just interesting thoughts) that people have on Sabahans.

Myth: Sabahans live on trees.

Truth: Well, technically not true. We live in various places too.

We live in bamboo houses.
Some of us live in cement houses too.
We usually like to live by the paddy fields but as kids, we hate taking care of paddy fields because it’s time-consuming and boring. As adults we hate taking care of it too, unless there’s internet around, then that’s ok.
Some of us live on the sea with some pretty rad views. Lucky bastards.
Some of us prefer to go on hipster mode and reject all mainstream things. Normal house? No man, UPSIDE DOWN HOUSE!


Myth: Putting ‘bah’ at the end of every sentence makes you a legit Sabahan!

Truth: WRONG!

‘Bah’ is an art form. It is that one word that makes or breaks a relationship. I’m not even kidding.

Our ancestors have given us this art form as a right of passage and honour. It’s like our medal, the Borneon medal spoken not only in Sabah but in Sarawak and Brunei as well. As an outsider, you can’t just gleefully chuck it into a sentence and announce yourself as one of us, you have to learn it and earn it.

To use the word ‘bah’, not only do you need to adopt an authentic Sabahan rhythm to your speech by being all authentic in your Bahasa Malaysia (think P. Ramlee days where ‘saya’ is spoken as ‘sa-yaaa‘ instead of ‘sa-yer‘ or ‘apa’ is spoken as ‘a-paa‘ instead of ‘a-perr‘), adopt some Sabahan slangs like ‘kamurang’ – all of you, ‘sa’ – saya/me, ‘palui’ – bodoh/stupid etc…

Want to use ‘bah’ like a pro? Watch this video. Adam knows his stuff. And who said only the sumandaks (young ladies) are pretty, the tanak vagus (young men) are handsome too! ;) *points at Adam*


Myth: Sabah looks undeveloped! What do you do for fun then? Do you have malls?

Truth: We have more than just malls and do more than lazing about.

Sabah has more than just malls. I know, I know. Don’t blame yourself, you are not being ignorant. If there is anybody I would blame, it’s the marketing department in the tourism board or our education system for only showing pictures of Orang Utans and Mount. Kinabalu as a way to promote Sabah. No wonder people think that we live in the jungle!

But if you’re wondering, we do have malls!

Of course we would have malls. Like Suria Sabah which is just beside the sea, mind you!

But honestly, there is more to Sabah than just malls! Although we love spending time in malls, our super low incomes and super expensive things forbid us to splurge in malls, so we find other ways to enjoy ourselves in various places such as…

Pretty beautiful resorts

Nexus Karambunai Resort. I love going here during sunsets and just walk about at the beach.
Sipadan Kapalai Dive Resort

Gorgeous beaches

A picture of me with the beautiful sky, taken during sunset on the Karambunai beach.


I just had to include this!
I just had to include this! Visit Sepilok in Sandakan, an orang utan rehabilitation centre.

When we don’t focus our attention to nature, we do other things like…

Chilling in 'tamu' (open market). This one is from my town, Donggongon in the district of Penampang.
Chilling in ‘tamu’ (open market). This one is from my town, Donggongon in the district of Penampang.
Eating sago worms or like, looking in awe at people who eat it (like our grandmas) because us youngsters don’t really eat it. Lol.
Hanging in a Chinese restaurant in Lintas (which I forgot the name) at 1am eating some really yummy kon lo mee because mamak is too mainstream sometimes. Lol.
Catching a play by the Green Leaf Theatre House because their plays are awesome!
Singing our hearts out in Amp Square, Suria Sabah.
Looking at buffalos as we drive past them.
Waiting for the ‘vogok’ (in Kadazan) or pigs to cross the road.
Roadtripping to Kundasang with friends. Do you see Mt. Kinabalu?
Petting cute puppies in Sunday’s Gaya Street Fair.
Surprising each other for the fun of it.

And many more really! See, we’re just like you :)


Non-Sabahans should never get the blame of being ignorant of course! Sometimes, us Sabahans can be pretty ignorant too!

1. Everything is KL for us.

It doesn’t matter which part of Klang Valley do you live in, we’ll dub that KL either way. Hence, we’ll say “I live in KL” instead and not “I live in Subang Jaya” or Puchong or Cheras or Semenyih. I know, I know. Boo! Lol.

2. We call Peninsular Malaysians or the slang there as everything ‘Semenanjung’

“Oh no wonder, he is a Semenanjung.”

“Can you speak Semenanjung Malay?”

No matter what part of Peninsular Malaysia you are from, you are seen as Semenanjung people to us, which is politically correct I suppose. I’m not sure if anyone is insulted by this though, I’ve never really asked. I do find it weird when someone go all, “You ‘Easterners’ look different from us”. Uhm… Thank you?

3. Talking about Singapore

When I came to study in Klang Valley (won’t say where of course), I realized that people like to compare themselves to Singaporeans, or uncompare themselves.

“Aiya, don’t be so kiasu la. You’re not Singaporean!”

“Singaporeans and Malaysians, never go eye to eye.”

“Malaysians lah, if they become like us Singaporeans, surely go up one.”

Maybe this is a Semenanjung thing? Lol, I don’t know. It’s just like the battle between which is the best country; America or Canada who always like to compete with one another. Hilarious.

4. Forgetting that we are ‘exotic’

I get annoyed easily when another Malaysian ask me what is Kadazan when I tell them my ethnicity or why I don’t look Malaysian enough, and then remark, “Oh no wonder, you’re a Sabahan. All of you look different there! So exotic!” Or ask me whether I am Indonesian because I sound like one (no hate for all the Indonesians out there of course! People confuse us all the time!).

Then it dawn on me, it’s not that they are ignorant, they just rarely see us Borneons. It took some time adjusting to the stares as we eat in Chinese restaurants because we don’t look Chinese enough or when we eat in public during fasting month because we look more Malay.

It still is weird, but I’m slowly getting used to it!

5. We get surprised when you don’t know your roads

As a person living in Klang Valley all your life, have you ever gotten the whole, “You don’t know the road in KL? But you’ve lived here your whole life!” to which you will calmly reply, “No, I don’t. I live in Damansara! KL is a whole different ball game!”

We’re sorry about this. KK for us is small, too small, so we find our way easily. So understand our surprise when you use a GPS in your own city, to which we now know that it is not your city because you live in Damansara and know nothing about the roads in KL.

I’ve been living in Klang Valley (not in the city centre) for more than 3 years and still I don’t know my way around KL, only because I don’t go there often. Traffic jams! Eeeek!!

6. Thinking that Peninsular Malaysia is a big scary place filled with racists people

Well…. I won’t say that that is entirely wrong, because they are a lot of radical spiritualists, radical [insert religion here] and radical racists here as well as in East Malaysia, I’m sure. But I was instilled with the thought that I can never fit in over here because of the racial stereotype and segregation. However, I’m pretty glad I fit in just find with my own group of people who don’t fit in just right.

You know what they say, if you can’t find a group to fit in, create one! My friends are neither just Malay, Chinese or Indian but a very mixed one!


Author: Jasmine

Jasmine is from tropical Borneo. She loves traveling, fashion and all things lifestyle.

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