Quirks in Food and People: "Nak suam?"

After ordering my food at a neighbourhood Italian restaurant, I sat back and started reading the newspaper I just bought at the 7-Eleven shop opposite the restaurant. A bunch of office workers were talking at the table next to me, and I just happened to overhear their conversation with the Western-looking waiter as they were ordering their lunch.

All went fine and dandy until one lady said, “I’ll have the ice lemon tea, nak suam”.

“Nak suam?”, asked the confused waiter, and the three ladies burst out laughing.

“Sorry, I mean with no ice”, replied the lady who unconsciously mixed a bit of Malay into her English sentence.

No wonder the waiter was confused. He probably wasn’t well versed in the local language (if at all) and probably thought he heard wrongly when she said, “nak suam”. As a country made up of a lot of cultures, and hence a long list of languages that come with it, it sure is strange how Malaysians have adapted over the years by mixing the languages to, perhaps, find a common ground of communication with the other settlers who now call this land their home.

Hope you enjoyed the read.

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