EACH of us has our own religious faiths and practices, but in today's world, a better understanding of the cultural differences can promote more tolerance and also give us an edge in our career.
A case in point is the story of a Malay woman who works as a public relations (PR) officer in a shopping mall.
I was at a press conference when I noticed the Malay PR speaking fluently in Mandarin to some of the Chinese reporters.
Later, one of the Chinese reporters told me that her (public relations officer's) Mandarin was better than mine.
I am okay with that as I am also a "banana anglophile" (a slang for Chinese who do not know the language and more prone to Western thinking).
At press conferences, I also notice that Chinese reporters will usually gather in one corner while Malay reporters will be in another corner.
No doubt we all get along fine, but the tendency to stick together in respective ethnic groups still exists be it at media briefings, universities and even open houses.
However, it is common to see non-Muslims, especially the women wearing baju kurung. Why not? The baju kurung is such a lovely traditional attire. It makes one look refined and graceful. So does the cheongsam, but the cut of the traditional Chinese attire does not flatter those who have a bulging tummy. No offence intended, it is just my personal take on the cheongsam.
Speaking of open houses, there have been a constant string of invites since the beginning of Syawal and I am always thankful for such gatherings as one can really feel the muhibah spirit.
Only in Malaysia, I think, does one feel such unity in spite of living in a multi-racial community.
I was at a 1Malaysia Carnival recently, jointly organised by the Johor Baru Tiong Hua Association and 18 non-governmental organisations in the Pasir Gudang constituency when Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin, who launched the event, asked in his speech to the crowd what Merdeka meant to them.
The event was organised in conjunction with the nation's 55th birthday and the Chinese association's 90th anniversary.
While some may beam with pride, especially the older generation as they reflect on the meaning of Merdeka, the younger generation, I am sad to say, may just regard it as just another public holiday.
Therefore, it is important for parents and school teachers to instil a spirit of patriotism in the young so that they will know the true meaning of the National Day.
There are some among us who do not even bother to find out what our forefathers went through pre- and post-Merdeka.
Some may not even know the difference between Malaysia Day, celebrated on Sept 16, and Merdeka Day.
Going to an open house, be it those hosted by corporate and government organisations or members of parliaments or by friends, is always a wonderful way to forge a stronger bond with one another and to embrace the pride of being a true Malaysian.
Regardless of whether it is Chinese New Year, Hari Raya or Deepavali, it is common for people of all races to celebrate together by going to one another's houses.
And over the years, certain cultures have been imbibed by other races such as giving ang pow. As the Chinese give out red packets, the Malays are now giving out green packets.
I wonder whether those from vernacular schools find it harder to mix around because of language barriers.
An 18-year-old girl I came to know just recently sprang to mind as I write this column.
I found her to be an interesting person. Her parents had enrolled her in a Tamil primary school because they wanted her to learn her mother tongue. After her primary education, the girl went to a national school.
The transition proved to be challenging at first but she overcame the difficulties.
Now she can speak Mandarin, English and Bahasa Malaysia.
She learnt English from watching television and speaking to her parents and siblings. She learns Mandarin from her peers in her neighbourhood, particularly a Chinese family who lives next door.
As for the PR officer I spoke about earlier, she knows a lot about the Chinese culture.
Knowing another's culture does not mean that one has abandoned one's faith.
The teen and this PR are two striking role models of the 1Malaysia concept.
It is a well-known fact that Malaysia has always been a melting pot of cultures and we have been living in harmony.