The Art of Lepak

On the Malaysian Art of Lepak-ing:

Sometimes, driving around the city on my way home after dinner, I am struck by its small-town ambiance – the inherent slowness of life, the dedication to a certain way of life that revolves around languid, simple meals with friends, often in modest, open-air eating places, or going from one mamak stall to another, nowadays perhaps interspersed with a drink in a fancy bar somewhere in central KL. We call this kind of social interaction to lepak, even when we are speaking English.

‘What do you want to do tomorrow?’

‘I don’t know, maybe just lepak’.

It can be most closely translated as hanging out, or relaxing, or kicking about, but it is more than that – it involves a greater sense of intimacy, an acute appreciation of the absence of responsibility, a feeling that there is, in fact, nothing more to do in life than to lepak – as if to lepak is inevitable. To understand the Malaysian’s commitment to the art of lepak (or lepak-ing; the verb can be used with great freedom) is to understand why KL is a strange place – a capital city with the soul of a village, a metropolis that doesn’t quite know how to be a metropolis.”

Look East, Look to the Future