SOCIAL AND CULTURAL
The ‘Greater Penang’ conurbation is the second largest metropolitan area in Malaysia after Greater Kuala Lumpur. Its geographical reach extends from Penang island to a parallel strip of land on the mainland called Seberang Prai (known as Province Wellesley during the British era) as well as parts of neighbouring state Kedah.
Penang proper itself has a state population of close to 1.8 million, of which 46 percent are Malay, 43 percent Chinese, 10.5 percent Indian, and the remaining number an assortment of guest workers belonging to various nationalities.
The biggest Chinese sub-ethnic group in Penang is the Hokkien whose forefathers originated from Fujian province in southern China. The Teochews and the Cantonese are the next biggest sub-ethic group of Penang’s Chinese community. The Chinese in Penang refer to themselves as Tn̂g-lâng or ”people the Tang dynasty”.
The EIC brought European expats to reside in Penang. Many of these residents, however, were evacuated during the Second World War and never returned after Japanese planes strafed and bombed George Town in early December 1941.
A legacy that has lasted longer than the British expat presence is the high level of English proficiency among older Penangites. This is due to their schooling in the mission schools that continue to this day to educate Penang’s young although the last of the Christian ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’ (nuns) who had taught in these schools have passed on.