Great Article! Cultural Clues & Communication Guidelines for MALAYSIA

The Latest! Cultural Clues, Do’s and Taboos for Malaysia

A Series of Cultural Tips for Countries from A to Z  

Cultural Clues & Communication Guidelines for Malaysia

It’s easy for business travelers to think that even when they travel, business is going to be done pretty much the same way it is at home. But that’s not always the case. Cultural differences can have a big impact on global business etiquette. That’s why it’s important for business travelers to make sure that they understand the culture of the country that they’re doing business in.

This article on cultural differences in Malaysia and cultural travel tips for Malaysia is a brief snapshot of conversation guidelines for Malaysia tips for communicating in Malaysia, and business strategies for Malaysia to help with understanding the culture in Malaysia. It’s important to keep in mind that as we homogenize as a ‘global culture’, cultural tendencies change and evolve as well. Awareness is the first step when it comes to cultural do’s and taboos for Malaysia and tips for intercultural communication!

Cultural Tips for Malaysia – including some valuable business travel tips for Malaysia

While first names are more frequently being used in business, some businesspeople prefer to be introduced with a name and title (Professor or Doctor), or surnames such as “Mr.” or “Ms.”.

Titles and surnames are definitely not as important with younger businesspeople.

Malaysia is a constitutional monarchy of nine royal houses. Foreigners are likely to encounter one of them eventually. Ask a native how a particular royal should be addressed.

Although many Malaysians are Muslim, not all of Malaysia follows the traditional Islamic working week where Friday is the Islamic holy day, and the weekend takes place on Thursday and Friday.

Some Malaysian states follow the Islamic workweek of Saturday through Wednesday. These include Perlis, Kedah, Kelantan, Terengganu, and Johor.

Since much of the country is Muslim, it is helpful to schedule meetings around prayer times. Friday at noon is a particularly busy time for prayers.

The Malaysian capital city, Kuala Lumpur, is in the state of Selangor where the working week is Monday through Friday.

The majority of Malaysian businesspeople are Chinese, and you can expect them to be punctual. However, many government officials are ethnic Malays who have more of a relaxed attitude toward time.

Indian Malaysians are Malaysians of Indian origin. Many are descendants from those who migrated from India during the British colonization. The Indian professionals you encounter will expect punctuality.

Business travelers are expected to be on time, although ethnic Malays may not necessarily do the same.

Alcohol will not be served at any social event hosted by observant Muslims. Expect that meals will be served close to the time given on the invitation.

With the exception of a handshake, there is no public contact between the sexes in Malaysia. Hugging and kissing, even between husbands and wives, is forbidden in public.

Physical contact between the same sexes is perfectly acceptable. Men may be holding hands with men or even walking with their arms around each other. These actions are interpreted as gestures of friendship.

When you are being introduced to a Malaysian woman, shake hands with her only if she has extended her hand. If she does not extend her hand just smile and nod to greet her.

When introducing a man and a woman, the female’s name should be said first. As in many other countries, when presenting a higher-ranking person to a more junior person, the senior person’s name is said first.

Out of deference, give a slight bow to elderly people you are introduced to. Keep your hands out of your pockets when in public.

When exiting a room, say “Excuse me” and add a slight bow.

When you must indicate something or someone, use the entire right hand (palm out) to point. You can also point with your right thumb as long as all four fingers are curled down.

It is considered rude to point at anyone with the forefinger. Malays use the forefinger only to point at animals.

When passing an object, reaching for something or touching someone, do so with your right hand. The left hand is considered unclean.

Feet are also believed to be unclean. Never point your feet at another person. Apologize whenever your shoes or feet touch another person. Don’t show the soles of your feet or shoes. You may cross your legs at the knee, but don’t place one ankle on your knee.

5 Key Conversation or Cultural Gesture Tips

You may discuss your Malaysian host’s family, heritage, and culture

They are interested in Business and plans for the future

Praising the local cuisine is always appreciated

Malaysian culture, art, and music are interesting topics

Sports in general, and soccer which they refer to as “football”

5 Key Conversation or Cultural Gesture Taboos

Criticizing any aspect of Malaysian culture

Comparing life in Malaysia to life in the West

It’s best not to discuss politics, bureaucracy, or religion

Ethnic relationships in Malaysia are best to avoid discussing

Sex, and roles of the sexes, is not a comfortable topic

Bon Voyage!

Join us in the future for Do’s and Taboos for MALAYSIA!

To learn more about the Dos and Taboos for different cultures, and the cultural communication styles for Asia Pacific, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East – order Gayle Cotton’s bestselling book SAY Anything to Anyone, Anywhere! 5 Keys to Successful Cross-Cultural Communication’ available on Amazon as a Book, eBook, or Audio Book

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The CROSS of Cross-Cultural

Emmy Award Winner, Gayle Cotton, is the author of this blog and of the bestselling cross-cultural communication book SAY Anything to Anyone, Anywhere! 5 Keys to Successful Cross-Cultural Communication’, which is available on Amazon as a Book, eBook, or Audio Book. She is President of Circles Of Excellence Inc. and a Professional Keynote Speaker. Contact Gayle if you need professional speakers for events, speakers on cultural diversity, conference speakers for events, or keynote speakers that specialize in cross-cultural training. She is a leader in the field of public speakers, motivational speakers, and international keynote speakers. She is among the best of female keynote speakers and women motivational speakers and is a ‘first choice’ request for international audiences!

Circles Of Excellence provides Corporate Training, Leadership Coaching, and Professional Keynote Speakers for companies of all sizes and in all industries, including over 50 Fortune 500 companies. Contact us about our customizedtraining programs for Communication Skills, Cross-Cultural Communication, Cultural Diversity, Customer Service, Leadership Coaching, Presentation Skills, Sales Negotiations, Stress Management, Team building, and Time Management Training.

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