Thursday, May 9, 2013

Malaysian etiquette

When you plan to visit a ‘foreign’ country, it is wise to acquaint yourself with its customs and traditions. Multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, Malaysia possess a population profile that features Malays, Chinese and Indians along with indigenous aboriginal peoples called ‘Orang asli’ and various other minorities. Whether you are planning to visit Malaysia for leisure or for business, it will help, if you can recognize and respect diverse religious and cultural customs that form the core of Malaysian etiquette.
Meeting and Greeting Etiquette
Many Malaysians are aware of the western custom of a handshake and may greet each other with a light handshake, followed by a gesture during which they place the right hand on the heart. However, don’t offer to shake hands unless you know that your Malaysian hosts/acquaintances are fairly westernized. Watch what happens and follow their lead. Never offer to shake hands with a member of the opposite sex unless they offer to do so first. A nod or a smile is more acceptable.
The exchange of business cards or name cards usually follows an introduction. You are also expected to inspect a tendered card before putting it away. During meetings a proffered card is often placed on the table in front of the recipient.
Malaysians generally adopt a more relaxed view with respect to time and deadlines, than you may accustomed to and it’s not unusual to find yourself waiting for a friend to show up past the designated meeting hour.  However punctuality is expected in the business world and it is advisable to call and inform your business counterpart if you are delayed.
 The concept of face is extremely important to all Malaysians. Malaysians, strive to maintain ‘face’ and avoid shame in all walks of life, be it private or public situations.  ‘Face’ can be lost by publicly insulting or criticizing someone or by refusing a request or disagreeing with someone or even challenging a person of authority, in public. Conversely face can be maintained by conducting yourself with grace and remaining calm and courteous in all kinds of ‘tricky’ uncomfortable situations.
Etiquette for social gatherings
Malaysians usually leave their shoes outside the front door of their home. When visiting a Malaysian friend at home, it is customary to offer to take off your footwear at the door.
When you are invited to someone’s home, you should bring a gift for your hosts. However, depending on the ethnicity of your hosts there are certain guidelines, you are advised  to follow :-.
For Malays: Bring chocolates or sweets never alcohol. Also do not give toy dogs or pigs to children and avoid using white gift-wrapping as the color white symbolizes death and mourning. Yellow wrapping paper should also be avoided, as it is associated with royalty. If you offer ‘food stuff’ as a gift, do ensure it is ‘halal’ and suitable for Muslims. Offer your gift both hands.
For your Chinese hosts, you should bring a gift of fruits, cakes or sweets. Do not offer scissors or knives, as they indicate the severing of a relationship. Gifts should be wrapped in colors considered to be lucky like ‘red’ or ‘gold’
If your hosts are Indian, then you should not bring alcohol until you are certain that your host drinks.  Wrap gifts in bright colors, rather than white gift-wrapping as white signifies death.
Malaysians are largely tolerant folk, though public displays of affection are generally frowned upon. Visitors should be cognizant of this fact and respect Malaysian traditions and customs.
Certain areas of religious institutions like mosques and temples are considered to be out of bounds for people of different faiths. Signs are usually put up at the institution to advice the general public but you should always ask if you are unsure. Moreover, you are expected to sport modest attire while visiting a religious institution in Malaysia. Additionally, you are generally required to take off your shoes before you enter the premises.
In Malaysia, the left hand is considered to be unclean and reserved for basic bodily functions. Use your right hand to eat, pay for things, shaking hands or for any other transaction.
Most Malaysians are superstitious and have a fascination with lucky and unlucky numbers. For instance Chinese Malaysians abhor the number 4 as it is associated with death.
Malaysia is a vibrant multi-cultural, multi-ethnic country and most Malaysians are proud of their ethnicity. When visiting, it is advisable to avoid discussing any racial or political issues, for these are highly sensitive topics and tourists would do well as to avoid any such discussions.
Same-sex relationships are taboo in Malaysia and homosexuality is illegal. Gay and Lesbian travelers should be aware of their conduct and avoid any public signs of affection.
Malaysia has zero tolerance for the trafficking or possession of illegal drugs including marijuana. Drug-related offences further attract the death penalty.

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