Customs and traditions
Malaysia is a melting pot of people groups
and cultures with several different customs and
traditions to relate to. Nevertheless, it is quite easy
for visitors from outside to blend in and be accepted.
Most Malaysians are open to other cultures, and small
violations of the rules of etiquette tend to be no
Among the majority of the Malays, descent is
important, both on the ancestors and on the mother
(unlike the Chinese, who mainly count kinship on the
male side). Social status is also important, as are
titles used correctly. Tunku or tengku
denotes royal burden. Anyone called tuna
is loud or belongs to a high order. Other noble or lowly
titles are tan sri, datuk, datuk
seri and date.
Overview of the capital city of Malaysia, including information about its population, economy, geography, history and map.
A hospitable country
Malaysians are often hospitable. If you are invited
home to someone, take off your shoes before entering.
Punctuality is not important, even if you are invited
for a certain time no one expects you to come exactly
Among Malays and Indians, food and other objects are
received only with the right hand, since the left is
considered unclean. To point, the thumb is used, not the
index finger, which is considered infinite. You should
not touch things with your feet or let the soles of your
feet point to another person. If you see a Muslim prayer
mat in an office or in someone's home, it is important
not to stand on it or touch it with their feet.
How to greet each other depends to some extent on the
ethnic group you belong to, but the Western way of
taking care is now the most common way of greeting.
Malay women do not always shake hands with men, but with
other women. Malay men do not always shake hands with
women, but can instead heal by bowing lightly and
putting their hand on their hearts. When close male
friends greet each other, they grab each other's hands
with both hands.
Chinese often greet with a light and slightly
extended handshake. Among Chinese, men and women can
shake hands, but then the woman must stretch out her
hand first. Many older Chinese lower their eyes when
greeting to show respect.
The Indians in Malaysia only shake hands with people
of the same sex. When you are introduced to someone of
the opposite sex, it is usually enough to nod and smile.
Among all the country's people groups, you have to
present people in the right order: an older person
before a younger person and a woman before a man. It is
common to bow easily when greeting an elderly person. It
is also good to bow easily when entering a room with
people, leaving the room or passing a group of people.
It acts as an "excuse".
It is important to at least taste the drink and
snacks or food that you are offered. Even if food and
drink are placed in front of one, you should wait to eat
or drink something until you are invited to do so. At
major religious or profane celebrations, you often
invite friends who belong to other ethnic or religious
Facial expressions and silence
Communication is often not as direct as in Sweden.
Not everything is said in words, but facial expressions
are important. It is common to get a negative answer if
you ask or ask a person for something. The respondent
wants to avoid the other person losing face and you want
to maintain a harmonious relationship at all costs.
Instead of a straight no, for example, a Malaysian might
say "I'll try" or the person may let someone else give
the negative message.
Silence is also important and compared to Westerners,
Malaysians usually do not respond so quickly to a
question, but think about it to ponder the matter. Many
Malaysians can interpret the Western way with quick
answers as thoughtless and impolite. Malaysians can
sometimes laugh at times that may seem inappropriate to
foreign visitors, but it is usually a way to hide that
they feel uncomfortable. It is important not to show
anger in public as it can make Malaysians feel
uncomfortable and powerless. For example, if you want
help with something, it is better to try to be calm and
Gifts and gifts
If you are invited home for a Malay family at dinner,
it is appreciated to bring some pastries or chocolates
to the hostess. Do not give away alcohol or things made
of pigskin. If you give away food, it must be "halal",
ie approved for Muslims. For the children in the family
it can also be nice to give something, but avoid toys or
stuffed animals that represent dogs or pigs. If you are
wrapping presents you should not use white paper because
it symbolizes death and sorrow, nor yellow paper because
yellow is the color of royalty. Hand over the gifts with
your right hand, or with both hands if it is a great
gift. Gifts are usually not opened immediately upon
receipt, but only when the donor has gone.
For a Chinese family you can bring a gift in the form
of fruits, cakes or other sweets and say it is for the
children. It is a tradition that the recipient first
says that he or she cannot accept the gift, because they
do not want to appear greedy. Do not give scissors or
knives because it can be seen as a sign that you want to
terminate the friendship. Also, do not give flowers
because they are traditionally given to the sick and
associated with funerals. It is important to wrap the
presents nicely, but use paper in warm colors such as
red, pink or yellow - not white, blue or black which
symbolize grief. If you give a gift to an infant, you
should avoid paper or decoration with storks, as birds
imply a prohibition on death. It is best to give an even
number of gifts as uneven numbers mean bad luck.
Indians are happy to give flowers, but avoid the
frangipani temple flower associated with funerals. If
you give away money, which is customary at, say, a
wedding, it should be an uneven sum. Do not give leather
products to a Hindu. Wrap gifts in paper with bright
colors such as red, yellow or green, which are
considered to bring good luck - not in black or white.
Hand over the presents with just the right hand, or with
both hands if that is a big deal. Gifts are usually not
opened immediately when received, but when the donor has
Doing business in Malaysia can go a little
differently depending on the people group they belong to
as well as their age, gender and status. The important
thing is always to be friendly and formal. Do not show
irritation or show up. The meetings usually start with a
little small talk, but are otherwise formal. A first
business meeting usually does not lead to any decisions,
but is seen as a way to get to know each other.
It is important to greet the people involved properly
and respectfully. If it is a group of people who do not
know each other, you should present the most important
(with the highest position) or the oldest person first.
Among Malaysians, the oldest person usually gives a
short welcome speech, which you as a visitor do not have
to answer. After a little talk, the meeting begins when
the oldest Malaysian takes the initiative. At meetings,
Malaysian companies sometimes place their employees in
ranking. Managers from different companies usually sit
opposite each other at business meetings.
Keep in mind that many Malaysians and Indians may
feel uncomfortable shaking hands with someone of the
opposite sex. Foreign men should always let a Malaysian
woman reach out her hand first, and a foreign woman
should also wait for a Malaysian man to stretch out his
hand first when greeting. It is important to use
professional or honorary titles when doing business.
Malaysians and Indians use titles together with their
first name, while Chinese use titles together with the
It is common to exchange business cards when you have
been introduced to new business acquaintances. Use your
right hand or both hands to hand out and receive
business cards. If you meet Chinese, it is good to have
on one side of the business card the text printed in
Chinese, preferably in gold color. If you want to meet
government representatives, it is good to have business
cards with text in Bahasa Malaysia. To show respect, one
should look carefully at all the business cards one
receives before stopping them and feel free to comment
on whether someone has a high post or a fine education.
Never sign on someone's business card so the person sees
Meals and typical food
Malaysia has a rich food culture with Malay, Chinese
and Indian cuisine which also has influences from
Thailand, Portugal, the Netherlands and the UK. The
traditions differ in part depending on religion. Pork is
forbidden to Muslims, while it is the favorite food of
many Chinese. Hindus do not eat beef and some Buddhists
are vegetarians. Alcohol is forbidden to Muslims.
Different types of rice or noodles are the staple
food for most dishes. Many dishes are spicy. Malaysians'
growing incomes have increased meat consumption, as has
the consumption of ready-to-eat foods. Seafood is common
and eaten by all groups. There is a rich selection of
vegetables and fruits all year round. A popular fruit is
durian. In desserts, coconut milk, palm sugar and pandan
leaves are used. Ice cream, fried bananas and various
cookies are common desserts.
The national dish is the spicy and at the same time a
little sweet nasi lemak. It is made from rice
steamed with coconut milk and served with fried
anchovies, peanuts, sliced cucumber, hard boiled egg
and chili paste sambal. Traditionally, it is a breakfast
dish served in banana leaves, but nowadays it is served
at any time of the day and in different varieties.
For breakfast, many eat Indian bread such as idli
or roti canai, which is also sold in
Indian street kitchens. Western bread has become
increasingly common among younger people.
In addition to restaurants, there is a large
selection of street kitchens in the cities, which serve
good food - often around the clock - and where many seek
to eat their lunch.
Holidays and Holidays
Because Malaysia holds several different religions,
the religious holidays are many. There are also a number
of secular holidays: New Year's Day, January 1, Workers'
Day, May 1, King's Birthday, National Day, August 31, in
memory of the independence of Britain in 1957,
Malaysia's Day of September 16, in memory of the
creation of the Federation Malaysia in 1963. In
addition, the three federal territories have Kuala
Lumpur, Putrajaya and Labuan have their own holiday on
February 1, and other states also have their own
Christmas Day is celebrated on December 25 and the
Chinese New Year in January or February. Muslim
celebrations celebrated are Prophet Muhammad's birthday
at the beginning of the year, isrā and mirāj in memory
of Prophet Muhammad's travels, fasting month of Ramadan
and id al-fitr, when fasting is broken. In addition, the
sacrificial feasts are celebrated hari raya puasa and
hari raya haji as well as the Islamic New Year. They
also celebrate the Hindu feasts of Thaipusam in January
or February and the light festival divali in the fall.
In May, the Buddhist feast is celebrated in memory of
the three important days of Buddha's life. The dates of
several holidays differ from year to year depending on
religious calendars and the location of the moon.