Malaysia is located in Southeast Asia and is made up of two similarly sized regions – Peninsula Malaysia and Malaysian Borneo, which are separated by the South China Sea. Malaysia’s population is approximately 28.8 million, and the people encompass a melting pot of Malay, Chinese, Thai and Indian cultures. There are also a number of minority cultures in the region, including Persians, Arabic and British.
Malaysia’s economy is described as free and open, and in recent years its economy has become more industrialized. In the last decade, the country has experienced some of the greatest economic achievements in Asia, having grown by an average of 6.5% annually between 1957 and 2005. In 2010, its GDP (Gross Domestic Product) reached an astounding $414,400 billion, as the country became the third largest economy in the ASEAN (The Association of Southeast Asian Nations).
Due to the country’s strong economic strength, supportive governmental policies, educated workforce and well-developed business environment, Malaysia has created a healthy and robust workforce
Malaysia has numerous successful businesses with both national and international roots. In recent years, a number of international business owners have relocated to Malaysia to establish their companies in this lucrative location.
Once you have decided to relocate to Malaysia for employment purposes you will need to gain a broad understanding of the customs and etiquette of this diverse nation. Malaysian’s are very respectable people who strive to maintain ‘face’ at all times in both public and private situations. It is therefore important that you show politeness and respect to those around you at all time, and avoid placing anyone in an embarrassing or uncomfortable situation.
Malaysia is a predominantly Muslim country and therefore you will need to ensure that your shoulders, arms and legs are covered, particularly in rural settings. Nevertheless in many, more cosmopolitan regions, there is a far more liberal approach to dress wear.
In Malaysia it is considered incredibly rude to point, therefore you are advised to use your palm when gesturing towards someone or something. If you have been invited to somebody’s home, you must remove your shoes when entering, and must also refrain from pointing the bottom of your feet at anyone.
In traditional meal settings, the meal is placed in the centre of a table setting and meals are primarily eaten with the right hand. All dishes must be passed with the right hand as the left hand must be never used for such activities.
In the workplace you are expected to remain friendly yet formal at all times. When meeting people for the first time, shake their hand, show proper respect and use the correct title when addressing people. It is important to bear in mind that many people, particularly Malays and Indians, are uncomfortable shaking hands with members of the opposite sex; therefore do not initiate this unless it is initiated by the other person. Most initial meetings depend on the ethnicity, age, gender and status of the individual you are meeting.
During business meetings you will exchange business cards at the beginning of the meeting. If you are meeting with Chinese people, have one side of your business cards translated into Chinese, in gold print. If you are meeting with Malay officials, have one side of the cards translated into Bahasa Malaysia. Business cards should be presented with either both hands or just the right hand. Upon receiving a card, examine it then place it in a safe location.