Ways to Ease Into Malaysian Culture and Traditions

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How you can get accustomed to Malaysian Culture and Traditions

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

There are many excellent opportunities to learn overseas and experience fascinating cultures while you’re there. If you choose to study abroad in Malaysia, there are various ways to ease into the country’s culture and traditions. You’ll want to learn how to conduct yourself regarding language, face ideals, and other factors, so you don’t offend the culture you visit. Here are some of Malaysia’s cultures and traditions so you can prepare for your studies abroad.

Learn the Language

If you are unfamiliar with the language in Malaysia, there will be communication barriers. Take the time to research and learn as much about language as possible. Malay is the official language of Malaysia, but it is spoken throughout most of Southeast Asia. There are 137 indigenous languages in Malaysia, but English is considered the second language. Mandarin is also common.

There are resources available online and in bookstores. These can help you learn basic phrases to ensure you can communicate effectively. As you may expect, there will be cases where people don’t speak English. Books are an excellent resource for guidelines and cultivating an open mind for studying abroad. They also help you start preparing for your journey.

Study Ethnicity and Culture

Malaysia primarily consists of three ethnic groups. These are people native to Malaysia — the native Malay — Chinese and Indian Malaysians. The groups live in harmony with others in the country. They also respect each other’s diversity in a melting pot of food, tradition and cultures. Although there are many ways you can learn about different cultures, studying abroad is an excellent way to immerse yourself in the culture and experience new people firsthand. Here are a few things to know before living in Malaysia.

Social Norms

There are many social norms prevalent in Malaysia that you will want to familiarize yourself with before visiting. Face within their community is complex throughout the country. You must know what it means to their people before you embark on your journey. The Malaysian community doesn’t hold visitors to high standards in adhering to their practices. Knowing what it means to them can help you show respect for their traditions and ways of life.

They believe one can lose face, gain face and lose face for others within their community. To lose face means to lose the respect of others, like being embarrassed or disgraced in public. To save face means to protect your reputation by strategizing and maintaining your dignity. Smile and be sincere in your flattery so you don’t lose face in the eyes of others. Wear modest clothing so you don’t attract attention and lose face with Malaysians.

In Chinese culture, handshakes can last longer than you might expect. They are relatively light and women are supposed to extend their hands first when shaking a man’s hand. Indian women are supposed to extend their hand first and only shake hands with other women. Smiling and nodding are ways to respect the culture and introduce yourself. If you meet a Malay man, let him extend his hand first. Don’t take offense if they don’t shake your hand if you try to initiate a handshake.

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Kuala Lumpur people
Face within the Malay community is complex throughout the country – inform yourself first!

Business Etiquette

After your introduction, exchange business cards. Look them over as a sign of respect before you put them in your pocket or briefcase. Use your right hand or both hands when exchanging the cards. Whether you are a hybrid, remote or on-site employee, you want to ensure you prepare for the proper business etiquette in Malaysia to show respect. Human connection is vital to employees, so they don’t experience the fear of missing out in their daily lives.

Asking too many questions can appear rude. Prepare your questions beforehand and limit yourself so you don’t offend the person you are meeting. Have patience and let them ask most of the questions until you meet them again. Malaysian culture also doesn’t require a response after a meeting. If you don’t hear anything back from them, it is safe to assume there won’t be one.

Experience Malaysian Culture

One of the ideal ways to learn about the culture is to dive right into the traditional festivals in Malaysia. You can enjoy various festivals throughout the year and learn about the fascinating diversity and religions they honor in the area. World religions like Islam, Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism are prevalent in the country, but Islam is the most prominent. Small religious festivals and parades — including the Hindu Thaipusam Festival — happen all year round.

Malaysian people celebrate major holidays with festivals. These include Christmas, Eid, Diwali and the Chinese New Year. You can experience dancing, pottery and other crafts and music relevant to Malaysian culture during the events. There are two traditional orchestras in Malaysia— the nobat and gamelan — native to the region. You can enjoy them at these festivals.


Malaysian Culture and Traditions

Malaysia has a diverse culture and intriguing history that you can experience if you study their traditions and good greetings before visiting. This country is rich in ethnicity and religion, offering profound knowledge and experience to all its patrons and visitors. Studying in Malaysia will expand your cultural knowledge and experience a welcoming atmosphere with hospitality and heritage influence.

Studying in Malaysia will expand your cultural knowledge and experience a welcoming atmosphere with hospitality and heritage influence

Do you want to study abroad in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia? Find out more about Asia Exchange’s study abroad programs in Kuala Lumpur

Asia Exchange is a Finnish company providing study abroad opportunities in Asia Pacific for students from all around the world. Want to get travel tips and new blog posts straight to your inbox? Subscribe to ourmonthly newsletter!If you have any questions about studyingabroad, feel free tocontact us!We’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

The blog post was written byCarolina Jacobs,Managing Editor at Classrooms!