Being a host or a guest in Malaysia

Written by Sascha Bargel November 2013. Posted in Being a guest, Int. Skills

Being a host or a guest in Malaysia

Being a guest/host in Malaysia

Malaysia is known as a diverse and welcoming country where hospitality is of great value to its inhabitants. Malaysia is divided into two areas, with the South China Sea as its divider. Kuala Lumpur lays in the northern part, which is the main destination for business travellers.

Being a guest or host in Malaysia feels like having the privilege of being someone special, perhaps even a king. When traveling to different countries while having business motives, one should always carefully study the cultural differences in order to increase one’s chances of success.

Whoever intends to do business successfully in Malaysia must first be familiar with the rules of etiquette in the country. Building relationships is highly important for Malaysians since they are not willing to conduct business with someone they do not trust or know. Therefore, business travellers should pay critical attention to culturally sensitive cues so that they do not jeopardize their prospective affairs and remain on good terms. As an example, one’s selection of clothes to wear should be carefully considered, given that Malaysia is an Islamic country. The clothes should not be too short, as they should cover the arms and knees. Neither should the clothes be too provocative.

Generally people are very eager to invite business relations into their private surroundings, which they often do, and in return it is considered polite to accept these invitations. If you get a handwritten or printed invitation you must respond in writing, regardless of whether you are attending or unable to attend. An invitee’s partner, child, or friend is usually excluded, unless they are explicitly mentioned in the invitation. Malaysia is a formal country with hierarchical positions within families. As a result, one should identify the key person, usually the oldest male in the family, and pay great respect to this individual by greeting them first and thanking them for the occasion.

Whenever you are the host of any event, make sure you wisely plan ahead. This entails communicating detailed information regarding the event in question fully in advance. Unlike an informal invitation where each person is expected to pay the costs, during a formal event the host is responsible for the costs. When hosting people for dinner in Malaysia, the host orders for their guest or prepares the meal for them. Business topics are presented only after a drink has been served and an order has been placed.

If you are invited to somebody’s home, or to a restaurant, you may want to consider bringing a gift. This is generally appreciated, but keep in mind the religious sensitivities. Bringing alcohol is absolutely wrong, for example.

Moreover, before you enter a house, it is normal to take off your shoes. Be careful to never point your feet towards others while seating, as this is considered impolite. If you meet someone for the first time it is important to use the titles of each person, this is highly respected by all ethnic groups and even expected. Lastly, make sure to prepare business cards if you invite people for a meeting in Malaysia.