When in Malaysia: Culture and Travel Etiquette
Meeting and Greeting
Meeting and Greeting
- Shake hands with men at business meetings and social events.
- Shake hands again when leaving. Nod or give a slight bow when greeting a woman or an older person.
- Introduce higher ranking people or older people first.
- Introduce women before men.
- Western women should greet Malay men with a nod of their head and a smile.
- Never touch anyone on the top of the head (home of the soul), especially a child.
- Avoid touching anyone of the opposite sex.
- Affection is not shown in public.
- Use your right hand to eat, pass things and touch people.
- Avoid passing objects with your left hand.
- Do not move objects with your feet or point at another person with your foot.
- When visiting mosques, men should wear long trousers and a shirt or top with sleeves coming down to the elbows (long sleeves are even better); women will also have to don a long cloak and headdress, which is provided by most mosques.
- You will be required to remove your shoes before entering a mosque.
- No non-Muslim is allowed to enter a mosque during prayer time or go into the prayer hall at any time, although it is possible to stand just outside and look in.
- Most Chinese and Hindu temples are open from early morning to early evening.
- Hindu temples also expect visitors to remove shoes.
- For both men and women, exposing lots of bare flesh is generally a no-no, and the degree to which you should cover up can seem surprisingly prim.
- Islamic tradition suffuses the dress code for locals, Muslim or otherwise, and dictates that both men and women should keep torsos covered; shirt sleeves, if short, should come down to the elbow (for women, long-sleeved tops are preferable), while shorts or skirts should extend down to the knee (long trousers are ideal).
- Figure-hugging clothes are often frowned upon, particularly for women.
- Dress codes are more liberal in most cities in Borneo (Kuching and Kota Kinabalu in particular), on the beach, and when pursuing sporting activities.
- In Muslim tradition, the soles of shoes are considered unclean, having been in contact with the dirt of the street. Thus before entering any home (Muslim or otherwise), it is almost universal practice to remove footwear at the threshold or before stepping onto any carpeted or matted area.