Do and Don’ts in Malaysia
- Ask about the culture a lot. It shows that you’re interested and Malaysians would be more than happy to oblige.
- Be polite, say please and thank you a lot. It’s customary wherever you go.
- Wait until you’re in Malaysia to convert most of your currency. A special permit is needed to bring large amounts of ringgit (Malaysia’s currency) in or out of the country. There are no restrictions for foreign money.
- Help preserve reefs and beaches by leaving coral and shells where you find them.
- Make a lot of local friends. They will be happy to act as tour guides and explain more about dos and don’ts and the culture
- Insist on metered taxis. Don’t try haggling because you’ll end up paying a heftier price if you try to bargain.
- Enjoy your stay here. Malaysians love it when you love it. Malaysia is actually a very hospitable country and people are generally really nice, especially to tourists.
- Dress scantily. Malaysians are generally accepting of hotpants, slippers and tank tops, but in the right locations and for the right occasions. It’s not a problem to see people in bikinis at the beach and the pool, but keep it to those places. On no account should you flash too much skin in places of worship.
- Wear shoes into people’s homes. Malaysians like to keep their house floors clean so remove your shoes outside the door.
- Behave boisterously. Talking loudly or shouting is permitted at some celebrations like Chinese New Year, Thaipusam or Chinese weddings. They need volume, especially during the yee sang toss and ‘yam seng’ salutations. But it is respectful to remain quieter when you’re in a mosque or hospital.
- Eat in front of Malays during Ramadan. It is respectful to eat in private where you cannot be seen unless after or before sunrise.
- Always point with your thumb and not the index finger on the right hand.
- Swear too much. It is very disrespectful, particularly when in front of the older generations of Malaysians.
- Put your feet up on tables and the backs of chairs in front of you displaying or pointing the soles of your feet at anyone.
- Don’t go over the top with PDA (public display of affection) because people here are more restrained. Kissing on the cheek as a form of greeting is fine, but is probably more acceptable in some areas than others.
- Bring up the topic of ethnic relations or politics with people you don’t know very well as it can be quite a touchy subject here.
- Buy or traffic drugs. This crime is punishable by hanging.