Travelling to Malaysia: Observing Proper Etiquette

Travelling to MalaysiaIf you have plans to travel to Asia and Malaysia is not part of your schedule, you might want to revise that list. You can find beautiful travel destinations in the country, from charming landscapes to stunning cities. Whatever tickles your fancy, surely Malaysia has a place or an attraction for you.

Moreover, the country is the crossroads of several cultures, such as Malay, Indian, and Chinese. Most importantly, it is a convenient country to visit. After all, says this country is just one bus ride away from Singapore.

But before you give this country a visit, you have to be aware of its local customs.


Handshakes are not a common practice in Malaysia. Don’t offer your hand unless you’re sure that the person you’re greeting is aware of this custom. Instead, you may use the traditional greeting salam, in which you use both hands to hold the other person’s hand without grasping it.

Body Language

The locals frown upon public displays of affection. This is inexcusable, even in the case of newlyweds spending their honeymoon. Same-sex relationships also remain taboo in the country.

It is the belief of Malays that the head is the home of the soul, so touching other people on the head is taboo, even in babies.

Dress Codes

Shorts and tank tops for women are only acceptable on the islands. If you’re in one of the main cities, you should cover your shoulders and dress appropriately. Long skirts and pants are essential.


Should an acquaintance invite you over for a meal, do know that you should bring a gift for the host. Pastries and sweets are ideal gifts for children. Do not give any cutting instrument, alcoholic beverage, or anything made from pigskin. Flowers are only for funerals and the sick.

Don’t eat with your left hand. If the host offers you a drink, accept it with both hands.

They say that you have to do what the Romans do when in Rome. Well, Malaysia – or any other country, for that matter – is not that different. As long as you observe proper etiquette, your visit will be one unforgettable and enlightening travel experience.

3 Comments on Travelling to Malaysia: Observing Proper Etiquette

  1. If I may add, most people would simply nod or slightly bow at you as a form of greeting. And no, this isn’t like the bow you get in Japan. This is more reserved, especially when it comes from a woman. Don’t forget to smile whenever you greet someone!

  2. As for why the left hand is taboo, it’s because Malaysians believe the left hand is used for more…. ah, crude activities in the bathroom, so that hand is always seen as unclean. This includes spearing down your food with a fork, so don’t do that anywhere in this country.

  3. Malaysians also have a VERY HIGH respect for the elderly, so be sure to observe that if you visit this country. Challenging the authority of someone older (at least in public) is frowned upon. So, to avoid looking disrespectful, be nice to everyone, especially the elderly.

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