There are many cultural customs that would be considered undesirable to show in public towards Malaysians. Many of which include patting someone on the head, especially children. Touching another person’s head is considered to be exceedingly impolite in most parts of Asia. Furthermore, approximately 19% of the population in Malaysia practice Buddhism (Lockard). Buddhism promotes the idea of a spiritual lifestyle rather than focusing on the mundane aspects of everyday life (Wild 83). Buddhists believe that a person’s head is the highest part of the body and is thought of as the most sacred. So in countries with a noticeable number of Buddhists, such as Malaysia, touching another person’s head is considered to be a greatly “invasive gesture” (Fuller).
In North America, patting a child’s head is generally a gentle gesture of affection, and it is often considered to be friendly and good-natured (Merritt). Claire Roberts, seemingly overtaken by her American custom, must not have realized that by patting the head of her Malaysian colleague’s five-year-old daughter, she had unintentionally infuriated her colleague.Malaysia is a concentration of many different cultures and ethnicities, including Malaysians, Chinese, and Indians (“Malaysia Guide”). When conducting business in Malaysia, there are many different rules of conducts that one must recognize in order to successfully incorporate proper business etiquettes.
A significant number of Malaysians practice the region of Islam. In conjunction to their religious belief, it is usual for Malaysian business partners to refrain themselves from physical contact. This is especially important when they are interacting with the opposite gender. Malaysian women often do not shake hands with men. To be completely certain, one should wait for the woman to extend her hand first. In the event that the businesswoman chooses not to extend her hand, one should bow slightly to show her respect (“Malaysia Guide”). During the initial meeting with the Malaysian business partners, one should expect to be introduced to their colleagues in the order based on their social status. This order could be from a person of higher ranking to a lower ranking position in the company, or from the oldest person to the younger person, or from women to men (“Malaysia Guide”).
This is related to the concept of social structure, which is a social organization within a culture that incorporate a system of social positions, their relationships, and the process by which resources are distributed (Wild 76). Silence is also an important aspect in the way the Malaysians communicate. Before answering a corresponding question, one should take a moment to pause in silence. This would indicate that one has given the question some thought and has considered to give their response appropriately. Responding to a question in haste can be seen as thoughtless and rude (“Malaysia Guide”). After the initial meeting, one should expect to exchange business cards. As many Malaysians deemed the left hand to be uncleaned, always use two hands or the right hand when giving and receiving the cards. If one would treat the business card with great care and respect, it is a strong indication of the respect that will reflect upon the business relationship going forward (“Malaysia Guide”). Follow some of these business etiquettes may ensure one would have a successful experience in dealing with the Malaysian business partners.
Wild, John J., and Kenneth L. Wild. International Business: The Challenges of Globalization, Global Edition. Eighth ed., Pearson Education Limited, 2016.
Martin, Bob. Culture Briefing: Malaysia – Your Guide to Malaysian Culture and Customs. Geotravel Research Center, 2014.
Fuller, Maggie. “9 Things That Are Surprisingly Offensive in Asia.” AFAR Media, AFAR, 18 Sept. 2015, www.afar.com/magazine/9-things-that-are-surprisingly-offensive-in-asia. Accessed 28 Sep. 2018.
Lockard, Craig A., and Ooi Jin Bee. “Malaysia.” Encyclopedia Britannica, Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., www.britannica.com/place/Malaysia/Religion. Accessed 28 Sep. 2018.
Merritt, Anne. “10 Common Gestures Easily Misunderstood Abroad.” Matador Network, Matador Network, 22 Sept. 2010, www.matadornetwork.com/abroad/10-common-gestures-easily-misunderstood-abroad/. Accessed 28 Sep. 2018.
“Malaysia Guide: A Look at Malaysian Language, Culture, Customs and Etiquette.” Commisceo Global, Commisceo Global Consultancy Ltd, www.commisceo-global.com/resources/country-guides/malaysia-guide. Accessed 28 Sep. 2018.