Business professionals who travel around the world should always try to prepare themselves for the cultural and business etiquette that they should follow. When visiting Malaysia, for example, there are certain customs and cultural differences that need to be embraced by the business professional who wants to earn his or her way into the hearts of the locals. How to dress, speak and conduct oneself are important to learn before landing in Malaysia.
When deciding what attire to wear on a business trip to Malaysia, remember that it rains much of the time and the weather tends to be hot and humid. Men should wear normal business attire with a jacket, shirt, tie and slacks. The jacket may be removed if the temperatures get too high and others are doing so first. This is a primarily Muslim country so women should wear knee-length skits and long-sleeved blouses to business meetings. Pantsuits are somewhat frowned upon and may be offensive in some circles. Adults should not wear shorts at any time, but jean pants may be acceptable on casual days.
There are certain customs when greeting a Malaysian person in a business context. Start with a formal and extremely respectful greeting and, if in a group, make sure to introduce the person of highest rank first. Use professional titles with the person’s first name. It is not always acceptable for a man to shake the hand of a woman in this setting so it is wise to wait until the Malaysian women have extended their own hands before attempting to shake hands with them. If bringing business cards, which is a good idea, these can be given out after introductions. Plan ahead of time and print some business cards with either Chinese or Bahasa Malaysia on the back. This shows consideration and respect. If someone hands you a card, show the card respect, take a few moments to look at it carefully and never write on it.
During business meetings, make sure to allow the senior representatives in rank the honor of sitting opposite each other and always wait for them to speak first. Showing respect is important in this culture. Keep the business meetings formal. When someone asks a question, take a few moments to pause and consider the question before answering. These tips will be very helpful when traveling to Malaysia on business.