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Business Culture in Malaysia

Business culture can be defined as written and unwritten codes of principles and values that govern decisions and actions within a company. In the business world, the organizations culture sets standards for determining the difference between good and bad decision making and behavior.
Malaysia is a multi-ethnic, multi cultural, multi religious and multi lingual country. It’s made up of Malay, Chinese, Indian and other ethnic groups. Bahasa Malaysia is the official language of Malaysia. Other than Bahasa Malaysia English, Chinese and Tamil are also spoken.
Since Malaysia is a predominantly Muslim country, a businessperson should perceive to comprehend Malay's customs and taboos. For instance, Friday is a particularly religious day of the week in Malaysia and business meeting should not be arranged on Friday's. Again business should not be conducted during Ramzan. Pork and alcohol are also taboos for Malaysian. One should always accept any item using the right hand, Malaysians regard the left hand as unclean.
Normal business hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m Mondays to Fridays, with many businesses and government agencies also open until noon on Saturdays. Malaysia is predominantly dominated by ethnic Chinese and they are very particular about punctuality. They would do business only with someone they know or trust. On the other hand the Malaysian or Indian hosts can be a little late and have a relaxed attitude.
It is acceptable to shake hands during meetings, but with a lighter touch than in the west and not with women unless they initiate the gesture. Business cards are exchanged and one should use both the hands to give and receive cards. 
Malaysian business culture is hierarchical and people of senior rank should be treated with great respect. First names are not used and one should address people by their personal, professional or honor art title, along with their family name-noting that this comes first in written Chinese names.
Malaysian communication styles are polite and often indirect and they are extremely particular about people not losing face by humiliating or embarrassing them. 

Negotiations and decision making often take time since proposals usually are analyzed in great detail. Business gifts are not encouraged and could be interpreted as a bribe. It is advisable to remove ones shoe before entering a Malaysian home.

Last Updated on: 17-11-2009

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