It is very common to be invited out for lunch or dinner in Malaysia as business entertainment performs an important function in the all-important relationship building process. (Business breakfasts would be much less commonplace.)
Although it is not always the case, most detailed business issues are left to the confines of the office. It is a good idea to try to use the meal as an opportunity to broaden out the topics of conversation and develop your personal relationship more fully. Good topics of conversation might be Malaysia as a country, mutual acquaintances, food and sport (football is very popular.)
Whenever eating, passing or receiving food, use the right hand as the left hand is considered to be unclean. (This rule applies even if you are left handed.)
Malaysian food can be very spicy but less spicy alternatives are available. It is polite to leave some food on your plate as a sign that you have been well satisfied with the amount of food provided.
Remember that many Malaysians are Muslims and may not, therefore, drink alcohol and will definitely not eat pork. Most people though (unless very orthodox) will not object to you drinking alcohol.
In Malaysia, in a system that the locals call “plus plus,” a 5% tax is added to bills of hotels and restaurants classified as tourist class, along with a 10% service charge. You can add an additional gratuity if you wish (5% is usually adequate) but it is not absolutely necessary.
This country-specific business culture profile was written by Keith Warburton who is the founder of the cultural awareness training consultancy Global Business Culture.
Global Business culture is a leading training provider in the fields of cross-cultural communication and global virtual team working. We provide training to global corporations in live classroom-based formats, through webinars and also through our cultural awareness digital learning hub, Global Business Compass.
This World Business Culture profile is designed as an introduction to business culture in Malaysia only and a more detailed understanding needs a more in-depth exploration which we can provide through our training and consultancy services.
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