Malaysian Business Tips

Tip 1
Malaysia presents the visitor with a myriad of different cultures within its business world. There are, however, certain key similarities which bind the country together.

Tip 2
As Malaysia is very ethnically diverse, try to do as much research on your potential contacts as possible before entering into negotiations – these factors can have a telling impact on how things proceed.

Tip 3
Although the government has positively discriminated in favour of ethnic Malays, the Chinese and Indian business communities still play a pivotal role in the Malaysian business world.

Tip 4
Most business structures tend towards the hierarchical with information flowing to the top and most decisions being made by key senior management figures.

Tip 5
It is important to ensure that you are dealing with the key senior figures as a great deal of time can be spent debating issues with people who may play little part in the decision-making process.

Tip 6
The manager is expected to manage and to make decisions. Subordinates may feel uncomfortable when given vague, non-specific instructions.

Tip 7
Tasks may remain undone, unless specific instructions are issued from the boss – even if it is apparent that the task needs urgent attention.

Tip 8
The boss/subordinate role can be likened to the father/son relationship. The boss is expected to take an interest in the overall well being of subordinates. In return for this concern, subordinates will offer diligence and loyalty.

Tip 9
Individual aspirations are seen as secondary to the needs of the group. Rewards and motivation come from group success.

Tip 10
Meetings can be lengthy, starting with a great deal of relationship- building small talk. It is not unusual for initial meetings to focus solely on non-business related issues.

Tip 11
Relationships must be firmly established before business can commence. Do not underestimate the need to allocate time and resource to the relationship-building aspect of a project.

Tip 12
The aim of most meetings is to develop or enhance the relationship. This is generally achieved through promoting a harmonious atmosphere. Do not destroy the harmony through being overly pushy when trying to reach a decision.

Tip 13
Do not be surprised if meetings start late or last longer than had originally been scheduled. Build delays into your timetables.

Tip 14
All of the major cultures you may encounter when doing business in Malaysia are basically group-oriented. It is important to take into account the needs of the whole group rather than any one individual. Singling out an individual for praise or specific reward could cause that individual embarrassment within the group.

Tip 15
Politeness and diplomacy are prerequisites when doing business in Malaysia. Directness can be misconstrued as rudeness and is seen as the behaviour of people who lack respect. (And those people will not, therefore, be worthy of respect themselves.)

Tip 16
It is difficult for people to say no or to deliver bad news. Don’t always take the word ‘yes’ to mean ‘I agree’. It could be merely an affirmation of understanding.

Tip 17
English is widely spoken and very many people have a near-fluent command of the language. Superficially, therefore, communication is generally much easier than in some other countries in the region. However, be aware that what is said is not necessarily what is meant. Look for the coded-meaning behind all communication.

Tip 18
When giving gifts, be sensitive to the cultural background of the recipient. Is your contact a Malay Muslim or of Chinese origin?

Tip 19
Be aware of the special requirements of the majority Muslim population with regard to such issues as prayer, diet and fasting.

Tip 20
Women will encounter fewer difficulties when working in Malaysia than in countries such as Japan or Korea.


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.

Country Breakdown





Malaysian Ringgit


$ 296.4