One word for one world
One word for one world

Doing business in Malaysia

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Our team have tips for you for doing business in Malaysia.

When doing business abroad, it’s important to take cultural differences into account. In other parts of the world, culture and, in particular, business culture, can be significantly different to what we are used to. It is therefore sensible to know beforehand what those differences may be. The experts at our translation agency have therefore compiled some tips about the business culture in this country.

Malaysian society

The Malaysian population is made up of various ethnic groups. Native Malaysians, called Malays or Bumiputras, make up the largest group. Most positions in government and state companies are filled by members of this group. Malays are Muslim, so it is sensible to take that into account and not offer alcohol as a gift.
In the business world, you will often also come across Malaysians who have a Chinese background. You will notice that they are generally more direct than Malays and that they will get to the point faster. The same applies to Indian business people. Indians make up the smallest ethnic group in the population.

Business meetings

People generally observe largely unwritten rules about clothing in Malaysia. For men, it is common to wear a light, plain shirt with long sleeves and a tie, usually with a jacket. Make sure that you don’t go to a business meeting in short sleeves in any case.
A business meeting is usually also accompanied by food. When planning a meeting, put aside a lot of time and be prepared for a long overrun. Also make sure that you present and receive business cards with two hands. Gifts are not customary unless you are invited to someone’s home.

The language

Malaysia has two official languages, Malay (officially known as Bahasa Malaysia) and English in the federal state of Sarawak. English is the most commonly spoken language in business, education, and law.
You will generally be able to get pretty far with English alone, so a monolingual business card in English is sufficient. In certain circumstances, however, you may receive official documents or business information in Malay or, on the other hand, you may be expected to provide documents in that language. Our agency provides translations out of and into Malay for various documents such as, for example, legal, medical, and technical materials. Feel free to get in touch with us for more information.

Seija Smets
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