Malaysia is a multiethnic society, which means that there are different cultures that need to be taken into account in the business context. We have provided some general tips and guidelines of proper etiquette and topics of discussion.
Business appointments should be made in advance. Business cards are exchanged on introduction. These should carry the owner’s name, title, and position in the company as well as the company name. Cards should be given and received with both hands and studied for several seconds before being put carefully away.
The majority of business people speak English. It is customary to engage in small talk before getting down to business. For formal meetings, men should wear a lightweight suit and tie, women a lightweight suit or smart dress.
Body language is important with all communities; sitting with legs crossed or in a casual pose, with open-necked shirt is likely to indicate a less than serious attitude to business.
When conducting business with Muslims, it would not be sensible to schedule meetings around prayer times. For example, Friday at noon is a particularly busy time for prayers.
Topics of discussion
A general rule is that racial issues, the royal family and religion should not be discussed.
There are important differences in doing business in Malaysia. The most important is indirectness in discussing business. Malaysians will usually want to discuss other things first; family, impressions about the country etc. Usually tea or coffee will be served. Business matters must be approached slowly. A great deal of business is conducted over meals or on the golf course. Malaysians put great emphasis on relationships with their business partners. It is imperative that the Danish exporters regularly visit their customers. A personal relationship is just as important as price and quality. This aspect of conducting business in Malaysia should, therefore, not be underestimated.