Malaysia is a multi-cultural society. The ethnic populations are native Malays, Chinese, and Indians. This blend of cultures means a land of many colorful traditions and festivals.


The family unit is of great importance in Malaysian society, and you will notice deep respect for the elderly. Children in the family will look to their parents with respect and obedience. If one family member is struggling, the rest of the family will always come to their aid. There is a tight unity between family members, and many traditions are passed down through the generations. A wedding is a grand family affair.

Malays, Chinese, and Indians all strive for peaceful and harmonious relationships. They do not argue or raise their voices but prefer to find a calm and gracious solution to problems. Anger and aggression are viewed as ‘losing one’s face’ which is not acceptable in Malaysian society.


In general, when first meeting, these are the a few simple rules of introduction.

  • Introduce the most important person to the lower rank person.

  • Introduce the older person to the younger person.

  • Introduce women to men.

  • Malay women and men can not shake hands. Women can shake hands with other women. Men must bow with their hands on their hearts to women.

  • Chinese men and women may shake hands, but the woman should extend her hand first.

  • Indians may shake hands with the same sex. Otherwise, a nod and a smile are acceptable.

Being invited into the home

  • If a Malay invites you to their home, take a gift of pastries or chocolates. Never alcohol.

  • If a Chinese Malay invites you to their home, take a gift of fruit, sweets, or cakes.

  • If an Indian Malay invites you to their home, take a gift of chocolates or flowers.

  • Gifts must be wrapped in happy colors such as red, yellow, and blue.

Traditions in the Malaysian home

  • Remove your shoes before entering a Malaysian home.

  • Use your right hand for eating.

  • The left hand is for bathroom duties.

  • Do not point your finger. Always indicate with an open hand.

  • Do not touch an adult on the head.

  • Do not show the bottom of your feet.


Malaysia celebrates many religious festivals. The festivals are usually public holidays so that everyone can participate and enjoy the day.

  • Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebrates the end of the Islamic month of fasting known as Ramadhan. It’s a two-day holiday with a lot of feasting and partying.

  • Chinese New Year marks the first day of the year on the Chinese lunar calendar. It last fifteen days with lots of feasting and fireworks.

  • Deepavali, also called Diwali or The Festival of Light, is a Hindu festival celebrating good over evil.

  • Christmas. Yes, they celebrate Christmas in Malaysia.

  • Tanglung Festival or Mooncake Festival is a Chinese festival that celebrates the end of the harvest season.

  • Thaipusam is a Tamil festival celebrated on the full moon in January/ February on the steps of the Indian Temple at the Batu Caves. Devotees of this festival pierce their body parts, cheeks, and tongue. It’s not for everyone.

Public Holidays

Malaysia celebrates over fifty public holidays. You can check the calendar here.