Being able to study abroad is a great feat. Naturally, it is expected of you to understand your host country’s cultural norms and traditions. This lessens your chances of committing a cultural faux pas. Learn about the country so you do not embarrass yourself.

When you study in Malaysia, a diverse population awaits you, with Malay, Indian, and Chinese influences. Because it is a multicultural nation, it may be difficult to know how to behave in certain situations. You may move around in a restricted manner since you’re unsure if your actions will be offensive. But if you practice proper etiquette, you can live the most out of Malaysia with no worries at all.

Here is a guide on proper etiquette when studying and living in Malaysia.


Upon meeting a local, it is customary to greet them with “salam,” a handshake with both hands. Wait for the other person to extend their hand for a handshake before you extend yours. More importantly, do not touch a woman when greeting them. Wait for a woman to extend her hand first before yours.

When given a business card, accept it with both hands and read it for a moment before putting it in your pocket or wallet.


Muslims are conservative. Foreigners must dress conservatively as well as a sign of respect, especially in rural areas and mosques. Women must wear respectable clothing that covers the arms, shoulders, and legs. You can also wear a headscarf with respect to their culture. Remove your shoes or footwear when entering a mosque or a Malaysian home.

Body language

It is important to be wary of your simple body language in Malaysia. Even the most “normal” gesture can be offensive to the locals.

For example, pointing a finger is rude in Malaysia. If you want to point in a direction, use your whole hand or just your thumb. Sitting opposite to a local with your legs crossed is also an offensive gesture, most especially for women.

Public displays of affection are not tolerated in Malaysia. Even a simple hug or kiss is extremely frowned upon in Islamic culture.


When passing a plate, you must use your right hand as the left hand is used for the bathroom. Be sensitive to your peers and never offer them any pork or alcohol. Remember that most of them do not eat pork or beef and need their food to be Halal-certified.

Tipping is not usually required in Malaysia since most businesses already include a service charge. But if you are impressed by their service, a small tip for your server will work.


If you plan to go to places of worship, you must show utmost respect and follow the proper dress code to avoid offending any worshipper. Men must wear long trousers and long-sleeved shirts. Women must wear a long cloak and headdress, which is usually provided by most mosques. Footwear must also be removed before entering a mosque. During prayer time, you are not advised to go inside the prayer hall if you are not a Muslim.

Want to know more about the wonders of Malaysia that international students can enjoy? Read more about them in MSM Unify.