Malaysian Culture


  • Greetings are very important in Malaysia and are thought to indicate the respect you will show an individual from then on.
  • When greeting a group of people, the oldest person should be greeted first.
  • Always address individuals according to their appropriate titles (i.e. Mr, Mrs, Doctor) unless they specifically ask you speak more casually. If you indicate that you prefer to be addressed on a first name basis, you may find they feel more comfortable to continue to use your title and last name.
  • The common Malay verbal greeting is “Salaam”.
  • Elders may be address as “pakcik” (uncle) or “makcik” (aunty) out of respect. You may similarly be referred to in this way by people younger than yourself.
  • The common greeting across all is a handshake. However, physical contact between men and women is not permitted in all circumstances. If greeting a Malaysian woman, wait to see if she extends her hand first before offering to shake.
  • People may put one hand over their chest and give a slight nod to greet those they perceive are unaccustomed to being touched.
  • Muslim Malays may greet people of the same gender by using both hands to grasp the other person’s.
  • Formal greetings involve extending both hands to the recipient's right hand and placing it between one’s own. The individual then makes a small bow and place their own right hand on their heart.
  • Bow the head slightly to greet someone older. If in a more formal setting, place the forehead or the tip of the nose on the back of the elder recipient's hand.
  • Older Malaysian Chinese may lower their gaze out of respect during a greeting.

Want this profile as a PDF?

Get a downloadable, printable version that you can read later.


Create your own Cultural Atlas with bookmarks, collections and a unified, searchable interface

Sign up for free