Do's and Don'ts When Doing Business in Malaysia

November 28, 2013 | Valerie Wong

When doing business in a foreign country, entrepreneurs should know that they will face a business culture that could be quite different from what they are used to in their home country. While Malaysia is a modern country where there are numerous similarities with the West in the business community, it is still important that foreigners understand some specifics about how business deals are done there.

Despite its differences, Malaysia is a society that is very accepting and welcoming towards foreign business people, so you are very unlikely to face any hostility or discrimination while conducting business.


Understand That Malaysia is a Diverse Society 

When you come to Malaysia, you should be aware that you will be dealing with people of various ethnic and cultural backgrounds. The three main ethnic groups found in the country are the Malay, Chinese and Indians. All three are active in the country's business scene, so it is important to adjust your behaviors when meeting with people of different groups. This is especially important if you are invited into someone's home or giving them a gift. For example, you should avoid giving a gift containing alcohol to an ethnic Malay, or giving scissors, knives and other cutting implements to a Chinese, as they symbolize cutting ties with someone. One cultural element that is shared among the three ethnic groups is that gifts aren't usually opened when they are received.

Gather All the Necessary Information 

There are numerous business opportunities for you to take part in as a foreign entrepreneur in Malaysia. In fact, the country's economy is expanding very rapidly and it is one of the easiest places to do business in the world. No matter what sector you are in, such as manufacturing, IT, or the hospitality and tourism industry, you will find great opportunities to take part in.

If you want to increase your chances of success, you should gather all the necessary information before you move your business plan forward. This includes finding a suitable location for your business, connecting with suppliers and business partners, etc. The good news is that there is a vibrant business community in Malaysia's large cities, which can lend a helping hand in your project.


Avoid Discussing Sensitive Topics 

There are certain issues that you should avoid bringing up during business or personal discussions while in the country. Particularly sensitive topics include relations between the various ethnic groups of the country, or its government and political system. You should also avoid making any remarks that may infer that you have a poor opinion of the country, such as criticizing the road conditions. While these topics are often casually discussed in the USA and some European countries, they are best avoided while in Malaysia.

Try to Make Things Move Too Fast 

When dealing with Malaysians, you may find that business moves at a different pace than it does in the West. This is because in the country's business culture, building connections and getting to know your potential business partners is very important.

For these reasons, you should avoid trying to pressure people into making an immediate decision. By taking a sincere interest in their business and personal experiences, you can increase your chances of developing a winning partnership. Also, your network of business contacts will grow, making it even easier to do business in the country.

If you're starting a business in Malaysia, Servcorp is here for you. Their 30 years of experience in the region will allow you to get your business registered and operating rapidly. Plus, their virtual office and meeting facilities will make maintaining a Malaysian presence and conducting business in the country easy.