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Doing Business Abroad Malaysia
by Wayne A. Conaway

Business in Malaysia is dominated by ethnic Chinese, the government by ethnic Malays, and the legal and educational community by Indians.

Greetings
  • The standard Malaysian handshake is rather limp and lasts 10 or 12 seconds. (Most North American handshakes only last 3 or 4.) Often, both hands are used.
  • A typical Malaysian greeting is the rhetorical "Where are you going?" "For a walk" or "Nowhere of importance" are perfectly acceptable answers.
Introductions
  • The traditional Malay forms of Mr./Mrs./Miss are:
    Encik=Mr.
    Puan=Mrs. (married woman)
    Cik=Miss (unmarried woman)
    These are used in front of an individual's name (e.g., "Mr. Ahmadi" would be addressed as "Encik Ahmadi.") You can use Puan ("Mrs.") for any adult female.
Appointments
  • Try to schedule appointments at least two weeks in advance. Malaysian executives are quite busy and travel frequently.
  • English is the language of business, but official correspondence with government officials must be in the official language, Bahasa Malaysia.
Negotiating
  • Due to the slow pace of negotiations, it's unusual to complete a complicated deal in one trip to Malaysia. Little will happen at the first meeting.
  • Never express anger in public: A person who loses his or her temper won't be trusted or respected.
  • The word "No" is rude. In Malaysia, "Yes" can mean "I agree" or "Maybe" or "I hope you can tell from my lack of enthusiasm that I really mean No."
Entertaining
  • Take advantage of any invitations to social events, although invitations may not come immediately. Let the Malaysians make the first invitation.
Previous articles and further information:
 
Indonesia
Philippines
Singapore
South Korea
Taiwan

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