Malaysian Business Practices and how to make them work to your advantage

Malaysia is a glorious melting pot of culture and ethnicities. With origins in the Malay kingdoms of the 18th century, this area fell under the rule of the British Empire until 1946 when they were united as the Malayan Union. Malaysia achieved independence in 1957, and since this time the country has gone on to have one of the best economic records in Asia with their GDP experiencing great growth – an average of 6.5% year on year for almost 50 years. There are thirteen states and three federal territories, and the country is separated by the South China Sea into Peninsular Malaysia and East Malaysia. Between the two areas, Malaysia shares land and/or maritime borders with Brunei, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore and Vietnam. The glorious capital city of Malaysia is Kuala Lumpur. Malaysia’s economy has long been fuelled by natural resources but has been expanding into medical tourism, commerce and science.

Thanks to this incredibly diverse range industries, Malaysia is a place with a fast-paced lifestyle. You’ll also find a highly qualified workforce here and a particular attitude to working life. The more aware you are of Malaysian business practices the more you will be able to adapt to them and make them work to your advantage. It doesn’t matter if you’re starting a new business in Australia and want to explore expanding internationally or have a business in Malaysia already – it pays to know more.  So, without further ado let’s explore the key elements that make up Malaysian business practices and how you can make them work. These tips have been brought to you by Servcorp Malaysia.

The language

In the major cities of Kuala Lumpur (KL) and Penang you’ll find that everyone speaks English as the language of business. Much of the world’s business is conducted in English and Malaysia is no different. While it’s always a good idea to have some Malay under your belt in case, English is just fine as a language to use.



The work

You’ll find that in Malaysia that there is a strictly regulated working culture controlled by the Department of Employment. As an employer you have to take very good care of your employees. The work culture is very fast-paced as I mentioned above, and the work interactions are between a hugely diverse mix of people from a range of nationalities. Malaysian people are highly polite and don’t agree with any kind of laziness. It’s essential for this reason that whenever working with Malaysian people that you respect their culture of hard work and good manners.


There still is -as with many other cultures (Australia included) – discrimination in the workplace and mainly towards women. While there is less discrimination in the high income range, there’s still plenty to worry about in the industrial sector. Only eight percent of women make up the Malaysian parliament, and as a result of this and other factors women do find it hard to avoid discrimination at times.

How to do business

When working with a Malaysian business associate it’s important to have a sense of courtesy, friendliness and trust. You need to make sure that you always shake hands politely and that you present yourself while paying attention to particular titles so as not to offend people. Many business relationships are built over meals so be sure to manage this appropriately.

Ultimately, the way in which you do business in Malaysia can impact on the success of your business ventures in this beautiful country. So be sure that you adhere to the cultural expectations, make prudent business decisions within Malaysia, and you should experience prosperity in all that you do.