Everyday etiquette is relaxed and straightforward. Visitors behaving courteously are unlikely to unintentionally give offense. The following are some guidelines when traveling to Malaysia.
- Although handshakes are generally acceptable for both men and women, some Muslim ladies may acknowledge introductions to gentlemen by merely nodding and smiling. A handshake should only be initiated by ladies. The traditional greeting or salam resembles a handshake with both hands but without the grasp. The man offers both hands, lightly touches his friends outstretched hands, and then brings his hands to his chest to mean, "I greet you from my heart". The visitor should reciprocate the salam.
- It is polite to call before visiting a home.
- Shoes must always be removed when entering a Malaysian home.
- Drinks are generally offered to guests. It is polite to accept.
- The right hand is always used when eating with one's hand or giving and receiving objects.
- The right forefinger is not used to point at places, objects or persons. Instead, the thumb of the right hand with four fingers folded under is the preferred usage.
- Shoes must be removed when entering places of worship such as mosques and temples. Some mosques provide robes and scarves for female visitors. Taking photographs at places of worship is usually permitted but always ask permission beforehand.
- Toasting is not a common practice in Malaysia. The country's large Muslim population does not drink alcohol.
- Seniority is greatly respected within Malay households. The eldest male of a family should be greeted first and frequently sits in the best or highest seat.
- Pointing with a finger is considered to be extremely rude. Instead, the entire hand should be used to indicate a direction, but not a person.
- Although no host will insist upon it, it is polite to remove one's shoes at the door of a house upon entering. It is also customary to do so upon entering a mosque or an Indian temple.
- Comfortable and informal clothing is suitable during the day and recommended all year round because of the tropical climate. However, as Malaysia is a predominantly Muslim country, conservative dress is most appropriate. Women should not wear dresses, skirts or shorts that are too short. In cities, towns and villages, shorts are considered highly inappropriate.
Do not dress in any manner that may give the impression that you are a "hippie," as "hippies" are banned from the country. For formal occasions or evening wear, formal attire is expected. Men should wear a suit and tie or a long-sleeved batik shirt. Evening dresses or cocktail dresses are recommended for women.