When an American businessman who had just arrived in Kuala Lumpur found that most veiled woman refuse to shake his hands before meeting, he was dumbfounded.
No matter how polite he seems or how wide the smile he arms himself with, most will only nodded in return, but not shake his hand. After a few embarrassing occasions and a quick crash course in the culture of the Malays, he realize what happened – he should not have offered shake hands to the Muslim women in the first place.
It’s embarrassing. But it is also avoidable. To make sure this won’t happen to you, here are 3 etiquettes you should know before you touchdown in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
1. Handshakes? Probably Not
Despite the adoption of western values in the way locals dress or speak, many Muslims in Kuala Lumpur still practices the Islamic way of life.
This means you should not offer a handshake to a Muslim man if you’re a woman and vice versa. To let you know this, many Muslims will only smile and nod their head, as a sign that they will not shake your hand.
When shaking hands with the person the same gender as you, some may use both hands but without the usual grasp. This is considered the most polite way of handshake in the Malay culture.
3. Mind Your Dress Code
On the days that you plan to visit the temples or mosques in Kuala Lumpur, wear appropriately.
This means you should not wear tights, shorts and tank tops. Instead, wear loose clothing that covers your shoulder and legs.
In Kuala Lumpur, mosque officials will offer you robe as well as scarves to help you dress appropriately before entering the praying area. But not all temples do.
So, the best way to make sure you do not get turned away is to make sure that you’re prepared with sensible dress on your visit.
5. What You Serve Matters
Muslims in Kuala Lumpur do not eat pork and observing ones do not drink alcohol. As such, it is very rare for you to see Muslims hanging around in an alcohol serving restaurants. In fact, Muslims find the smell of alcohol and the sight of pink-colored pig flesh to be offensive.
But other races, especially the Chinese are allowed to drink alcohol in the public. In fact, alcohol and the Chinese are synonymous and no wedding is complete without a toast – or Yam Seng as the locals call it.
Hindus (normally Indians) do not eat beef. But they do eat mutton, and using their right hand when eating — just like the Malays.
What makes Kuala Lumpur special is the mixture of races, belief and way of doing things. But while Kuala Lumpur folks are masters of tolerating others way of life, many travelers may not.
It doesn’t matter how different, weird or funny you think the cultures are, they have served as religious aesthetic for many of years and that’s what makes Kuala Lumpur so special. While they are short, they are very important. Make sure you observe those so that your trip to Kuala Lumpur will be much easier, smoother and more memorable.