Culture is learned and shared and influences even the most simple aspects of our lives. When conducting business in Malaysia it is vital that you offer any potential business partners some entertainment as a sign of respect, which usually comes in the form of a pleasant dining experience! Of course, when trying to impress potential business partners it is essential that you follow the correct meal-time etiquette so as to avoid offending them or coming across as ignorant! Whether you’re invited into someone’s home or are meeting at a restaurant it is important to make sure you are on time. Be sure that when you are traveling you find accommodations that are in convenient locations. For instance, if you booked a hotel in Johor Bahru for the evening make sure it is relatively close to your business destination, that way you won’t be rushed and fear you may be late.
There are some rules which you should always follow if you are invited to a Malay house for a meal. Asyou arrive at their home, wish them well and take off shoes prior to entering the home. It is also good idea to bring some little present for the host- and this must be offered to them with your right hand!
According to Malay culture, you will be presented with all dishes at one time. You will want to clean your hands prior eating and should only take food with your right hand. When picking up food, your fingers should be horizontal, not vertical!
A tiny bowl of water will be placed on the table for you to clean your fingers with. While dinner is served to you, wait for the host or hostess to formally welcome you before you begin eating. The indication used will most likely be “Silalah Makan” or “Jemputlah Makan” which means” please eat”.
The basic dish is rice and you will be served four or five other dishes on the side. In Malay culture, every grain of rice is highly and hence you should clear the plate. You must be careful to take an acceptable amount of rice: neither too much or too little!
If there are two guests on the dining table, the younger one should let the elder one eat first! Shells, bones and others should be placed on the plate offered by you by your host. There is also certain Malay who use the western ways at dining table.
It is common in Malaysia for people to use toothpicks at the table, and these are usually provided alongside the meal. This is very different to Western cultures, but do remain respectful and remember that these people have kindly welcomed you into their home.