• Brunei and Malaysia have a Muslim majority and some points of etiquette in the Middle East apply. These countries also have a significant Chinese population to whom the points mentioned in regard to etiquette in China may apply.
  • In three nations mentioned above, one should not enter a mosque or Hindu temple without removing one’s shoes. Other places of worship such as Taoist or Chinese Buddhist temples and Christian churches allow footwear while others forbid it.
  • Nudity (and toplessness with regard to women) is absolutely prohibited on beaches. Besides offending others, violators risk arrest.
  • Placing or slapping an open palm on the top of a sideways-held fist of the other hand is a rude gesture. Inserting the thumb between the index and middle fingers of a closed fist is another.
  • Regarding the head and feet, the taboos listed below in regard to Thailand are widely observed in these countries as well.
  • Pointing with one’s index finger is considered impolite, especially when pointing at people. Instead, a closed fist held sideways (thumb at the top) with the thumb pointing the direction is used.
  • Many Malaysians traditionally eat with their hands. Higher status people may also as well, to indicate solidarity. It is customary to follow their lead, using only the right hand to eat. In restaurants however, if one does not wish to eat with bare hands, it is acceptable to ask for spoon and fork instead.
  • Addressing strangers in formal situations by their names (even if they have name tags) is rude. Instead, “Mister” and “Ms.” are acceptable.
  • It is considered rude to expose your tooth picking to others. Instead, cover your mouth or go to the bathroom.

  • Leaving your mouth open when yawning is discourteous. You must practice the habit of covering your mouth whenever you yawn.
  • When beckoning someone with a hand gesture, the hand is held flat with palm down, and fingers flexed toward the ground. Like the Japanese, to crook one or more fingers in the air is an obscene gesture.
  • Don’t point with your feet- this is highly offensive- the sole of the foot is considered the dirtiest part of the body.
  • Women must wear brassiere at all times, otherwise it implies she is very low class or a prostitute.
  • Don’t express anger in public. It is the height of self-control to remain calm at all times.
  • Don’t point with your index finger- use an upward facing palm, to gesture the direction.
  • It’s also impolite to indicate direction with the head – this is considered aggressive and implies the object or person in question has a very low status.
  • Avoid using the left hand for handling goods, exchanging money, eating. For Muslims, and many Asians, the left is the toilet wiping hand— and is thus considered unclean.
  • Traditionally, children should not eat until the older guests have eaten.
  • Avoid using first names. If in doubt use Encik or Puan (in Malaysia).
  • Never snap to get a waiters’ attention. This is near the height of boorishness. Wave instead.
  • It is very polite to play the game of initially refusing a gift, then receiving it with extreme gratitude, and indulging the gifter on the thought the giver put in it and how unworthy you, the receiver, are of such gifts. Furthermore emphasizing how you may have inconvenienced the giver is appropriate- in a very similar style to other Asian cultures.

  • It is generally acceptable to open gifts immediately as they are received. However, it is considered slightly more polite to unwrap them when the giver has left.

Among higher status groups, western table manners are observed meaning:

  • no eating until all guests are served
  • no eating sounds such as slurping, gobbling or belching.
  • no playing with food
  • no slouching
  • no elbows on table
  • no cutlery to crockery sounds
  • no spitting bones out. Discretely pass them into napkin.
  • no hawking, coughing, clearing throats or blowing noses at the table
  • no incorrect cutlery use or improper handling
  • no cutting or manipulating food between chews. Cutlery is placed at rest on plate between chews
  • no continuous shoveling of food into mouth
  • no chewing with mouth open
  • no speaking with food in mouth
  • no bending down to meet the cutlery- cutlery brings food to the mouth not vice-versa
  • soup bowls tilted away when finishing the last broth
  • soup is spooned into the soup-spoon away from the diner
  • some will apply a rule of all diners remain seated until all have finished
  • some will apply a rule of silence at the dinner table

Tipping is customary in Brunei and Malaysia. Consult the locals as to the usual rate. Tips apply to anyone who offer a service: toilet attendants, drivers, grocery-store clerks. Be generous, but do not exceed too far the usual local accepted rate. A tip of 5-15% of total bill at small eateries, where the bill does not specify a service charge is adequate. Most all restaurants will include a 10% service charge in the bill. Hotels and fine restaurants will usually include a service charge, and it is the discretion of the buyer to tip. Tipping at Mammak (Indian Muslim coffee shops) shops or hawker(food stalls) is not done.

 

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*This guide is mainly based on wikipedia’s texts & images. We thank the authors , for their great efforts