What not to do when visiting Malaysia
Every nation has its own cultural and even legal peculiarities. When visiting for the first time, it can feel like negotiating a minefield. Malaysia is a country where the atmosphere is relaxed and newcomers are welcomed with open arms – but it has its own rules and conventions, just like any other country. Here are some tips to avoid a social faux pas – or maybe something even worse.
Shoes off at the door
When visiting someone’s home, one should never cross the threshold wearing shoes. It is considered the height of bad manners. Many will notice that most locals wear flip flops with all but the most formal wear, and for anyone who doesn’t have a pair, it is well worth investing a few Malaysian ringgit on some – it’s an easy way to save a lot of time and hassle that would otherwise be wasted in tying and untying laces! Sometimes the “shoes off” rule applies to shops and public places, too. It’s worth keeping an eye on what the locals do and if there are piles of shoes at the door, go with the flow!
Leave the weed at home
Some of these tips are lighthearted and a little tongue-in-cheek, but this is deadly serious: bringing any illegal substance into the country can land the carrier in prison and could even result in the death penalty. That even applies to cannabis, a fact that can seem difficult to believe in an age when so many nations are decriminalising the drug. The message is clear: while one can happily buy Gorilla glue strain and all the rest in many parts of the world perfectly legally, having even the smallest amount on hand when boarding a flight to Kuala Lumpur could end in disaster.
Leave the driving to an expert
Malaysians drive on the left, a throwback to the old British colonial days. But the driving style bears no similarity, and it’s a case of dog eat dog out there! Motorcycles are everywhere, and the riders switch lanes, go the wrong way down one-way streets and switch from road to pavement without warning. Traffic lights seem to be treated as serving suggestions, and are often ignored. Foreigners are definitely best off sitting back, watching the drama unfold and leaving the driving to someone who’s used to Malaysia’s roads.
Never trust the weather
For a great business idea, set up shop on a street corner in Kuala Lumpur as an umbrella seller serving unwitting tourists! The rain comes hard, long and with little warning in Malaysia, and the rainy season is hard to pin down as it varies in different regions of the country. In short, it’s always a good idea to assume the heavens could open at any moment. When they do, flooding is common. The good news is that the warm temperatures mean even if one gets drenched, they’ll be dry again in no time. It’s another great reason to go with the local dress code of t-shirt, shorts and flip flops when out and about!
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