One of the greatest benefits of travel is the chance to see and experience different customs and lifestyles from yours. Being a city full of migrants, Kuala Lumpur promises you the customs of the whole Asia.
But so many traveler who behave well in their country behaves so rudely or offensive to fellow travelers and people of other cultures. Instead of becoming culture savvy with the many information of the internet, some people let their culture naiveté sabotaging their vacations.
Don’t let it happen to you. Here are 5 etiquettes you should arm yourself while in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
1. Try Learning a Few Words of Malay
Although English is spoken in most parts of Kuala Lumpur, don’t expect to be understood easily in every case. When the locals do not understand you, slow down. Your accent might sound natural to you, but probably not to Malaysians who are used to hearing English spoken by film stars from Hollywood.
As part of your travel, try to learn a word of two of Malay – especially the word “tolong” which means “please” and “terima kasih” which means ”thank you”.
Even if your pronunciation is not perfect, KLites will definitely appreciate that you try.
2. Take Off Your Shoes
Like most cities in Asia, people in Kuala Lumpur takes the shoes off when entering their houses and holy places such as mosques and temples.
When you visit such places, make sure you wear fresh socks. You do not want to get into a friend’s house or into such holy places with stinky feet. You will find yourself at odds especially if your host is an observing Muslim who washes his feet at least five times a day before each of his obligatory prayer.
3. Dress Modestly
Many tacky tourists are turned away from mosques and temples because they were dressed in shorts or tank tops. In Kuala Lumpur, most mosques will offer you robes and scarf to cover your head (if you’re a woman) but not all temples doo.
On the days that you plan to visit these holy places, be sure that you wear clothes that cover your shoulder.
4. Avoid Showing Public Affection
Despite the advancement of western values and the influence of Hollywood lifestyle in the lives of the younger generation, most Malaysian accepts the unspoken rule that the show of public affection in public is a serious offence.
Malaysia may not have religious police as strict as in Afghanistan but hugging, kissing or intimate body contact in the public is frown upon by all three major races in the city.
Being polite, most Malaysian will not speak their mind out loud in front of the public. But most will turn their head in the opposite view just to show their displeasure.
5. Gestures to Watch Out
Because there are so many races reside in Kuala Lumpur, most gestures in Kuala Lumpur are similar to the rest of the world. Unlike Australia where “thumbs up” is equivalent to giving someone “the finger”, the majority of Kuala Lumpur local folks are okay with the sign. And while most guide books say that pointing out with your index finger is rude, many people actually do it every day --- especially when it comes to giving directions to travelers.
But be wary of certain gestures. Touching someone’s head is considered extremely rude – especially if the person is your peer or someone older than you. Your innocent gesture might invite a brawl.
No matter what you think, treat Kuala Lumpur folks according to their custom and standard. Be a good guest, and respect the identity and custom of the many races you would meet and interact during your vacation here. Remember, when travelling, you represent your country. Don’t leave Kuala Lumpur folks with the picture of an ugly British, American, Chinese or other citizen.
But most important of all, have fun and enjoy the journey.