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Intercultural Communication: Culture in Malaysia

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Communications
Wordcount: 1700 words Published: 26th Jul 2018

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  • Justine Grace Sundram A/P Nyanachandaran
  • Darshini Dewi A/P Manickam
  • Rekha Apsara Munesinghe


Intercultural Communication

Inter-, as you will probably know, comes from the Latin word for “between”, and the dictionary defines “communication” as “exchanging information”. Martin and Nakayama (2011) define intercultural communication as the “interaction between people from different cultural backgrounds.”

Importance of Studying Intercultural Communication

Intercultural communication is getting more and more significant due to the advance of globalization and increasingly multicultural work environments. It is indispensable because of our increasing exposure to masses of other polishes. Because of this, the cultural intelligence and cross-cultural communication skills that come with studying in a foreign country are extremely sought after by employers who seek to earn a competitive edge and break into foreign markets.


“Culture” is brought up to a group or residential district, which shares common experiences that shape the way its members understand the cosmos (Marya Axner, 2013).

Academic researchers often start out with the observation that “culture” is a word with a very vague meaning. Or rather, a word with lots of different meanings. A culture is a unique combination of rituals (such as greeting and parting), religious beliefs, ways of thinking (such as the earth was created), and ways of behaving (such as women can marry at 14 years of age in Iran) that unify a group of people.

Festivals Celebrated In Malaysia

Malaysia is a multiracial country consisting of the three primary races in the nation.

Looking for forgiveness from one another, especially from the elder members of the household is an important custom in this portion of the universe, which leads to Hari Raya Aidilfitri. This usage is thought as a way of abandoning past animosity, and strengthening bonds between family members and acquaintances. “Eid Ul Fitr” is usually celebrated to give thanks and to celebrate their success in completing the month-long time fasting period of Ramadan. The festival commemorates the end of Haj, which is the Muslim pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. It also marks the willingness of the Islamic prophet Ibrahim to sacrifice his son Ismail in an act of obedience to Allah (God).

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Handing out red envelopes to children during the Chinese New Year is one of the customs traditions in this festival. Aged people and married couples usually are the ones that take in these handouts. The centuries – old legend includes a report of a terrible mythical monster who preyed on villagers. On this day, families travel long distances to meet and make merry. Though the holiday is only around a week long, traditionally it is a 15-day holiday during which firecrackers are lit, drums can be heard on the streets, red lanterns glow at nighttime and red paper cutouts and calligraphy hangings are hung on doorways.

The famous festival among the Indians is Diwali or Deepavali that marks the victory of good over evil. On every Diwali day, the goddess Lakshmi is worshipped as a symbol of prosperity. Annemarie (n.d) discovered that people wear new clothes, share sweets and light up firecrackers on this very day. It is stated that the fireworks are used to frighten the evil spirits away, while the light embraces prosperity in the form of Lakshmi. The preparations begin the day before, when the oven is cleaned, smeared with lime, four or five kumkum are put on, and then it is sated with water for the next day’s oil bath.


Good eating etiquette is one of the common important rules of feeding. Malays admire good etiquette and do not appreciate bluntness. It is polite and goes for the soft sell.

Beverages will not be served before dinner and it is offered by using both hands. The right hand is only used to eat, pass, touch or handle anything while the left hand is never used to eat because it is filthy.

As for the Chinese, generally hosts a welcoming banquet while the foreign guests should reciprocate toward the end of their visits. It is a must to arrive exactly on time for a banquet to show punctuality and courtesy. The guest of honor is always placed at the head of the room, facing the door. It is said that chopsticks are usually used and it is considered very rude to tap the chopsticks on the. The chopsticks are supposedly put neatly on the table or on the chopstick rest.

Not to mention, the Indians as well, have their own etiquette of eating. Food must not be refused when one is being served but it is all right to be the first to finish eating. Hindu hosts are never supposed to let their guests’ plates be empty. The guests should always assure the host that it is fine by following the host’s style of eating. If utensils are not used, the right hand is used to eat. Spoon is a must use to take food from communal dish; it is a rude way to use fingers.


In every culture, there are always the Do’s and Don’ts. It depends on a person, whether to believe the superstitious act or not. In Malaysia, the three primary races share some common similarities when it comes to taboos. It is said that taboos were believed by the ancestors, a very long time ago and it is because to bring good moral values to the younger generation. Wasting money on unnecessary things just to make the celebration big and merrier is not encouraged by the Muslims. Besides that, those that are celebrating Hari Raya Aidilfitri are supposedly to visit relatives no matter how bad the family tie is.

As for the Chinese, during the celebration of Chinese New Year, it is said that sweeping the house a day before new year is bad as it will be throw the “ Ong “ away. Families would be gathered for dinner to build a stronger bond with each other. No matter how busy one would be, it is a must to celebrate this festival without missing it. Swearing or jinxing something during new year, is said to bring bad luck to the family throughout the rest of the whole year.

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For the Indians, during Deepavali, candles would be lit up, and that is one reason why is it called The Festival Of Light and to get rid of the evil. Coloured rice would be used to decorate the porch floor and is called “Kolam”. It is encouraged to wear bright colours during the festival, because it is said that white and black symbolize sadness.


Every culture brings out the traditions that were believed by the ancestors, once and it is carried on by the following generation. This leads to good moral values and etiquettes in a person’s self. It is important to learn that intercultural communication is important because we are highly exposed of other cultures. This brings us to understand a person’s culture more deliberately as we are curious and try to relate ourselves to others. By learning a person’s culture, it makes us have a wider mind of range of how others behave, their religious beliefs and their means of establishing trust in each other.


Ahmed, S. & Naumann, E. (2014). Intercultural Communication. Retrieved from http://www.internations.org/magazine/intercultural-communication-15409

Annemarie. The significance of diwali. Retrieved from http://www.auroville.org/society/diwali.htm

Axner, M. (2013). Section 1. Understanding Culture and Diversity in Building Communities. Retrieved from http://ctb.ku.edu/en/table-of-contents/culture/cultural-competence/culture-and-diversity/main

Cultural Etiquette. Retrieved from http://www.read-write-now.org/UserDir/Documents/Cultural Etiquette.pdf

Guhanatha, S. (2009). Thaipusam. Retrieved from http://www.myhindupage.org/index.php/thaipusam

Hari Raya Aidilfitri. (2014). Retrieved from http://www.centralsingaporecdc.org.sg/hari-raya-aidilfitri/

Jaime, K. Hari Raya Haji. Retrieved from http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/infopedia/articles/SIP_694__2009-01-02.html

Lisa, C. (n.d.). The history of Chinese New Year. Retrieved from http://chineseculture.about.com/od/chinesefestivals/a/ChineseNewYear.htm ).

Martin, J. N., & Nakayama, T. K. (2011). Experiencing intercultural communication: An introduction. New York : McGraw-Hill.

Pearson, J.C., Nelson, P.E., Titsworth, S., & Harter, L. (2013). Human communication: Intercultural communication. Penn Plaza, NY: McGraw Hill Education.

The Importance of Intercultural Communication. (2014). Retrieved from http://www.ability.edu.au/latest-news/the-importance-of-intercultural-communication/


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