Local Customs in Malaysia

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Customs in Malaysia

It is advisable to dress respectfully, particularly in rural areas (wearing trousers or a long skirt, not shorts, and covering your shoulders is recommended but not essential). In more metropolitan areas such as Kuala Lumpur, Johor Bahru, Penang, and Ipoh, as well as East Malaysian states (Sabah and Sarawak), attitudes are more liberal.

As a tourist, it is best not to criticize the Government or the Malaysian royal families. You may hear Malaysians criticize their own government, but you do not need to take sides; just listen and feel free to talk about your feelings about your own government.

When entering a home or a place of worship, always take off your shoes. Also, never eat with your left hand, or give a gift with your left hand; and never point with your forefinger (you may use a closed fist with the thumb instead), point with your feet or touch a person's head.

Public showing of affection in larger cities is tolerated but might invite unnecessary attention from the public. In more rural areas it is frowned upon and is to be avoided.

Same-sex relationships are a taboo subject in Malaysia. Gay and lesbian travellers should avoid any outward signs of affection, including holding hands in public. Homosexuality is illegal in Malaysia.

Swastikas are an ancient symbol commonly seen in Hindu and Buddhist temples. They are typically a reverse image of those used by Nazis and do not express similar sentiments or anti-Semitism, so Western visitors should not feel offended when seeing it in the homes of their hosts. 

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