Whom you know…

In Malaysia, 70% of Internet users have a Facebook account. Malaysians have embraced social media with enthusiasm, as one more way to connect. It is not unusual to hear in Malaysia “it is not what you know but who you know” that matters. Some expatriates looking for work in Malaysia have been unable to find a position despite their very adequate qualifications and the many letters they sent, while others with just a few phone calls to the right people have secured employment much faster. Understanding the importance of relationships and networks is essential to function effectively in this country. Why is that so? Asian cultures tend to be group-orientated cultures. In such cultures is it v

Yes boss!

Signs of respect and status are everywhere in Malaysia: from the police escorts on the streets and the special treatment reserved to VIP at official functions ( VVIP signs can even be spotted in Kuala Lumpur!) to the numerous titles and honorific that are common in Malaysia: Dato, Tan Sir, Toh Puan … and the long titles of the sultans of Malaysia. Some expatriates used to a flatter societal structure find it difficult to accept this respectful treatment and interpret it as a sign of submission. They keep asking their staff to call them by their first name, and often get the answer “Yes Boss!” without realizing that it is as unnatural for a Malaysian to call them “Bob” as it is for them

Why do Malaysian always say “On the Way...” ?

Who hasn’t gone native in Malaysia and used this very versatile phrase? Odw : getting ready to go or odw: be there in 2 minutes. Malaysian time has a very “rubberlike” nature. Here being accommodating and flexible matters more than being punctual. Why is that so? Looking back on the history on Malaysia, one could say that the wealth and grandeur of Malacca was built on patience and waiting. In a country, where trade and business relied mainly on the good will of the winds and the monsoon, it only seems natural that people understand that there is no point in pushing for time and deadlines, things will happen when they are meant to happen, the winds will turn when they are meant to turn.

Let's go Makan!

When asked about what makes them proud of their country : FOOD is by far the first thing Malaysians mention. Food is truly the one thing that brings Malaysians of all ethnicities together. Ask any of your local friends or colleagues about a specific type of food and they will go on telling you where is the best place in town to try it , where the dish comes from and where to get the best ingredient for it. Food is available at all times of the day and in great variety. Nasi lemak (the coconut flavored rice eaten with sambal and anchovies) is the typical Malay breakfast that you can eat for breakfast, … lunch or dinner! In a city like Kuala Lumpur you can have the choice of Malay, Indian,

Need to be culturally competent

Cross-cultural consultant Marie Tseng enlightens Aneeta Sundararaj on the importance of understanding cultures for better communication and interaction The average Malaysian will walk into the office, head for his/her desk, switch the computer on and start reading emails. At most, he/she will say “Good morning” to three people: A secretary, a colleague and the boss. “The French can’t understand this. In France, everyone greets each other and shakes hands. The women will kiss each other on the cheek,” says Marie Tseng, 45, an expert in cross-cultural competencies. The first scenario is common in companies that rarely focus on diversity and cross-cultural training for their employees. In her b

Going Beyond Cultural Frustrations

Living and working abroad, we all have at some point complained about our hosts: “Why don’t THEY get it? Why can’t THEY follow my clear instructions? Why don’t THEY tell me when THEY don’t understand?” But what if communicating effectively across cultures was a dynamic process? What if it was up to US to make it work? Twenty years ago when my husband and I decided to get married, I wasnext to the worst thing that could happen to my Taiwanese parents-in-law. For them, seeing their eldest son marry a French who hadn’t any clue about how things were done in a Taiwanese family couldn’t be good news. Indeed, the first few years brought a lot of frustrations on both sides. However, there wasone

Women at work

Malaysia is a country of contrasts and paradoxes. This applies also to how women behave and how they are perceived. As March 8th is the day celebrating Women across the world, it is a good day to reflect on the position of women in Malaysian cultures. A patriarchal society Malaysia, as many countries in Asia, has very patriarchal family structures. The father is clearly the head of the family and sons still often have a privileged role to play. I have heard countless stories of women having to fight for their right to higher education, across the many cultures of Malaysia. Yet it would be inaccurate to say that all women in Malaysia have to be obedient silent wives as a group tried to promot

Words to Live By: Aligning Desired Behavior With Your Company Values

What if you could align employee behaviour with business values, creating a core culture that enhanced engagement, performance, and customer experience? If so, how do you figure out the values that your team should live and work by? And how do you align the desired values with desired behaviours? These were the questions faced by Pendinginan Megajana, a district cooling plant provider in Cyberjaya. Megajana’s leadership understood the value of creating great company culture – it can hold your team to higher standards, work together more effectively toward your ultimate goals, and even make better hiring decisions. The company was committed to starting that journey, which began with explicitl

Making Expatriation a Success : A Challenge for the Trailing Spouse

Roberto and his wife, moved from South America to Kuala Lumpur 3 months ago. Before embarking on this adventure, they have carefully thought about the implications and opportunities the move would bring for both of them and they are excited by the challenge. Yet it only takes a few minutes of talking to them to realize that the situation isn’t all that bright. Roberto has agreed to give up his job as a senior sales manager for an IT company at home in Brazil, in order to follow his wife on an expatriate assignment. Knowing that the IT industry is booming in Asia, and in Malaysia in particular, Roberto was confident that he would easily find a job and was looking forward to being at the he





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