Understanding Malaysian Culture for SMEs

Event Overview

Connect Malaysia principal consultant Mr Joe Perri and Cultural Synergies founder Dr Tom Verghese have joined forces to run an extensive cross-cultural workshop for SMEs, with a focus on the importance of understanding Malaysian culture and its impact on the commercial success of Australian business owners.

Malaysia is one of Australia’s top ten trading partners and the prospects for business have provided a beacon for SMEs to expand their operations into Malaysia. The country’s strategic geographical position and access to the markets of ASEAN is a further incentive for SMEs. However, many ventures have been cut short by cross-cultural blunders in matters such as language, etiquette, non-verbal communication and general indifference to local customs and norms.

A poor understanding and appreciation of Malaysian culture might on the surface appear trivial – even humorous by Aussie standards, but the cultural mistakes made in areas such as management, marketing, advertising and during negotiations have resulted in devastating financial consequences.

Being able to work in cross-cultural environments is a necessary skill for SMEs and the intensive program developed by Dr Verghese will assist business owners to understand the Malaysian culture and importance of cross-cultural intelligence for business success.

Workshop Details

Time:      9:00pm for prompt start 9:30am – 3:00pm, Saturday May 6, 2017

Venue:    The office of MATRADE, Level 7, 432 St Kilda Road, Melbourne

Cost:        $240 per person (+10% GST) includes Malaysian lunch and refreshment breaks

For further enquiries or ticketing information please contact Mr. Chris Lonergan at Cultural Synergies by email at enquiries@culturalsynergies.com or telephone 03 9909 7456

Workshop Program

The workshop program has been developed and will be presented by Malaysian-born Dr Tom Verghese, an internationally renowned expert, consultant, author and main platform/workshop presenter on cross-cultural awareness and Cultural Intelligence (CQ).

To illustrate some often-misunderstood cultural mistakes that will be covered in the workshop, Dr Verghese has provided some examples:

Business Card Etiquette

  • Business cards are exchanged after the initial introductions
  • Use two hands or the right hand only to exchange business cards
  • Examine business cards you receive before putting them away as the respect you show someone’s business card reflects the respect you will show them in business
  • Never write on someone’s card in their presence

The Concept of Face

Malays, Chinese and Indians all strive to avoid shame both in public and private.  This is known as “Face” and embraces an individual’s qualities such as a good name, character, and being held in esteem by one’s peers.

Face can be lost by putting someone on the spot, criticizing, insulting, challenging someone in authority, refusing a request, not keeping promises or disagreeing publicly with someone.

Gift giving to Malays

If invited to someone’s home for a meal, bring the hostess pastries or good quality chocolates, but they must be Halal… and definitely no alcohol. Present the gifts with the right hand only or both hands.

Do not wrap the gifts in white wrapping paper as it symbolizes death and never give the children toy dogs or pigs.

Meeting and Greeting

  • The best approach is always friendly, yet formal
  • Within a team environment, introduce the most important/senior person first
  • Foreign men should always wait for a Malaysian woman to extend their hand. Similarly, women should also wait for a Malaysian man to extend his hand
  • It is important to use professional titles i.e. doctor, professor, Dato, etc. Malays and Indians use titles with their first name while Chinese use titles with their surname

Workshop Presenter


Dr Tom Verghese was born in Malaysia and is an internationally renowned expert, consultant, author and main platform/workshop presenter on cross-cultural awareness and Cultural Intelligence (CQ).