People communicating each other with different background and practices. Cross-cultural adaptation is the process of internal change in individuals to be able to function in an unfamiliar culture. Adaptation based on the acquired culture knowledge is found to be important for the development of trust between all races in Malaysia. To achieves the objectives of communication effectiveness, we must understand the pattern of communication that involves different cultures. At the end we can adapt and assimilate ourselves in a meaningful relation with another. Intercultural adaptation as a shared learning process in the life-course.
Workplaces and societies are becoming more and more culturally diverse. People are regularly in contact with someone who has a different cultural background and they are facing new challenges in their everyday communication. To better cope with the situation one needs a deeper understanding of the processes of intercultural adaptation, intercultural communication and intercultural learning. In intercultural communication situations cultural, sociocultural, psychocultural and environmental factors exert influences. They influence what is learned , how the communication situation is interpreted, and what evaluations are made. Intercultural adaptation gives opportunities to practise them and increase their understanding of the meanings. Through shared experiences people can increase cross-cultural awareness and sensitivity and feel comfortable in multicultural contexts. The present article gives an overview of the important, challenges and the intercultural communication competence between Malaysian.
Importance of Intercultural Communication
Intercultural communication is getting much more significant due to the globalization and increasingly multicultural work environments. The cultural intelligence and cross-cultural communication skills that come with studying in a foreign country are also very demanding sought after by employers who look to earn a competitive edge in the foreign business markets.
Culture is brought up to a society, which shares common experiences that shape the way its members understand the world. Culture is combination of rituals such as greeting , religious beliefs, ways of thinking and ways of behaving (such as women can marry at 14 years of age in Iran) that unify a group of people.
Malaysia is a multiracial society that consisting of the three primary races, Malay, Indian and Chinese in the country.
Forgiveness from one another, especially from the elder members is an important custom which leads to Hari Raya Aidilfitri. This thought as a way of forget past animosity, and strengthening bonds between family members. “Aldilfitri” is usually celebrated to give thanks and their success in completing the fasting period of Ramadan. The festival commemorates and give respect the end of Haj,It also marks the willingness of the Islamic prophet Ibrahim to sacrifice his son Ismail in an act of obedience to Allah (God).
Giving out red envelopes to young children from aged people and married couples during the Chinese New Year is one of the customs traditions. Families travel long distances to meet and make merry. Traditionally it is a 15-day celebration during which firecrackers are lit, lion dance on the streets, red lanterns glow at night.
Indians Deepavali that marks the victory of good over evil. On every Diwali day, the goddess Lakshmi is worshipped as a symbol of prosperity. People wear new clothes, share sweets and light up firecrackers. It is believed that the fireworks are used to frighten the evil spirits away, while the light embraces prosperity in the form of Lakshmi.
Good eating etiquette is one of the important rules of feeding. Malays considered it 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.
Chinese generally hosts a welcoming banquet. Arrive exactly on time for a banquet show punctuality and courtesy. The guest of honor is placed at the head of the room. Chopsticks are usually used and put neatly on the table.
Indians 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. 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 taboos. In Malaysia, the three primary races share some common similarities when it comes to taboos. 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.
During the celebration of Chinese New Year, it is said that sweeping the house a day before new year is bad. Families would be gathered for dinner to build a stronger bond with each other. Swearing or jinxing something during new year, is said to bring bad luck to the family throughout the rest of the whole year.
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 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.
Cultural Challenges in Malaysia
To get the best of our stay in Malaysia, it is best to understand the cultural challenges and differences so that we can avoid any embarrassing or tactless act in a social situation.
It is common in Europe and America to greet someone with a handshake, in Malaysia, due to its numerous ethnicities and religions, the form of greeting can be difference. Malay women do not usually shake hands with members of the opposite sex and , the acceptable way to greet them is to smile and bow slightly. Malay men have no qualms with shaking the hands of someone of their own gender but would hesitate again when it comes from the opposite sex, a simple bow would adequate. In the business circle however, this is less restrictive.
The Chinese community is more open to a handshake greeting regardless of gender and this also apply to the Indian community. Indian way to greet someone is to put their hands together in front of them and nod their heads.
English is the business language in Multi-National Companies (MNC). Being a former British colony, English is commonly used in Malaysia especially the urban areas of Kuala Lumpur and Penang. Learning Malay would be useful especially in rural areas. Malaysia a multi cultural country with many races, languages like Mandarin, Tamil, Cantonese, & Hokkien are also widely used.
When Malaysians disagrees with a suggestion, they will not reject it directly but try and seek to mediate a better solution. Non-verbal communication is another way that Malaysians differ from Europeans and Americans. Whilst pointing with the index finger is considered acceptable to American, it is considered rude to Malaysians who prefer to use their thumb with a clenched fist to indicate with their hands. In Manglish (English-based creole spoken in Malaysia ), no problem lah!
Clothing is nonverbal message which facilitates our shared meaning through appearance and is an important part of helping cultures connect and establish inclusion through social interactions.
Malaysia is a tropical country with warm temperatures, it is wise to use protective accessories like a hat and sunglasses, and also use light coloured, cotton clothing. Malaysia is a secular country but with Islam as its official religion. Due to this, it is best to show respect for local customs and dress conservatively especially in rural areas. 
Intercultural communication effectiveness and competence is the ability to communicate effectively and appropriately in various cultural contexts. Malaysia as a multi cultures social, initially, a person’s motivation for communicating with people from other cultures must be considered.
Communication: The need to maintain harmonious relations, Malaysians rely on communication. Consideration is made to ensure that what is said, does not offend the other person in the interaction. Words are chosen to be polite and not assertive. Pay attention to posture, expression and tone of voice during communication. The purpose of this is to maintain politeness and respect throughout the conversation. Malaysian may follow ways of other races to communicate interculturally.
Physical Contact: It is generally inappropriate to touch strangers in Malaysian generally people are not very accustomed to physical affection from anyone that isn’t a close friend or family member. Being a predominantly Muslim population, Malaysian society generally respects a separation of the genders. Therefore, it is seen that Malaysian are maintaining an appropriate social distance each other but still able to maintain a close relation socially among chinese, malays and indians.
When greeting a group of people, the oldest person should be greeted first.
Always address individuals according to their appropriate titles (i.e. Mr, Mrs, Encik, Puan) and younger Malays, Malaysian will usually address them as “Adik” which mean brother or sister. The common Malay verbal greeting is “Salam”.
Elders may be address as “pakcik” (uncle) or “makcik” (aunty) out of respect. You may be addressed to in this way by people younger than yourself.
The common greeting across all ethnicities is a handshake. People may put one hand over their chest and give a nod to greet those they perceive are unaccustomed to being touched. Muslim Malays may greet people of the same gender by using both hands to grasp the other person’s. Formally involve extending both hands to the recipient’s right hand and placing it between one’s own. Then makes a small bow and place their own right hand on the heart. Older Chinese-Malaysians may lower their gaze out of respect during a greeting. 
The role of language and the need to be aware of each other’s language in intercultural communication are important. As social interactants, we will tend to learn about how to communicate effectively and intelligibly in daily situations. Malaysia has undergone social change since independence. It has achieved economic and educational growth. Inter-ethnic relations have been both helped and threatened by these changes. Malaysia’s minority ethnic groups have conflicting evidence about the extent to which the Malay majority listens to their concerns and is responsive to their needs. Malaysia intercultural communication become even more important between the Chinese ,Indian and Malay communities.
Malaysia offered equal opportunity and full human rights to all of its citizens. This nation of intent have not yet been fully realized for all racial/cultural groups. To achieve this goal, must address the concerns of their constituent communities, and work to build a stronger mutual trust and respect each other.
Two strategies to improve to improve intercultural communication skills among people living in Malaysia.
Cultural dissonance refers to the unexpected emotional discomfort experienced where an individual is required to act in a manner inconsistent with one’s values, attitudes, beliefs or norms. This may cause anxiety and provoke frustration, confusion disharmony or conflict experienced by people. All of these negative emotion may show in your facial expressions and body language.
To improve interactions, between individuals require skills in impression management. Creating a favourable impression is more challenging when you are experiencing cultural dissonance. This is particularly true of behaviours that are non-verbal behaviours like tone of voice, body language and facial expressions.
This non-verbal prejudiced responses may explain why many interactions between members of different cultural groups feel uncomfortable. These expressions of bias can be detected by the interaction. This is a less open interaction.
Polite means being aware of and respecting the feelings of other people. We may not always notice politeness but we usually notice rudeness or inconsiderate behaviour. Politeness will improve our relationships with others, help to build respect and rapport, boost your self-esteem and confidence, and improve your communication skills. Say hello to people, greet people appropriately” Salam” to malays, gain eye contact and smile naturally. Be approachable. Do not blank people just because you’re having a bad day. Make an effort to engage in light conversation, show some interest, but don’t overdo it. Remain friendly and positive and pick up on the verbal and non-verbal signals from the other person.
Individuals with higher cultural intelligence consciously monitor their responses for biases and actively seek to override their negative responses towards a more positive cross-cultural interaction.
Intercultural communication can be a dynamic and creative affair but due to the inability to interpret people correctly and never pay respect to the different in values and beliefs it can be a challenge. Building an more understanding of other people’s cultures, their beliefs and behaviors can go a long way in improving relationships and being more successful in an intercultural environment.
When we are interact with people from different backgrounds, there will be values conflict with the cultural ideals of people. We do not need to abandon our cultural values or to support the practices or beliefs of other cultures. Rather, cultural intelligence encourages a respect for difference. This improves our interactions. People are more likely to reciprocate the favourable sentiment with pro-social behaviour when they feel respected. There is a notion of respect that lies between complete acceptance and reluctant endurance of different culture. Respect as civility is treating others with courtesy, politeness and concern.
Civility is respecting the culture of other race. We do not endorsing their specific ideas or behaviour. Respect as civility means showing a positive regard for others equally. It involves disagreeing without demonising and hearing different opinions without attacking.
Respect and civility avoid misunderstanding and prejudices. Another important way is through the promotion of good research, publications, knowledge dissemination, and dialogues by scholars and other interested individuals and institutions. Such activities must be encouraged and intensified.
The commonalities and differences between cultures and civilizations need to be objectively demonstrated and explained. Dialogues on this critical issue have to be informed and guided by knowledge, not by assumptions and rhetoric.
Only in this way will it help promote a deeper understanding and appreciation of the other race and culture, thus strengthening the dynamics of multicivilizational relations in such societies as Malaysi