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Social and Cultural Environment in Malaysia

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The cultures around the world are very different and very much the alike at the same time. The way people live around the world depends on the norms internalized by their societies. The given circumstances that differ around the world limit individual’s chances for fortune and life chances. There are endless questions that can be asked to compare or contrast culture from culture and nation from nation, but the fact that there are so many similarities amidst mankind should inspire cultural relativism and spread the attitude of multiculturalism.

For country like Malaysia, culture is learned, practiced and shared through cultural diffusion.

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Many have learned that Malaysia is rich with diversity of races ranging from Malays, Chinese, Indians, and Bumiputera however very few people understand who Malaysians are. True enough that we are separated by different culture and beliefs. Though the mode of celebration, the dates and the traditions vary, the spirit remains as one Malaysia. Well, the most amazing thing to us is that we accepted appreciation, acceptance or promotion of multiple cultures, whether of a specific place, organizational level, schools, businesses, neighbourhoods, cities or nations.

In this sense, Malaysia is actually experiencing multiculturalism which approximates to respect for diversity. The fact to be understood about Malaysia’s social and cultural environment is definitely how the variations and diversifications birthed out. The history stated that in the 1950s, the rapid process of economic development and urbanization that took place throughout the country which is after the independence had led to a massive migration of people from rural villages to urban and newly growth areas.

These immigrants soon became new urban dwellers and gradually adopted urban cultures and lifestyles. There and then, each race began to understand one another. Malaysia with its multiculturalism is home to delightful festivals, celebrations and feasts all round the year. Festivals in the country are either celebrated nationwide or at the state level. Diversity of races, religions and cultures is the one very special significant characteristic of the nation. This rich cultural heritage brings Malaysia far beyond other country could imagine.

The one very unique is the ‘Open House’ concept. This is when during the various cultural and religious festival like Hari Raya, Chinese New Year, Deepavali, Gawai Day and others, friends and families and even strangers would visit the homes of those who are celebrating the festival. During these celebrations, one race will wish another well and enjoy the feast prepared by the hosts. Although the visitors may be from different races, they still can tolerate with each other and live under the same roof. From multicultural ethnics come multivariate dishes.

Reflection of this statement represents Malaysia’s very special cuisines. Various ethnic groups in Malaysia have their dishes but many dishes in Malaysia are derived from multiple ethnic influences. Not surrounded by candle lights and flower pots, Malaysia’s specialities lie at the cheapest areas which are hawker stalls and coffee shops, known as “kedai kopi” in Malay or “kopitiam” in Chinese. Despite the name, these usually sell a lot more than just coffee. Within a coffee shop you can see variety of small huts built around it selling many kinds of food like noodles and rice.

Besides that, particularly popular and tasty are the “mamak” stalls, run by Indian Muslims and serving up localized Indian fare. Most hawker stalls stay open till late and some even operate 24/7 offering different food at different points throughout the day. If you have tendency to take away from any stall, terms like “bungkus” (Malay) or “tapao” (Chinese) will be suitable. The best thing about hawker food is that a meal will rarely cost over RM5. In addition, nasi kandar restaurant (also known as nasi campur or nasi padang), with a vast range of curries and toppings to ladle on top of the rice will ease the appetite.

Seafood restaurants are comparatively pricy but still excellent value by most standards. Local prawns are gigantic, Chinese-style steamed fish is a treat and crab served with sticky chilli and tomato sauce is particularly popular. Beyond these diversity of races and religion, there are some concerns must take into consideration and sometimes inevitable. Indeed, Malaysia has a favourable demographic structure, geographically advantages, beautiful culture and food haven. Meanwhile, the economy condition is stable at the moment.

Malaysia government are welcoming foreign investment in Malaysia and establish legal requirement to guide and protect foreign investment. However, Malaysia is a multicultural nation; western company should always consider the culture and social difference in Malaysia. This is due to the fact that multicultural population in urban areas often result in intercultural group conflict and tensions, but also offer heightened interaction among intercultural and interracial groups that leads to the development of intercultural harmony and sensitivity.

Plurality and diversity, relatively speaking, had not been a major problem. Nonetheless, the diversity has certainly brought a new dimension of toleration and sense of reciprocity among us. Competition to get better treatment, better equipment, as well as better lifestyle between the local people and the immigrant has somehow created sense of uneasiness and this need to be effectively addressed by the relevant authorities especially government. If it is not managed well prejudice and discrimination would certainly develop in this kind of environment and social conflict will erupt at any time.

In the past of the year 1969, May 13th an awful post riot that erupted in Kuala Lumpur and the happenings on that day are a spot on the history of Malaysia. Hence, achievement of national unity and racial economic integration is and should be the most critical problem confronting the country. Does business dealing in Malaysia differ from countries like United States of America? Considering and understanding the environment within which the business has to operate is vital for running a business unit successfully at any place.

Because, the environmental factors influence almost every aspect of business, be it its nature, its location, the prices of products, the distribution system, or the personnel policies. Hence, it is important to learn about the various components of the business environment, which consists of the economic aspect, the socio-cultural aspects, the political framework, the legal aspects and the technological aspects. The same concept and strategy applied in Malaysia. The way Malaysians deal with businesses certainly dissimilar with the rest.

Taking an example when Malaysians up for a meeting where greetings are needed. Greeting in a social context will depend upon the ethnicity of the person that one is meeting. In general, most Malays are aware of Western ways so the handshake is normal. There may be slight differences among Malaysian especially Malays. Malay women may not shake hands with men due to their cultural belief. Women can of course shake hands with women. Men may also not shake hands with women and may bow instead while placing their hand on their heart.

Any Malays and Indians are uncomfortable shaking hands with a member of the opposite sex. Hence, foreign men should always wait for a Malaysian woman to extend her hand first. The same as for foreign women should also wait for a Malaysian man to extend his hand. The Chinese handshake is light and rather prolonged. To demonstrate respect Chinese may look downwards rather than at the person they are meeting. Indians shake hands with members of the same sex. When being introduced to someone of the opposite sex, nodding the head and smiling is usually sufficient.

Among the commonalities of all cultures, there is a general tendency to introduce the most important person to the lower ranking person and the older person to the younger person. The society of Malaysia has this one very special social commonality known as the concept of “face”. Face is defined as “you nian” in Chinese and “air muka” in Malay. Malays, Chinese and Indians all strive to maintain face and avoid shame both in public and private. The concept of face has very similar meaning or practice as to say the aptitude to take care of the image especially in public.

It is a personal concept that embraces qualities such as a good name, good character, and being held in esteem by one’s peers. Face is considered a commodity that can be given, lost, taken away, or earned. On top of this face also extends to the family, school, company, and even the nation itself. The desire to maintain face makes Malaysians strive for harmonious relationships. How do you earn and lose face? The moment when one earned the title face is when the person is filled with wealth and glorious accomplishment.

Face can also be saved by remaining calm and courteous; discussing errors or transgressions in private; speaking about problems without blaming anyone; using non-verbal communication to say “no”; and allowing the other person to get out of the situation with their pride intact. Conversely, face can be lost by openly criticizing, insulting, or putting someone on the spot; doing something that brings shame to the group; challenging someone in authority, especially if this is done in public; showing anger at another person; refusing a request; not keeping a promise; or disagreeing with someone publicly.

Hence, do not show anger in public as it makes Malaysians uncomfortable and creates a feeling of powerlessness. There is a greater chance of achieving a good outcome will arise if calm, whereas little is resolved by shouting. This summary of cultural and social aspects, as to relate to management, suggests a combination of traditional hierarchy, emphasis on collective morale rather than achievement in business, and a comparatively short time horizon. Malaysian cultures reflect a deep understanding of core Malaysian values which include respect for elders, a collectivistic orientation, religious commitment, harmonious living and face saving.

These values need to be seen to co-exist with performance-driven values such as goal clarity, cooperation, commitment, decisiveness, and achievement in every day’s life. For Malaysian’s management perspective by combining our own traditional strengths and indigenous expressions with a modern and contemporary appeal of Westerners a great outcome of achievement in business entity will reach beyond one could explain far reach better than current economy status.

Malaysia is a truly multiracial society, with Malays and indigenous peoples making up around 60 per cent of the population of 21 million. The Chinese comprise about 31 percent, and Indians another 8 percent. It is therefore misleading to imply that there is only one culture, or one style of Malaysian. While these ethnic groups share some common beliefs and values they have indeed distinct cultural, social and religious heritages.

Cite this Social and Cultural Environment in Malaysia

Social and Cultural Environment in Malaysia. (2017, Mar 22). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/social-and-cultural-environment-in-malaysia/

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