While most travel guides tell us where to go and what to do, it’s also equally helpful to know what are the things we should avoid doing.

When you’re in Malaysia, these are the things we absolutely must not do to avoid getting in trouble.

  1. Do not point forefinger at things. Doing so is considered rude. Instead, use the thumb, whole hand or open palm when pointing.


  2. Do not touch anyone’s head or pass anything from above the head, which is considered to be the most sacred body part.
  3. Do not discuss ethnic relations or politics. Both are known sensitive topics in a culturally-diverse country like Malaysia.
  4. Do not kiss in public. This is considered inappropriate and especially applicable in smaller towns where locals are more culturally conservative.
  5. Do not pound your fist in to your hand, it is considered an obscene gesture.
  6. Do not touch a monk or give him anything if you’re a woman. In case you do so, they have to fast and do ritual cleansing.
  7. Do not take the taxi on pre-arranged fare. Drivers of such cabs often cheat. Always insist on using the meter.
  8. Do not eat in front of Malay people during the holy month of Ramadan. It is seen as a sign of disrespect.
  9. Do not wear shoes when you enter someone’s home.
  10. Do not show soles of feet. Doing so is considered rude, so ensure that the soles of your feet always touch the ground and avoid lifting it up such as resting it on a chair.
  11. Do not eat with your left hand. It is widely understood that the left hand is associated with toilet-related activities. Left-handed people who can’t use right hand should ask for table utensils.