Meeting new people in Malaysia

Updated 2022-05-21 19:06

Malaysia is a true melting pot of cultures. The country brings together people and residents from all over the world. It is, by far, the perfect place to meet new people, whether professionally or socially. Here's a brief overview.

Malaysia is a multicultural country par excellence. Most of the country's population (69.7%) is made up of different ethnic groups originating from the country itself, gathered under the denomination of Bumiputera. Under such, there are 57.3% of Malays and 12.7% of indigenous ethnic groups from Sabah and Sarawak, or the Orang Asli, the "people of origins" in Malay dialect. Malaysia also has 22.9% of its people from China, 6.6% from India and 0.8% from other countries. All these populations live in perfect harmony, which makes Malaysia one of the most tolerant and friendly countries in Asia.

Therefore, it is never difficult for foreigners and expatriates to make friends in Kuala Lumpur or anywhere else in Malaysia. However, some people may be shy or even wary of strangers. Therefore, you will most often have to take the first step, as is the case in many countries around the planet. Be open, friendly, smiling, and above all take an interest in the local culture. Malaysians are proud of their heritage and their history, so they are always ready to share their national particularities with visitors and/or expatriates.

Finally, note that most Malaysians are of the Islamic religion and practice Muhibbah, a word of Arabic origin that means "love" or "goodwill". It is a philosophy based on tolerance and openness to others.

Making friends at work

At work in Malaysia, is one of the most auspicious places to meet new people. This is also the way by which many expatriates discover the local Malaysian culture for the first time. Generally tolerant, warm and welcoming, your Malaysian colleagues will be happy to share about places to visit, Malaysian gastronomy, or any other form of leisure available in Malaysia. With a bit of luck and good first contact, they may even accompany you and serve as your guides during your adventures.

To help you settle in quickly, learning a few simple words in Malay will help you break the ice, at work or elsewhere. For example, using the interjection "lah" at the end of a sentence is common usage in Malaysia. This chameleon word, probably one of the most used by Malaysians, is generally used to reinforce an assertion, express an unequivocal opinion, or mark irony. You will be surprised to discover that Malaysians will always be delighted to see you using the local language and that they will be all the more ready to welcome you.

Hospitality is one of the main characteristics of the Malaysian culture. Expect your new Malaysian colleagues who have become friends to invite you to their home for a drink or a family meal. We advise you not to refuse such an honor, as this could be taken as a lack of consideration for your hosts. Don't go to them empty-handed! Plan simple little gifts for the whole family and show them how much it pleases you and honors you to be invited to their table. Also, inquire about the do's and don'ts depending on your hosts' culture or religion before you show up at their home. For example, bringing pig-based food to a Muslim family is to be strictly avoided absolutely.

Joining common interest groups

If you have a hobby, a passion or a particular interest, meeting new people in Malaysia might be even easier than it looks. Since Malaysians are generally very fond of social gatherings, especially if they share the same interest, you will find a whole bunch of common interest groups on social networks. Most of them are open to foreigners, so don't hesitate to join and actively take part in meetings or one-off events organized by the group of your choice.

A simple search on online search engines should allow you to find what you are looking for. The vast majority of Malaysians are foodie fanatics, so it will be easy to make friends if you love good food and are open to typical cooking practices.

Sports lovers will be able to join clubs to practice their passion. They will easily meet new people there. Some of the most popular sports in Malaysia include badminton, which is considered the national sport, fitness activities such as jogging, aerobics, walking or weight training, cycling, scuba diving, field hockey, rugby, handball, volleyball and various martial arts. Kuala Lumpur's sports clubs are among the best in the country.

Even more interestingly, for meeting new people, learning a local dance (Sumazau, for example), playing a local instrument (Bertitik, Bongai, Gamelan Jaya, etc.), or trying a local sport (Sepak Takraw) can be a considerable advantage towards looking to make friends in Malaysia. Be careful though: some of the traditional associations/clubs are not necessarily open to foreigners.

Meeting your soul mate in Malaysia

Groups and online dating sites are increasingly popular in Malaysia. Some even specialize in finding husbands. One of them created a national scandal in 2021 because it facilitated meetings between wealthy men and women in precarious situations. If you are looking for a soul mate online in Malaysia, we advise you to stay alert and not use the first application that comes in.

Popular dating apps in the country include Mingle2, MalaysianCupid, Muslima, Badoo and Bumble. If you want to meet a person of Malaysian origin, MalaysianCupid is certainly the best application. Muslima, as the name suggests, was specifically designed for people of the Islamic faith. Single expats and foreigners are more likely to use the other dating apps mentioned above.

In addition to dating apps, love coaching (love advice) or matchmaking sites are also increasingly trending in Malaysia. DateWorks is undoubtedly the most popular of these somewhat special agencies. It has even been awarded for its efficiency and productivity. For those who are unfamiliar with love coaching, the objective is to accompany the user step by step in their search for a soul mate, to guide and advise on the best methods of approach, etc. DateWorks even goes so far as to reimburse you if you still haven't found someone that's right for you after six months.

More traditional love-seekers, for their part, can always opt for more conventional methods. Bars and nightclubs are numerous in Kuala Lumpur like in some major cities and tourist centers. These are still popular meeting places for Malaysians and foreigners alike. Be aware though! Middle-class or working-class Malaysians generally do not mingle with foreigners that much, at least as far as romantic encounters are concerned.

You should equally know that as an Asian country, everything in Malaysia is still very much about tradition. Even if things are changing, even today, many Malaysians only date people they have a high chance of marrying. However, more and more upper-class Malaysians are dating expatriates without being necessarily interested in marriage. This is rarer for Malaysian men, who generally seem somewhat reluctant to date strong, independent women, especially if they earn a better salary than they do.

Racism, xenophobia and fundamentalism

Religious fundamentalism has been on the rise in Malaysia in recent years. Since the fall of Daesh, several terrorists have taken refuge in Malaysia or have transited there, generating at the same time an aversion of certain Malaysians for foreigners, mainly those of Western origin. Several Western governments, such as those of the United Kingdom, France or Canada, are still reporting terrorist threats in Malaysia. The last attack, a grenade attack, took place in Puchong in 2016, injuring 8 people.

Some Malays have little regard for citizens or residents who are not native to the country, particularly Indians, Bangladeshis, Filipinos or Sri Lankans. This feeling of superiority, although not necessarily that of the majority of Malays, is at the origin of latent xenophobia with regard to these populations. In some cases, this attitude is even institutional, as for example for illegal immigrants who are beaten with a stick in public when they are caught. There are also some ethnic tensions between the Bumiputera, Chinese and Indian populations, especially in certain geographical areas.

If you do not respect the rules of local etiquette or the local cultural or religious traditions, be aware that Malaysians may not show great tolerance towards you. Urbanized regions are generally more welcoming than more remote areas, where people can be suspicious.

Rest assured, however, xenophobic, or racist incidents are very rare. Malaysia remains globally an open, tolerant, and warm welcoming land, definitely one of the warmest on the entire Asian continent.

Useful links:

Royal Selangor Club

Asia Street Food Club

Malaysia Hiking Club

Malaysian Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture



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