Life in Malaysia

The Weather

The weather in Malaysia can be extremely changeable, wet and windy one moment, humid and sunny the next. You will need an umbrella, at all times of the year. Temperatures normally range from 22-32° Celsius. While the country experiences high temperatures, bring some sweatshirts or sweaters to keep you warm in the libraries or lecture theatres which can get quite cold, as these are fully air-conditioned.

Your clothing

Generally, light-weight clothes like short-sleeve shirts or T-shirts are used and cotton is most suitable. Minimise exposure of legs and arms in places of worship and rural areas. More formal occasions require the use of ties and jackets, or Malaysia’s official attire, the Batik. For classes male students are expected to wear office clothing, which is a tie with long sleeves and long pants, and female students below knee dresses. If not sure what to wear, ask the host.

Social Customs in Malaysia

Malaysia is proud to be multi-racial and multicultural. There is a diverse lot with people of Malay, Chinese, Indian, Sikh, Portuguese, Dutch, Eurasian and many other ethnic origins. You will find that people generally respect each other and are aware of the different cultural practices. Get to know the different nuances of each race, as well as what has converged and come to be known as true Malaysian culture.

As a result of the different races gathered in this country, many different languages are spoken. Bahasa Melayu (the Malay language) is the predominant language but English, Mandarin, Cantonese, Hokkien, Hakka, Tamil and Hindi are also widely spoken. All academic programmes conducted by the Faculty of Medicine, University of Malaya are in English but you will find different students speaking various tongues during their ‘hang-out’ times. Also peculiar to Malaysians is “Manglish” or Malaysian English - a curious combination of all the different languages spoken in Malaysia and English.

Just as there are many peoples and languages, different religions are practiced in Malaysia. The official religion is Islam but there are many Christian and Catholic churches, Buddhist and Hindu temples in addition to the mosques.

Generally Malaysians are shy but friendly, tolerant and understanding, and have a long tradition of welcoming visitors from overseas. Developing close relationships may take some effort; Malaysians are usually quite willing to talk casually, but that does not imply a firm commitment to friendship. Women are independent and accustomed to entering public places unaccompanied. Men and women mix easily, although this does not necessarily imply a willingness to enter into a deeper relationship. Perhaps the easiest way to make friends at University of Malaya is to join in as many activities as possible.

If you are invited into someone’s home it is usual (but not essential) to take a small gift such as chocolates or flowers or, even better, a souvenir from your own country. Try to arrive on time, as it is considered rude to be late, particularly if a meal is served. If you are unexpectedly delayed or are unable to attend be sure to let the host know. R.S.V.P. on a written invitation means that you are expected to reply stating whether or not you will be attending the function.

Smoking is banned in theatres, in most public buildings and public transport, including University of Malaya. Before smoking in public, it is advisable to check that smoking is permitted and that your companions do not object.

Attitudes towards work may be different from those with which you are familiar. Some international students are accustomed to greater and more specific direction in what to read and write. In Malaysia, lecturers tend to treat the subject broadly, expecting you, the student, to conduct deeper research and study on your own using the course reading lists and the library catalogue. If you are not sure how to go about this, do not hesitate to discuss any problems with your adviser. Every student is allocated an adviser. Your adviser, a member of faculty, is there to help you with any difficulties relating to your work and to your personal well-being.

Leisure Activities

Although the courses offered by the Department of Social and Preventive Medicine are very hectic and demanding, but our foreign students still have time to enjoy themselves during their stay here.

There are a few tourist spots which the students can explore during holidays or the weekends. There are hill resorts like the Cameron Highlands, Fraser’s Hill, Genting Highlands and Berjaya Resorts. There are also Theme parks like. Berjaya Time Square, Sunway Lagoon, Mines Wonderland (Kuala Lumpur), Desa Water Park (Kuala Lumpur), Wet World Water Park (Shah Alam), A’Famosa Water World (Melaka) and Genting Highlands Resort. There are Public parks like Taman Jaya (next to Taman Jaya LRT station), Taman Aman (next to Paramount LRT station) and KLCC park (next to KL twin towers).

For those who love nature there are nature retreats; e.g. Taman Negara, Endau Rompin National Park, and Matang Forest Reserve, and Zoo Negara, and KL Bird Park.


Shopping has also become one of the main pastimes for Malaysian and foreigners alike. Kuala Lumpur offers many shopping spots which can cater for a wide range of budgets and fancies.

They include shopping centres in and around Kuala Lumpur; e.g. Suria KLCC, Mid-valley Mall, Starhill Plaza, Lot 10, Ampang Park, Berjaya Times Square, City Square, BB Plaza, Sungai Wang Plaza, The Mall, Imbi Plaza, Plaza Low Yatt, Bangsar Shopping Complex, Sri Hartamas, One Utama, The Curve, Ikano Power Centre, Subang Parade, Sunway Pyramid, IOI Mall and the Mines Complex.

Street shopping is best in Jalan Masjid India where you can find ethnic Indian and Malays items; Petaling Street which is also known as Chinatown where you can find a good selection of clothing, Central Market the cultural cum handicraft centre for locals and tourists and Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman where you will be able to find a good selection of textiles. Not to forget the Pasar Malam which means “Night Market”, these market opens at most housing estates one specific night a week.

Legal Advice

Malaysian common law guarantees due process of the law to all persons, including overseas visitors. International students and their dependants are subject to the same laws as Malaysian citizens (with the exception of immigration, voting and citizenship) and are guaranteed the same protection of the law and the same civil rights. As a foreign student you have the constitutional right to express your views and to propagate and publish ideas (popular or unpopular) provided they are not illegal or an incitement to break the law and as long as you conduct yourself in a peaceful and orderly manner with due consideration for others.

About Malaysia

  1. Introduction
  2. Culture Shock
  3. Preparation
  4. Arriving in Malaysia
  5. Staying in Malaysia
  6. Life on campus
  7. Life in Malaysia
  8. Things to Do
  9. Bahasa Malaysia


The Occupational Medicine Clinic is a referral clinic for occupational diseases and is open on every Friday in University Malaya Medical Centre.