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An all-girls brass band march in front of the Grand Stand on Malaysia's Independence Day.


We dance for you in celebration of the Independence, O Malaysia!.

Country: The Federation of Malaysia comprises Peninsular Malaysia and the states of Sabah and Sarawak.

Geographical Location: Located between 2 and 7 degrees north of the Equator, Peninsular Malaysia is separated from the states of Sabah and Sarawak by the South China Sea. To the north of Peninsular Malaysia is Thailand while its southern neighbour is Singapore.Sabah and Sarawak are bounded by Indonesia while Sarawak also shares a border with Brunei.

Area: 329,758 sq. km.
Population: 22.7 million
Capital: Kuala Lumpur

People: Malays who make up 57 per cent of the population are the predominant group with Chinese and Indians and other ethnic groups making up the rest.

Language: Bahasa Melayu (Malay) is the national language but English is widely spoken. The ethnic groups also speak various languages and dialects.

Religion: Islam is the official religion but all other religions are practised freely.

Government: Parliamentary democracy with a bicameral legislative system. The Head of State is the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and the Head of Government is the Prime Minister.

Climate: Tropical climate with warm weather all year round. Temperatures range from 21 degrees Centigrade to 32 degrees Centigrade. Annual rainfall varies from 2000mm to 2500mm.

Major Holidays: Major national holidays are religious in nature and range from Hari Raya Aidil Fitri and Hari Raya Haji to Chinese New Year, Thaipusam, Deepavali, Christmas, Prophet Muhammad's Birthday, and Maal Hijrah. Other national holidays are the King's Birthday, Labour Day (May 1) and Independence Day (August 31). Each state celebrates its Sultan or Governors' birthday while the Federal Territories mark City Day on February 1. The dates of most of the public holidays vary each year according to the lunar calender.

Currency: The unit of currency is the Malaysian Ringgit indicated as RM. Foreign currencies can be converted at banks and money changers. All travellers, both residents and non-residents are required to complete the Traveller's Declaration Form (TDF). The revised TDF has two separate sections and columns for residents and non-residents to declare their currencies; the blue section for residents and the white section for non-residents.

Residents are required to declare in detail the exact amount of ringgit carried when they enter or leave the country only if the amount is in excess of RM1,000. They are also required to declare in detail the exact amount in foreign currency, including traveller's cheques carried, when they leave the country only if the amount exceeds the equivalent of RM10,000. Residents do not have to declare any amount of foreign currency including traveller's cheques carried with them when they re-enter the country. A non-resident is permitted to carry out of Malaysia, foreign currency notes including traveller's cheques not exceeding the amount brought in.

Residents are required to keep the TDF in their passport when they leave the country and surrender the TDF on their return journey. Non-residents are required to keep the TDF with their passport and surrender the form on leaving their country.

Business Hours: Malaysia is 8 hours ahead of GMT. Government offices are open from 8am to 4.15pm, Monday to Friday, with the lunch hour from 12.45pm to 2pm. On Fridays, there is a longer lunch hour from 12.15pm to 2.45pm to enable Muslims to attend congregational prayers at the mosque. On Saturdays, offices are open from 8am till 12.45pm. However, counters dealing with the public within the various departments are open only at specific times, so it is advisable to check.

Most private companies work on a five-day week though there are some who work a half-day on Saturday as well. Banks usually open from 9.30am till 3pm on weekdays and from 9.30am to 11.30am on Saturday.

While the majority of the country follows the international working week of Monday to Friday with the weekend on Saturday and Sunday, three states in Peninsular Malaysia follow a different working week. Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu work full days from Saturday to Wednesday and a half-day on Thursday with the rest day on Friday.

Telephones: Local calls can be made from public phones using coins or prepaid cards. International calls can be made from public phones with card phone facilities or at any Telekom offices.

Do's and Don'ts: When visiting Malaysia, the visitor should observe local customs and practices. Some common courtesies and customs are as follows:

  • Although handshakes generally suffice for both men and women, some Muslim ladies may acknowledge an introduction to a gentleman with a nod of her head and smile. A handshake is only to be reciprocated if the lady offers her hand first. The traditional greeting or "salam" resembles a handshake with both hands but without the grasp. The man offers both hands, lightly touches his friend's outstretched hands, then brings his hands to his chest to mean, 'I greet you from my heart'. The visitor should reciprocate the "salam".

  • It is polite to call before visiting a home.

  • Shoes must always be removed when entering a Malaysian home.

  • Drinks are generally offered to guests. It would be polite to accept.

  • The right hand is always used when eating with one's hand or when

    giving and receiving objects.

  • The right forefinger is not used to point at places, objects or persons. Instead, the thumb of the right hand with the four fingers folded under is the preferred usage.

  • Shoes must be removed when entering places of worship such as mosques and temples. Some mosques provide robes and scarves for female visitors. Taking photographs at places of worship is usually permitted but always ask permission first.

  • Toasting is not a common practice in Malaysia. The country's large Muslim population does not drink alcohol.

 
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