Cultural Do’s & Dont’s
For Chinese With Chinese names, the name to call is the first name: Chee Kok Kian (short K.K. Chee) is to be addressed as Mr. Chee. This is the family name (surname). It is difficult for us to know if a name belongs to a male or female. Chinese married women keep their maiden name and officially use their husband’s family name. Some local Chinese have English names to their Chinese family name: e.g. Francis Chee Kok Kian.
Indian names are prefix with the initial of the father’s name to their own. e.g. S. Balakrishnan would become Mr. Balakrishnan, but can be also Mr. Bala. Sometimes Tamil Indian names are short formed to the second half of the name thus you would address him as Mr. Krishnan. Wives will be addressed as Mrs. Krishnan. If you see the suffix Singh (males) or Kaur (females) added the name belongs to a Sikh and should be added when addressing. Never use Mr. Singh alone. Some Indians (mainly Christians) use Western names.
Muslim names do not consist of traditional first and last names. The first name is often linked by the words bin (son of) and binte (daughter of) followed by their father’s name. Suggesting when you see the name Nik Abdullah bin Nik Mohamed you address him as Encik (pronounced En-check) Nik Abdullah. A woman is addressed as Puan (or Cik, pronounced “chek” if unmarried and very young), e.g. Puan Rafidah.
Once you see the prefix Hajji (male) or Hajjah (female) this indicates he/she has absolved the pilgrimage to Mecca and consequently has to be addressed as e.g. Hajji Nik Abdullah and Hajjah Rafidah.
You may come across the term Tuan which is a respectful address for a senior male or if the name is not known (“Sir”).
There are numerous titles either religious inherited or granted by of Malaysian monarchy which are used as a prefix to the name:
|Male||Female||Meaning||Address as … followed by the name|
|Syed/Saied||Sharifah/Syarifah||Descending from the prophet||Tuan/Puan|
|Hajji||Hajjah||Has been in Mecca||Haji/Tuan/Hajjah/Puan|
|Ungku||Engku||Ranges below Tungku||Ungku/Engku|
|Tun||Toh Puan||Sir/Lady||Tun/Toh Puan|
|Tan Sri||Puan Sri||Granted by the King||Tan Sri/Puan Sri|
|Datuk/Dato||Datin||Granted by a Sultan||Datuk/Dato/Datin|
● Never come too early, be on time or a little late. Exception: Chinese weddings are always delayed!
● If you are not sure what to wear for a formal invitation and/or for a special occasion and it is not indicated on the invitation, ask your host.
● Wear modest clothes when invited into a Muslim home.
● A verbal thank you is sufficient but a telephone call a day later is greatly appreciated. Flowers are a Western custom and are either sent before the event or the next day.
Asians In Your Home
● Keep your dog locked away as Muslims are not allowed contact with dogs. Chinese are often afraid of dogs.
● Respect the fasting month Ramadan when inviting to your home.
● Muslims are not permitted to drink alcohol. If you receive an unexpected guest you need to serve drinks.
● Inquire about food restrictions when inviting for lunch or dinner. Muslims must eat halal which means food and drink sanctioned by Allah for consumption. Examples of Haram (prohibited) food are pork. alcohol, lard shortening, animal shortening, gelatin, pepsin, monoglyceride, animal hormones didlyceride eg. emusifiers if of animal origin.
● Your guests may be vegetarian, or not allowed to eat pork (Muslims) or beef (Hindus). The safest choice is fish, chicken and vegetables.
A Chinese Wedding
Often the main purpose of inviting a large number of guests to a Chinese wedding is to recover the costs of the lavish wedding banquet and eventually make a profit. The “hongbao” expected of the guest is a cash gift placed in little red envelopes anonymously
deposited at the entrance of the ballroom. The going rate of a hongbao is between SGD $100 to $150 per attending guest and its equivalent in other currencies. Guests give more if the wedding lunch or dinner is held at a posh hotel.
Never open a gift received in front of the giver.
|Gifts/ Taboo gifts and wrapping paper colors in Asia|
|Buddhists/Taoists (e.g. Chinese, Thais, Indians, Indonesians, Sri Lankans, Taiwanese, Koreans)||Give presents in pairs, money and flowers come in even numbers.
White flowers are taboo.
|Happy occasions: Red, gold
Funeral: white, blue, black.
|No scissors, knifes, clocks, handkerchiefs. Gift vouchers and money in a red envelope.||The stork/heron is the symbol of death in Chinese culture.|
|Muslims (e.g. Malays, Indonesians, Indians)||Alcohol, cigarettes, ashtrays, wine glasses, scissors, knives, underclothes, sleepwear, articles of pork or leather.||Favorites: Red (love) Green (religion)||Decorative or functional household items||Colorful dresses and jackets. No toy dogs|
|Hindus (Indians, Sri Lankans, Filipinos)||Sweets, fruits chocolates
Taboos: no cow products, ashtrays, knifes, wine glasses Alcohol, cigarettes White flowers
|Red, gold, green and all bright colors||Decorative of functional household item||Piece of gold jewelry or colorful clothing|