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Healthcare and Etiquette in Malaysia

While numerous expats opt to go to Malaysia, it is not always easy to find a job or get a permit. Once you’re there, plenty of other issues will require your attention. InterNations provides you with info on work permits, healthcare, social security, taxes, and business etiquette in Malaysia.
Kuala Lumpur is still the best place in Malaysia to find work.

Cheap Healthcare, Great Service

The Malaysian healthcare system is divided into a public and a private sector. To ensure adequate medical care for the general population, all doctors are required to work in a public hospital for at least three years before going private. In order to attract medical tourists, Malaysia has taken great care to ensure high standards in hospitals and medical centers. However, rural areas often don’t offer the same high-quality facilities as big cities.

Although medical care in Malaysia is cheaper than in most Western countries, all expats are strongly advised to take out comprehensive health insurance coverage. If you pay contributions to the Employees Provident Fund, this will cover you for all necessary medical treatment and rehabilitation care in government hospitals. However, to be on the safe side, make sure you purchase at least a supplementary health insurance package from a worldwide insurance provider. This allows you treatment in private hospitals.

Income Taxes

In Malaysia, income derived from non-Malaysian sources is exempt from income tax. Under a special expat tax regime, an expat’s entire income is exempt from income tax if the expat’s period of employment in Malaysia does not exceed 60 days per calendar year.

Foreigners who work in Malaysia for more than 60 days per year but still don’t qualify as residents are taxed at a flat rate of 26% on all income from Malaysian sources. Everyone who is physically present in Malaysia for more than 182 days per year qualifies as a resident for tax purposes. In this case, income tax will be withheld from your salary and settled upon filing of the tax return after the close of the tax year.

To prevent any clashes of authority between source country and residence country over taxation matters, Malaysia has entered into double taxations agreements with 70 countries worldwide. Further information on taxation and a list of all DTAs can be found on the official website of the Malaysian Industrial Development Authority.

Business Etiquette: Faux Pas and Royal Attendance

In general, if you follow the same rules as you would in several other Asian countries, you should be safe in Malaysia. Avoid the following cultural faux pas: touching someone’s head (the seat of the soul); touching something, or worse, someone with your foot, or even pointing your foot at someone; greeting someone or eating with your left hand. All these actions are considered offensive.

When doing business, wear formal and conservative attire, but avoid the color yellow since it is reserved for royals. If you are at a meeting and nobody is smoking, this might be because a member of the royal family is present, so never be the first one to light a cigarette. As the royal family is quite large and heavily involved with the business world, this is not an unlikely scenario.

Remember that many Asian cultures are not exactly known for their directness: You can expect business negotiations to be very long-winded and not as straightforward as you might have hoped for. Learn to read between the lines, never refuse a request outright, and never lose your temper.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

Adam Malewski

"With all the great information on this site, getting settled in Kuala Lumpur was a piece of cake."

Yasmin Krüger-Darango

"A former business partner recommended InterNations to me when I moved abroad to Malaysia. We still use it to stay in touch."

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