Adjusting to life in Malaysia

Adjusting to life in Malaysia


“Any good teacher knows how important it is to connect with students and understand our culture.” Adora Svitak

At the University of Reading Malaysia, we are committed to supporting you as you adjust to living in Malaysia. As an international student, you must transition into a new teaching and learning experience and our academic and support staff will help you. The teaching context, teaching approaches, learning, curriculum and intercultural competencies are all important areas of adjustment and your experience at the University of Reading Malaysia may feel unfamiliar. There will be opportunities for you to improve your skills by attending Study Skills sessions as well as discussing your progress in your modules and in your programme with your academic tutor.


It is normal for international students to experience homesickness during their time abroad. The most important part of dealing with the emotions you are experiencing is to remember that you are not alone! There are thousands of students who have already, or will be moving away from home to join university. It is normal to be nervous before you arrive or even to be nervous after you arrive. You may wonder why you decided to move away in the first place. Try to remind yourself of the positive reasons you decided to study at the University and the benefits of studying abroad. When you join us in Johor Bahru, start off with small ‘adventures’ like going to the grocery store or exploring the shopping centres. Most importantly, talk to people. Have conversations with other people in your hall of residence or the people on your course.

It is normal to miss your family and to miss your familiar surroundings. Everyone feels this when they leave home, even if they don’t say so. Do not allow yourself to feel guilty. Your family will be very proud of what you are achieving by going to University. Arrange a time shortly after you arrive to talk to them. There are great social tools now that can make the distance feel smaller, such as Skype, Facetime, Facebook and WhatsApp Video Calling. Remember to talk to someone about how you are feeling. A problem shared is a problem halved! Staff at the University and other students will understand the difficulties of living away from your family.

The first few days when you arrive may feel quite overwhelming with all the new things you are doing. Most students will feel the same way, so be brave and talk to as many people as you can in those first few days. You may meet a life-long friend!

Tips for dealing with homesickness:

  • Regular exercise is a great way to take your mind off feeling homesick and you will feel excellent afterwards.
  • Surround yourself with a few items from your home.
  • Keep in touch with home, Skype is a great tool for this as you can see your family too.

Meeting new people and making new friends will help you to enjoy your time here. Find time to learn about other cultures and people that you meet when you arrive. The more you talk to other students, the more opportunity you have to meet people with similar interests that you may enjoy spending time with.

Malaysian Culture

Moving to another country and adapting to a different environment can be exciting, yet daunting. We are here to help make your transition as smooth as possible. Remember to ask questions and ask for help if you need it. Johor Bahru is a very culturally diverse area and you will need to develop an understanding of a range of religions and come to terms with cultural differences. In addition, you’ll need to find out about services such as banking to manage your day-to-day life. Malaysia is a country with a mixture of cultures based around its main ethnic group. Along with the traditions of the native indigenous tribes.

There are three main races:

  • Malay
  • Chinese
  • Indian

Brief facts about Malaysia

Population: approximately 32.5 million
Climate: Average daily temperature is 32 degrees C
Official Religion: Islam
Monetary Unit: Malaysian Ringgit (RM or MYR)
Capital City: Kuala Lumpur


Hari Raya Puasa (Eid Ul-Fitri)
The most significant celebration for Muslims, Eid Ul-Fitri, marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. The words ‘Hari Raya’ means day of celebration in the Malay language.
Known locally as Hari Raya Puasa or Hari Raya Aidil Fitri, the celebration is determined by a sighting of the new moon on the day before the next month on the Muslim calendar, Syawal.

Hari Raya Haji (Eid Ul-Adha)
Hari Raya Haji literally means the ‘festival of pilgrimage’. This festival is celebrated by Muslims to honour pilgrims who have completed their Haj (pilgrimage) to Mecca.
Hari Raya Haji falls on the 10th day of the month of Dzulhijjah, the last month of the Muslim Calendar. Also known as Hari Raya Qurban, which means the festival of sacrifice, traditionally, a cow or goat was sacrificed as a food offering to the poor.

Chinese New Year
The Lunar New Year highlights some of the most fascinating aspects of Chinese tradition and rituals. This festival is celebrated by the Chinese community in Malaysia. It is commonly known as a time for family reunions, the lion dance, mandarin oranges and giving/collecting ‘Ang Pow’ (red packets with money in them).

The festival, which once also marked the beginning of spring in China, begins on the first day of the lunar calendar year (the first day of the new moon) and ends on the 15th day, known as Chap Goh Meh (the last day of the full moon).

Celebrated by Hindus as the day the evil Narakasura was slain by Lord Krishna. Signifying the triumph of light over darkness and good over evil, Deepavali is also known as Diwali, or the Festival of Lights.

Light is significant in Hinduism because it represents goodness. So, during the Festival of Lights, ‘deeps’, or oil lamps, are burned throughout the day and into the night to ward off darkness and evil.

Hindus celebrate Thaipusam on the tenth month of the Hindu Lunar Calendar. Thaipusam is a Hindu festival celebrated mostly by the Tamil community on the full moon in the Tamil month of Thai (Jan/Feb).

The word Thaipusam is derived from the month name Thai and Pusam, which refers to a star that is at its highest point during the festival. The festival commemorates the birthday of Murugan (also Subramaniam), the youngest son of god Shiva and his wife Parvati, and the occasion when Parvati gave Murugan a vel (spear) so he could vanquish the evil demon Soorapadman. The festival is best witnessed at Batu Caves in Kuala Lumpur or in Penang.

The observance of the birth of Jesus Christ on December 25 is celebrated in Malaysia like other parts of the world. Decorations of evergreen wreaths, holly and mistletoe along with Christmas trees are found in many homes during this season. Coloured lights and candles are often displayed. Christmas gift giving is an intimate time for many families. Children’s eyes light up at the mention of Santa Claus or Father Christmas. It is a time for family and friends, hope and rejoicing, love and understanding, and giving and forgiving

The right hand is always used when eating with one’s hands or when giving and receiving objects. The right fore finger is not used for pointing at places, objects or persons. The thumb of the right hand with the four fingers folded under is the preferred usage.

Public behaviour is especially important in Malaysian culture. Most Malaysians refrain from displaying affections (i.e. embracing or kissing) in public. As a visitor in Malaysia it would be appropriate for you to do the same.

Tipping is not customary in Malaysia but if you wish to show your appreciation on good service, a small tip will be welcomed. Most hotels and restaurants include a 10 percent service charge.


Toll free:
+1800 18 6867

+60 (7) 268 6205

+60 (16) 7725 400
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General Enquiries

University of Reading Malaysia
Persiaran Graduan, Kota Ilmu, EduCity, 79200 Iskandar Puteri, Johor, Malaysia.

Toll free:
+1800 18 6867

+ 60 (7) 268-6200

+60 (7) 268-6202


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