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Cultural Values Impacting Malaysian Consumers Cultural Studies Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Cultural Studies
Wordcount: 5323 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The topic we choose for our team paper is “Cultural Values Impacting Malaysian Consumers”. The Different countries have different ethnic. Each of the ethnic has learned their unique culture from their family and country. So, what is culture? There are two definitions of culture that stated by Greert Hofstede and Edgar Schein. Greert Hofstede stated that culture is the collective programming of human mind that distinguishes the members of a group of human from those of another group. While Edgar Schein stated that culture is the deeper level of fundamental assumptions and beliefs that are shared by a group of members.

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As a simple way to understanding culture, culture is the basic beliefs, values, perceptions, wants and behaviors that learned by a member of society from family and other important institutions from one generation to the next generation. It is also includes the things that have worked in the past, shared attitude, norms, roles and values found among a group of people who live in a specific geographic region during the same historical period. Culture can be a set of behavioral rules that helps a group of people which are to exist together, to know what to do in various conditions.

Groups, societies, and cultures have the value that important for their members who determine the object, condition and characteristic. This is called cultural values. Cultural values are the force that shapes the motivation, lifestyles and product choices of consumer. At the simplest level, cultural values are the shared concept that determines what is possible, impossible, correct or wrong.

Consumer is an individual or household who purchase goods or services for personal use and not for the purpose of resale. In the other way, consumer can make decision whether or not to buy a product at the store. They decision to purchase item may influenced by marketing and advertisements. Malaysian consumer is the person who lives in Malaysia that purchases or uses goods or services that produce by the company.

Therefore, cultural values impacting Malaysian consumers is the values, beliefs, behaviors and conditions that can influence the individual or person who live in Malaysia to purchase the goods or services produced in the markets.

In this term paper, our focus area is only on Malay, Indian and Chinese consumers in West Malaysia. We are going to discuss about the influences of the cultural values of each ethnic in their purchase behavior. For example, how the Malay cultural values impacting the Malay consumers to buy the product and the same for the Indian and Chinese consumers. Besides that, we are also discussing about how the cultural values of each ethnics influences each others. For example, how the Malay cultural values impacting Chinese and Indian consumers. The following pages will deeply mention and discuss about the topic.

Consumer Behavior of Each Ethnic Group toward Their Cultural Value

Malaysia is a multilingual and multicultural community. The community of Malaysia has been recognized as “Asia in miniature”. The Culture of West Malaysia composed of Malay, Chinese and India cultures. Each of the ethnic groups remains their separate cultural identities. These cultures determine how Malaysian consumers make their buying decision.

a) Malay Culture

Malays are among the largest indigenous peoples in West Malaysia. The Malay cultures aredistinguished from Chinese and Indian. This is becausethe religion of Islam is closely associated with Muslim in Malay ethnic identity and culture.Muslim believes in one God, that is Allah s.w.t. For Muslim, Allah s.w.t is the Omnipotent, Creator, and Sustainer of universe. There are nothing can compare with Him. Therefore, the holy Quran, which record the words of God to human through God’s messenger provide the Muslim encouragement and prohibitions that need to obey.

In the food perspective of Islam, protein intake normally can take from poultry, fishes, lamb meat, goat, water buffalo, and beef. Malay cuisine must follow Islamic Halal dietary law. The forbidden foods for the Muslim compose of pork, alcoholic drinks and any other non-halal food. They will only purchase food with the label of halal logo that approved by Jabatan Kemajuan Islam (Jakim).

While in the clothing perspective, the Malay guys compulsory wear an Arab style vestment like baju Melayu, and sarong in the Mosque. However, the Malay lady will wear either western style clothes or the Malay outfit like baju kurungwith a tudung. The tudung or the hijabis is a symbol for Muslim lady. It represents modesty of a lady’s way according to the Holy Quran itself. Furthermore, the Muslim lady must choose to wear clothes that cantutup aurat according to the Islamic law. Muslims lady are requiring showing their good looking in front of community. That’s why, the Muslim lady will purchase whole set of cloth that are match in the form of colour and style. The Muslim ladies like to make up themselves. They like to purchase cosmetic product like lipstick, eye shadow and variety of perfume type.

A Muslim which normally belongs to Sunni sect in practice speaks Malay language, and practice Malay custom or adat. The word adatshows an individual assert harmonious social relationship with others. The believers of Sunni sect are friendly, submissive to power, heartfelt relation among the families, neighbour and the community. The Malay’s cultural values are based on sociological and anthropological. The Muslim generally is communal rather than individualistic. They treat others better than themselves and willing to make purchase decision based on group interest rather than personal desires.

They often work in a group rather than alone, not excluded they normally shop together. The Muslim either guy or lady generally will purchase the food or daily necessities with the consideration of their families and friends welfare that come first in their mind ahead a month. Furthermore, the Muslim will go for a travel with whole family member even though with friends. They normally will purchase air ticket or bus ticket whole set.

The consumption of Malays in Malaysia is affected towards pragmatism and quality consciousness. Malay focus on purchasing and possessing high technology, high quality products, acquire best value for money and set high expectation for the product without obviously purchase. Meanwhile, Malay consumers’ unable deals with the product and market information that bring to information confuse and overload. They may observe too many trade mark and shop for which to select products with little product information, little purchase involvement and can’t make rational decision. Pragmatism pervades in the field of marketing and the marketers in Malaysia have to fit the products so that can best suit the Malay’s cultural values.

Malays starts celebrate Hari Raya Puasa at least a month ahead, at the fasting period of Ramadan. The ladies start to tailor good looking curtains and buy new set of same colour clothes for the family. Most families will also make renovation for their house so that their house looks better when the visitors visit during the festival. They normally thoroughly clean and decorate with the lightning of oil lamps to believe to be visiting the earth during seven days preceding the festival in their house. They will change to new furniture based on their preference without spend time on searching and negotiating.

The Muslim is a traditional people. The Malay like to purchase traditional house that usually build using tumbled-frame structure with fix roof, porch, high ceiling, window for aerate purpose and decorate with wood carving which is a visual indicator of the status of Muslim owners. Wood carving is a part of classical Malay visual arts and the Muslim has traditionally decorate their utensils, musical instrument, grave, weapon by flora and the cosmic feature. Traditional Malay games such as Congkak, Sepak Raga, and Wau are often played by Malay. The market for the traditional games is quite demanding in Malay. While the Malay weddings which included the akadnikad (marriage contract) and bersanding (enthronement) are grand affairs that the marry couple is treated as royalty for the day seating on a stage and sprinkling them with yellow rice and pleasant water by others.

b) Chinese Culture

There are many ethnic groups in Malaysia and Chinese is the second largest among the ethnic. Chinese can be divided into sub ethnic such as Hakka, Cantonese, Hokkien and others. Even though there are many sub ethnic, they are inherit the similar cultural value. The ethnic of Chinese celebrating many festival such as Chinese New Year, Moon Cake Festival, Dragon Boat Festival and so on. During the festival, there are include many cultural value that can influence Chinese buying behaviour. Other than that, Chinese are also inheriting a lot of lifestyles and prohibition that carried down from one generation to one generation. This can affect the purchase behaviour of Chinese.

Chinese consumers are believed in “Feng Shui”. “Feng Shui” is an ancient Chinese system of space arrangement and building design according to the rules of the flow of energy. Its aim is to achieve harmony, comfort and balance with the environment. So, the Chinese consumers are making decisions to purchase goods and services based on the rules of “Feng Shui”. For example, they will buy the crystal to prevent from getting bad luck when they feel unlucky. Another example is when the Chinese consumers decided to buy a house, they will looking for the “Feng Shui” of the house to identify whether the house can bring good luck for them.

Besides that, Chinese consumers are conscious on their prohibition and custom. During Chinese New Year, Chinese consumers will purchase and wear the red colour clothes because they believe that the red colour can bring the good luck for them. Furthermore, during the Chinese New Year eve, Chinese consumers will buy the grapefruit leaves for bath. The purpose is to wash away the bad luck to welcome the arrival of New Year. It’s clear that the prohibition and custom of Chinese ethnic are influencing their purchase decisions.

Chinese consumers are conscious about ‘face’ and ‘public reputation’. ‘Face’ is a personal concept that represents the quality of good name and being better status than one’s peers. The protection of ‘face’ is quite important among the Chinese consumers. So, for those who are good in financial condition, they are able to buy gorgeous products to represent their status. For example, they will buy luxury cars such as Prado King, Mercedes and others to prove that they are rich among their friends and relatives.

Furthermore, education is considered important among the Chinese ethnic groups. This is because they are striving to maintain ‘face’. The Chinese consumers feel that high education can make them proud and be respected by their friends and relatives. So for the rich family, they are willing to send their children to private institution such as Sunway College and Taylor College. They do not care about the cost but important is the quality. This cultural value was impacting them to consume in those services.

The culture of Chinese wedding is also affecting the Chinese consumers in the way to prepare the things they need in the wedding ceremony. In their culture, they are going to exchange the gold bands, diamond rings and others jewellery during their wedding. The bride and groom also have to buy gifts such as biscuits and cakes for their friends and relatives. They also invite their friends, relatives and colleagues to celebrate their wedding ceremony at hotels or restaurants. Due to the need in wedding, they are tending to purchase those product and services.

Moreover, most of the Chinese consumers are very concern about their health. They are willing to pay at high price to buy the healthy products which can maintain and improve their health. The health products that they will buy are herbals, bird nest, ginsengs and others. They will also use herbals to cook soup, dishes and brew herbal tea. This is because they believe that “health is wealth” and the healthy lifestyle may lead to longer life.

Another value that will influence the Chinese consumers is their social norm. Social norm is the behavior of a culture, community, or group that seen normal to others. Chinese people easily get influence by their peer friend or colleague on their purchase behavior. For example, when A purchase a new product like iPhone, and A will keep praising the advantage of the product, finally B, C will get influence to purchase the same product or may be purchase the more better one.

Last but not lease, Malaysian Chinese are very concerned about the cultural value. So, the influence of Chinese cultural value is very strong in shaping their purchase decision making. In another words, the cultural value of Chinese ethnic groups affects what they buy, how they buy and when they buy.

c) Indian Culture

Indians are the smallest of the three main ethnic groups in Malaysia. They originally migrated from southern India to Malaysia during the British colonization. Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism known as Indian religions and bring from India to Malaysia. The Indians brought the Hindu culture with its unique temples, delicious cuisine and meaningful garments to Malaysia. Religion and culture plays an important and definitive role in their life. Therefore, the India cultural value has impact Indian consumer deeply.

Indian consumers are famous with the high degrees of value orientation and family orientation. Some of the value as identified Indian as one of the most analytical and good judgment consumer in the world. These orientations enlarge to extended family and friends. Most of the exclusive brands create a special marketing strategic in order to get a foothold in the Indian market. Those brand that suitable family values tend to be famous and adopted easier in the Indian market.

The values of caring and nurturing are related with Indian consumers. These values of ambition and achievement are dominant by these values. Indian consumers prefer those products which can convey their feeling and emotions. Due to the psychology and economics, history and tradition is plays an important role in shaping the Indian consumer behavior becomes unique and special. Indians are more prefer traditional products than the modern products. For example, shampoos together with hair oils and toothpowder existing with toothpaste.

In the Indian culture, they emphasize the segmentation and classification among them. They can categorize into societies and conservations. For the societies, it is belong to the upper class. They like to spend an amount of money on luxury goods, shop in specialty stores and go to clubs on weekends. They prefer the products that are unique and different with others. They are lovers of exclusive establishment and always go for the high value products. Socialites are also would only go for the well-known products in the market because they are brand conscious.

The conservations belong to the middle class. The true Indian culture can reflects by the conservative segment. They are traditional in their outlooks; spend more time with family rather than in partying and concentrate on savings than spending. They seek a lot of information before they make any purchases or decision making. Most of them prefer high value products, but often have to choose the more affordable one. Therefore, it can influence their purchasing habits where they are trying to purchases the middle and upper middle level priced products.

The food in Indian cuisine is classified into three categories which are Sattva, Rajas and Thamas. Sattva which stand for balance, Rajas stands for passion and Thamas stands for indulgence. Food is consumed according to the lifestyle of the people. When a person wants his life lead to self realization, he would prefer the Satvic food which can help him keep his mind in balance. Thamasic food which known as Static food is to be taken only if its required such as consumption of alcohol. This is also the reason why many Indians like to abstain drinking.

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Indians are the community who like to use the spices and herbs to cook their daily meals as well as in festivals. Multiple uses of spices and herbs are the need in food preparation and are used to enrich the flavor of a dish and create special flavors and tastes. Most of them expert in using the spices to cook various type of curry such as chicken curry and mutton curry. Therefore, they buy many kinds of spices as flavor in their homemade dishes. Due to the fact, most of the demand of spices in market is purchased by the Indian consumers rather than other ethnic groups.

For clothing, the famous styles of dress include draped garments such as dhoti or lungi for men and sari for women. In addition, Indian community also famous in wearing stitched clothes such as kurta-pyjama and European-style shirts and trousers for men and churidar for women. In Indian culture, a person’s social status is symbolized by his or her attire and appearance. For the Indian dress etiquette, it discourages the exposure of skin and wearing those clothes that are transparent or tight. Most Indian clothes are made by cotton due to the fact of hot weather. So, Indian consumers are more likely to patronize tailor shops to stitch their attires. Besides that, Indians do not like those clothes that are black in color and for the person who widowed; they prefer those clothes that are white in color.

Furthermore, the wedding rituals and clothes are the most important things for the Indians wedding. For the guests that attending to the wedding, they also dressed up to the teeth, but not just the couple. The folks attending the marriage are decked up with gold jewelry including the bride and groom. Both look excellent and grand in their gorgeous clothes. The ladies are beautifying with Henna patterns all over their palms, hands, forearms, legs and feet. Due to the different rituals and the various attires, Indian consumers choose the clothes and products that need in the wedding carefully.

Malaysia is a country that is well known with its rich and cultural heritage. Living in a multiethnic society, it contains various types of religions and cultures. The cultural values of each ethnic groups was impact themselves deeply in their buying behavior. For the Malay consumers, their cultural values based on sociological and anthropological. Their purchases decisions are more concerned about others than themselves. In the other hand, Chinese are more likely to the concept of ‘face’. They bought the product that can represent their high social status and family’s name. Besides that, tradition and customs of Indian has influence them in their purchases behavior. They more prefer the traditional products than modern product.

How The Cultural Values of Ethnic Influence Each Others

The Malaysian culture show diverse cultures of different individual of Malaysia. The earliest person to survive in the region were indigenous community that still remain until now, followed by the Malay community. Chinese and Indian cultural influences begin at their countries, and rose with the immigration to Malaysia. The numerous distinct ethnics that currently occur in Malaysia have their own special and distinguishing cultural identities, follow with some crossover.

a) Malay Cultural Influences Other Ethnic Groups

The Malay people are the dominant group in Malaysia. Their culture have a clearly affect in Chinese and Indian purchase behaviour. The music and arts are the tradition in Malaysia since long time ago, with the Malay art dating back to the Malay sultanates. Traditional art include the waving, carving, and silver smith. Carved wood is used as decoration or many things, like doors and window frame. Wood carving may different from traditional, floral motifs to abstract patterns. While, the Chinese wood carving composed of wood furniture sculptural and wood carving of art. That consists of bamboo carving, horn carving and even paper-carving. The Indian craftsmen carve a variety of wooden handicrafts such as jewel boxes, vases, decorative panels, wooden screens, and toys .The Malay also know well make traditional art include the hand woven basket that made from vine. This make the Chinese people like to purchase vine-made furniture.

Malaysia is a quite conservative country. This is due to the belief of Malay people to the Islam religion, they belief toward one God, that is Allah. Allah tells its believers especially female can’t show their whole body except for the face and two palms based on tutup auratrules. The female Malay normally wear baju kurungand baju kebayawhen attend formal occasion. This influence the Chinese and India have to obey the wearing attire that also close the whole body when attend Malay occasion, visit the government agencies, and even university area in order to respect the Malay culture. This wearing attire consider as formal attire in Malaysia. Besides, the luxurious textiles known as Songket are made as well as the traditional pattern batik fabrics.

Malaysia’s cuisine is normally divided among the ethics, but some mixtures have existed, made the special dishes. Most of the dishes is due to Malaysia be the part of ancient spice route. Especially the Malay people like to cook spicy food such as nasilemak, satay, keropoklekor, laksam, beef rendang. Traditional spices like coriander and cumin are used in Malay cooking together with Indian and Chinese spices like fenugreek, star anise, cardamom and pepper. These foods are quite demanding among the Malay, Chinese and Indian.

b) Chinese Cultural Influence Other Ethnic Groups

The cultural value of Chinese is not only affect the purchase behaviour of Chinese consumers but also affecting Malay and Indian consumers in their purchase decision. The influences of Chinese cultural value include the extent of Malay and Indian consumers’ lifestyle such as festival custom, eating behaviour, habits of wearing accessories and others. Even though there is different cultural value in each ethnic group, the Malay and Indian consumers still can accept the Chinese cultural value and practice it in their life especially their purchase decision.

In the festival custom, the Chinese used to give ‘angpau’ to the children during Chinese New Year. ‘Angpau’ is a red envelope that contains money and this represents the blessings of the elders to the children. The Malay ethnic began to accept this custom and start to give ‘greenpau’ to the children during Hari Raya. To attract the Malay consumers, the suppliers will start produce the Hari Raya products with green envelopes as a gift. Therefore, if the Malay consumers want to get the green envelopes, they will buy the product. This is because the Malay consumers want to learn the Chinese customs.

The Chinese eating behavior is also affecting the purchase decision of other ethnic groups. The Chinese are concern about their health and focus onto a healthy diet. For example, they are used to cook chicken soup, ginseng soup and herbal soup to maintain their health. The Malay and Indian ethnic are so appreciate on this attitude. Therefore, they are influenced by Chinese and start to cook herbal soup as a part of their meals. They will buy the ingredients they need and cook the soup in their own way.

Besides that, Malay and Indian consumers are also will buy the Chinese food such as mandarin orange and moon cake. These are some of the famous foods that Chinese will consume during festival. Malay and Indian consumers will take this opportunity to buy these products. This means that the cultural value of Chinese indirectly influences the purchase decision of Malay and Indian consumers. Due to the fact that Malay and Indian consumers are going to buy such foods, the food products in the market are symbolized with the word of “Halal”.

Other than soup and festival food, Chinese traditional food such as “Pao” is also become famous in Malay and Indian community. “Pao” is a type of steamed, filled bun or bread-like item in various Chinese cuisines. Malaysian Chinese used to eat “pao” as their breakfast or high-tea. Malay and Indian consumers attracted by the shape of “pao” and start to try it seem there is “pao”s produced in “Halal” in the market. So, to allow the Malay and Indian consumers easy to get this food product, some of the Malay and India community start selling “pao” in halal in their restaurants since the demand of “pao’ for other ethnic groups is increase.

Furthermore, the Chinese are also affecting the Malay and Indians ethnic in terms of their habits of wearing accessories. They like to wear jade bracelets and crystal. This is because Chinese believe that jade bracelets and crystal can prevent from getting bad luck. They also believe that it can improve one’s luck. Malay and Indian consumers are attracted by this accessories based on the belief of bringing good luck and the beautifulness of the jade bracelets and crystal.

Last but not lease, Chinese likes to sing karaoke at entertainment centre during their free time. They used to sing karaoke for the purpose of gathering and release tensions due to work and study. This is a kind of entertainment that is legitimate and healthy for the youngest. It has influences the Malay and Indian consumers to enjoy this kind of service. As an example, Red Box Karaoke Company now is not only focus on Chinese consumers but also focus on other ethnic groups. The company has established Red Box Ria to provide a fantastic karaoke singing environment to fulfil the demand and market needs of others ethnic groups.

c) Indian Cultural Influence Other Ethnic Groups

Indian cultures are influencing the Malay and Chinese ethnic in buying behavior and not just only Indian community. Those influences can see through various kinds of perspective in Malay and Chinese ethnic such as their lifestyle, eating behavior and attire. Due to fact that every ethnic’s cultures are unique, they can accept other’s cultures easily. Therefore, Malay and Chinese community are learning and absorbing the Indian cultures in their daily lifestyle.

In the Indian cultures, they like to use the spices and herb to enhance the taste and flavor of their dish as well as in the festival. The delicious of Indian foods has attracts the Malay and Chinese learn to use the spices and herb in their cooks. Nowadays, the meals in Malay and Chinese community also consist along with the spices and herb. For example, we can see through the ‘Mamak’ stalls, most of the dishes such as fried chicken and chicken curry are cook with spices.

Indians are also the community that likes to eat spicy food. Coriander, cumin, turmeric and curry feature heavily in dishes along with rich ingredients such as yoghurt and chili. The best way to describe Indian dishes is elaborate, fragrant and hot. The cooking behavior of Indians has impact Malay and Chinese ethnic in their diet and dishes too. They start to learn to eat the spicy food and now, most of them are expert in eating spicy food such as mutton curry and tandoori chicken.

For perspective of attire, henna is a type of body art in Indian culture. It is used in creating contemporary designs and exotic patterns on various parts of the body. For the special ceremonies such as wedding, henna is traditionally applied to the hands and feet of women to enhance their beauty. It is completely natural and painless. Nowadays, henna is the modern design among the Malay and Chinese ethnic which applied as a part of their fashion and trend as well the accessories to hands or feet.

Besides that, Indian culture will also influence Malay and Chinese consumers in behavior of buying gold. Indian is the one of the largest amount of the customer in purchasing gold among the nations. The attitude of Indians wearing the gold as one part of their accessories has also influence Malay and Chinese consumers to buy the gold jewelry. Nonetheless, they will also buy the gold to decorate their house and room. Besides that, another purpose the Chinese buying the gold is to resell it to get the profit.

The cultural values of the ethnic in Malaysia not just only impact their own community but also influence each other in buying behavior. Most of the influences can look at the perspective of eating behavior, costume, festival custom and their living lifestyle. Although Malaysia consists different cultural values but every ethnic is willing to learn about it. They can tolerate properly in their daily lifestyle until now.


In conclusion, cultural value is made up of ideas, attitudes and principles which are inherited by members of a society. In another hand, culture is the basic beliefs and values that handed down from one generation to another generation. People in every society hold a unique culture and cultural value. Each of the culture and cultural value influences the consumers in their consumption patterns and attitudes toward the market.

Malaysia is a multi-racial country with the three largest ethnic groups of Malay, Chinese and Indian. Each ethnic group has its own cultural value. For example, the Malay culture emphasizes on the values of pragmatism and quality consciousness and focus on high quality products; Chinese culture emphasizes on the value of ‘face’ and ‘public reputation’, health-oriented products and the concept of ‘feng shui’; Indian culture emphasizes on the value of traditional, family-oriented and classification among them. All of these cultural values influence their consumption pattern.

Besides that, the cultural value of every ethnic groups in Malaysia also affecting other ethnic groups in their purchasing behavior. They share their cultural value with each other and each group is also willing to accept it and practice it in their daily life especially in the purchasing decision.

Cultural values impacting Malaysian consumers regardless it is impacting the members in the same ethnic group or other ethnic groups. Due to the fact, this is the unique feature of Malaysia compared to other country. Even though there are many cultures in Malaysia, the ethnic still can live harmony regarding the tolerance of each other.

Besides that, the cultural value of every ethnic groups in Malaysia also affecting other ethnic groups in their purchasing behavior. They share their cultural value with each other and each group is also willing to accept it and practice it in their daily life especially in the purchasing decision. Cultural values impacting Malaysian consumers regardless it is impacting the members in the same ethnic group or other ethnic groups. Due to the fact, this is the unique feature of Malaysia compared to other country. Even though there are many cultures in Malaysia, the ethnic still can live harmony regarding the tolerance of each othe


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