Why are Malaysians always late

Why are Malaysians always late?

Malaysia is famous for being a great tourist attraction and for its great diversity. However, it’s not known for punctuality.

Malaysians often arrive late for appointments and meet-ups because of the so-called “Malaysian Timing”. It’s also the reason why events and even public functions also start later than the scheduled time.

“Malaysian Timing” is a popular phenomenon across the country that makes Malaysians perpetually late. Because of this, the locals are always in a rush to get somewhere to have something done immediately.

Even if Malaysians scheduled a time to meet with each other or set a time for an event, they will arrive at least half an hour late. In Malaysia, events and functions often get moved up to an hour later because that’s when everyone arrives.

Why is there Malaysian Timing?

There’s really no definite answer as to why Malaysians are always late. Nevertheless, based on our experiences and observations, these are the reasons behind Malaysian timing:

1. Malaysians have to deal with traffic jams every day.

One of the reasons why Malaysians are always late is because of the traffic conditions in the country. It’s particularly difficult to deal with traffic in busy cities like Kuala Lumpur because of the number of vehicles and people that go to these places.

It’s hard for them to account for their travel time because of the unexpected heavy traffic or because of road accidents.

Malaysians have to deal with traffic jams every day

2. Malaysians can’t estimate time for tasks well.

People who are usually late are believed to have a hard time estimating how much time it will take them to finish a task or reach their destination.

If they experience rushing to do something for 30 minutes because they’re already late, it’s already imprinted in their brains. However, if they do it at a normal pace without rushing, it actually takes them twice as long.

The same goes for Malaysians, which is why they can’t gauge how long it will take them to do something.

3. Many Malaysians are optimists and have laid-back personalities.

Malaysians are not just friendly people as they’re also hopeful people.

Some of the qualities common to people who are always late are that they’re optimistic and positive thinkers. They would think that they have more time than they actually have.

Nevertheless, they believe that it’s still possible for them to fit multiple tasks despite having limited time.

Many Malaysians are optimists and have laid-back personalities

4. Being late is the norm in Malaysia.

Malaysians have been so accustomed to being late that it has been accepted and it has become part of their culture. In fact, apologizing for arriving late for an appointment is no longer customary nor expected, even if you’ve been late for half an hour.

Even in business settings or social occasions where punctuality is expected, it’s not a priority in Malaysia. To wait for the locals, meetings would often start later than scheduled and these would also not start on time even if everyone is already present.

Likewise, even expatriates who chose to live in Malaysia have also adopted the Malaysian Timing and they no longer worry about being late.

5. It’s more important for Malaysians to be flexible and accommodating.

Malaysians believe that being flexible and accommodating matters more. This is also why Malaysians’ concept of time has become lax.

They’re understanding of unforeseen circumstances that could affect arriving on time.

Aside from traffic jams, some of these reasons that can excuse someone from being late in Malaysia are the following:

  • You had a hard time finding a parking space.
  • Someone from your family needed help before you went out.
  • Your alarm didn’t ring.
  • It suddenly started raining at your place.
  • You need to give someone a ride first.
  • Your booked driver is lost or running late.

In fact, they would also understand the famous “ODW” (“on the way”) excuse that the locals use when running late even if you haven’t left your home yet.

6. They didn’t receive any confirmation about the meeting.

In Malaysia, it’s important to confirm a meeting’s schedule through a call, text message, or email. This is a common practice in the entire country.

They will find it odd if they didn’t receive any confirmation about the appointment, especially if it was set weeks ago, and they will wonder if it’s still on.

Unless they receive a confirmation about the time to meet, Malaysian Timing will most likely take place.

They didn’t receive any confirmation about the meeting.

How do foreigners deal with Malaysian Timing?

Foreigners often have different reactions to Malaysian Timing and these usually depend on their culture and how important time is for them.

For example, the Japanese and French may find it inefficient to delay a scheduled meeting, while Filipinos would be more understanding about it.

Nevertheless, foreigners who are living or staying in Malaysia for work or vacation are encouraged to be patient and understanding if the locals they’re meeting are late.

Likewise, they could always explain to Malaysians how much time matters to them and where they’re coming from so the locals could understand and try to adjust their time.

Top 6 Solutions to Malaysian Timing

Top 6 Solutions to Malaysian Timing

Perhaps Malaysian Timing can’t be fully cured, but there are ways to break this habit! We checked in with some experts and came up with some tips you could use to help you slowly improve your punctuality:

1. Set different alarms.

Old habits may die hard, but it’s not too late to build new and healthy habits.

If you’re the type of person who struggles with punctuality, you could start setting different alarms for the things you’ll do. These reminders will help in getting your attention so you won’t lose track of time.

For example, if you want to reach your destination on the scheduled time, you could set an alarm for the time when you need to start getting ready and another for when you need to leave.

Set different alarms.

2. Set your watch at a later time.

One of the easy tricks to being punctual is by setting and synching your clocks and watches ahead of time, like 5 or 10 minutes later than the actual time.

This hack will deceive you into thinking that you’re running late already when in fact, you have some sufficient time.

3. Plan ahead and overestimate the time.

You could also plan the things you need to do the night before so you don’t have to rush every morning on the things you need to accomplish.

Since a person who’s always late has a hard time determining how long it takes to do a task, it’s also better to keep track of your activities. This will help you properly schedule what you need to do and for how long you should do them.

Likewise, when plotting your schedule, it’s important to build in extra time. Overestimating the time you’ll allot will allow you to account for any unpredictable or unexpected occurrences.

You should also consider transition activities when planning your schedule so it’s important to place time buffers in between your activities. This will also help you avoid any conflicts in your schedule.

For example, you should schedule your time to leave the house at least 15 minutes before the time you actually need to leave.

Plan ahead and overestimate the time

4. Stick with your schedule.

When you have a schedule, don’t stray away from it. This means you shouldn’t squeeze in other tasks you think you need to do but will just turn out to be a waste of time.

For example, don’t spend your free time on your phone as it might eat up more time than you’d know.

More often than not, it will also save you time to decline some tasks than agree to do them just to appease others as you might be late.

5. Use time management apps.

Keeping track of your schedule and time is important. There’s no better way to do this than using apps on your devices. It will enable you to set frequent reminders and notifications.

You could use to address Malaysian Timing with the help of these time management apps:



If you want to be productive and you enjoy playing games, this is the app for you! It helps in building daily habits but in an enjoyable way.

Habitica is not just a simple task-based app where you could schedule a reminder.

This app not only enables you to create daily tasks and set reminders and deadlines for your tasks. It’s also literally a fun way to manage your time because it incorporates gaming elements!

It’s like an RPG since there are opportunities to level up and even fight bosses. You’ll also be able to gain experience and coins when you complete the tasks.

Furthermore, you’d be able to meet other Habitica users in the app because it has its own forum. So, you’d also find another person who could hold you accountable for keeping track of your activities.



Forest is a good app to use to keep track of the time you spend doing a task. It’s a fun app for plant lovers because it motivates you to work harder by planting your own forest.

If you’re on a task, you could set a timer and when the time is over, you would be rewarded with plants.

For example, you would receive a bush to plant when you set a task under 25 minutes and if you set a timer for more than 25 minutes, it becomes a tree.


Photo from Google Play

Squawk is an app that puts pressure on you to fulfill your tasks and activities on time. It’s a good app to use if you need constant reminders for your tasks.

When you use this app, you’ll receive continuous notifications on your screen for your tasks until you complete them. Likewise, there’s an option to add sub-tasks on every task so you could put in detail all the things you need to accomplish.

6. Condition your mind to be punctual.

Your mindset in being punctual is essential so you could fulfill your goal of breaking out of Malaysian Timing. Know your reasons about why you need to be on time and recognize why punctuality should be your priority.

Additionally, you should constantly remind yourself that you need to be punctual in your appointments and meetings.