Moving to Malaysia
The country consists of two different geographical regions separated by the South China Sea – mainland Peninsula Malaysia and East Malaysia (the Sarawak and Sabah region of Borneo island and 13 diverse states). With a vast mix of cultures and nationalities scattered across the country, Malaysia offers expats a lifestyle replete with first-world comforts and conveniences, while still allowing for a sense of adventure through its easily-accessible jungles and island getaways.
Kuala Lumpur, the capital and largest city in Malaysia, is the financial, cultural and economic centre of the country, and a major hub for international air travel. Among the skyscrapers and Dutch architecture, KL, as it is commonly known, is packed with luxury shopping malls, quality restaurants and colourful markets. It is a melting pot of cultures and offers expats an energetic lifestyle.
Travel within Malaysia is generally cheap and easy, particularly within Peninsula Malaysia. The country has an extensive road and rail network, taxis are easy to come by in the larger cities and because KL is a major air hub, flights throughout Asia are incredibly cheap. East Malaysia, or the Sarawak and Sabah region, is slightly less developed when compared to the mainland. Long-distance trains, fuel at lower than market prices, inner-city subway systems, luxury bus services and budget airlines all ensure that Malaysia remains highly connected both internally and with its neighbouring countries.
Malaysia has a cheap public healthcare system with a high standard of medical care. There are also a number of top-quality private facilities available; by way of further testament to this burgeoning quality, is Malaysia’s growing reputation as a destination for medical tourism. Additionally, Kuala Lumpur offers a range of great international schools that hold their own against neighbouring Singapore’s top-quality list.
Malaysia has a host of international and local banks offering both Internet and mobile banking. Banks are efficient, and offer great service provided one has a work permit and the appropriate visa. The country is also fast becoming a major player with regards to Islamic-financed houses.
Another key benefit to the expat lifestyle in Malaysia is the exceptional cuisine, which reflects the variety of ethnic groups present in the country, as well its colonial heritage. The biggest influences on Malaysian cuisine come from Chinese and Indian immigrants. Expect coconut curries, Satay, dumplings, noodles and stews. Most large cities and tourist resorts have a range of Western restaurants. Supermarkets come well-stocked with Western goods and some new and exciting foodstuffs to try out.
Although separated into two distinct parts, Malaysia’s landscape and climate are fairly similar. The country has an equatorial climate, with the southwest monsoon from April to October and the northeast monsoon from October to February. There is a dry season from June to October, when burning is conducted in many parts of the country, which can lead to heavy pollution; something expats with respiratory problems may wish to consider.
Malaysia is an exciting expat destination, but not without its challenges and differences. The myriad of cultures and immigrants make it a place both foreign and yet easy to adjust to. With wonderful beaches, jungle hideaways and serene tea plantations, it’s easy to take a break from the city bustle over weekends. Malaysia is a stable country, eager to attract foreign businesses and investors, ensuring a warm reception for expats choosing Malaysia as their new home.