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Interview with Lakshmi S on expat life in Malaysia

Updated 8 Feb 2011

Lakshmipriya Somasundaram used to be a busy HR professional who loved to learn and coach people, guide and lead projects across borders, and felt energised by the myriad challenges that came with being a regional level business partner ... Today, she dons multiple avatars - a mom to two lovely little girls, consummate business writer, anytime hostess, professional voice talent, an occasional culinary coach and an incurable decor addict.

Read more about Malaysia in the Expat Arrivals Malaysia country guide or read more expat experiences of Malaysia.

About Lakshmipriya

Q: Where are you originally from?

A: India

Q: Where are you living now?

A:  Kuala Lumpur, Mont Kiara

Q: How long you have you lived in KL?

A:  4.5 years

Q: Did you move to KL with a spouse or children?

A:  Yes, with my spouse and we have raised our family here

Q: Why did you move; what do you do?

A:  We moved here following an expat assignment that came up here, within my husband’s organisation. I worked here for a year as a Regional HR consultant with a telecom infrastructure company. After the kids came along I worked as a consultant for a Singapore based firm and also took to writing on a full-time basis. Presently, am a business writer with a leading India-based professional writers’ network and also freelance as a voice talent.

About life in Kuala Lumpur

Q: What do you enjoy most about KL, how’s the quality of life?

A:  I love the interesting sights the city has to offer, and its heady cultural mix.  Kuala Lumpur, popularly known as KL is a great place for expats – singles and those with family. The city enjoys great tropical weather and pampers you with fantastic culinary experiences and getaways. English is spoken widely here, although one could master the local language, Malay, very easily.

Q: Any negatives? What do you miss most about home?

A:  If you are a vegetarian like me, you would probably need to hunt for places that offer interesting food and a wide variety, initially. 

Q: Is Kuala Lumpur and Malaysia safe?

A:  Largely yes, just make sure you take the same precautions as you would in most cities. When venturing in the night, helps to take a pre-paid cab services.

About living in Malaysia

Q: Which are the best places/suburbs to live in KL as an expat?
A:  KLCC, Mont Kiara, Bangsar, Ampang Hilir, TTDI

Q: How do you rate the standard of accommodation?

A:  Quite good, make sure you always look for new condos (less than 5-7 years old) / housing projects. If you are looking to live in independent bungalows, you can opt for gated community projects in Hartamas / Damansara or choose from the wide range of quiet leafy bungalows in areas such as Ampang Hilir, Ulu Klang and PJ.

Q: What’s the cost of living compared to home? What is cheap or expensive in particular?

A:  The cost of living is quite favourable.  I would rate eating out, groceries, transportation and services as fairly reasonable. Rentals are quite affordable,  if you do your research well.

Q: What are the locals like; do you mix mainly with other expats?

A:  The locals are a warm and open people, and do enjoy mixing with the expats.  My network mix is presently at 30% locals to 70% expats.

Q: Was it easy meeting people and making friends?

A:  Fairly easy. KL has varied expat associations and a fair range of activities to ensure you have opportunities to mix.

About working in Kuala Lumpur

Q: Did you have a problem getting a work visa/permit?

A:  A work permit application would usually be processed within 4-6 weeks, and could be quicker if your employer is a tech-based form with an MSC (Malaysian Super Corridor) status A work permit remains an issue for accompanying spouses.  The employers and the visa-processing agents need to expend a fair amount of effort to ensure that government authorities are convinced in issuing an employment pass for an individual who was originally an accompanying spouse.  However if you bring in valuable industry-specific skills, expect the process to be fairly smooth.

Q: What’s the economic climate like in KL, is there plenty of work?

A:  Economic climate is fairly positive, specifically industries such as Technology, Finance (Islamic Finance in particular), Media and Entertainment, Infrastructure and Tourism have continued demand for external talent.

Q: How does the work culture differ from home?

A: Work culture is largely focused on consensus with a moderate distance from authority.  Expect colleagues to be friendly, although not very direct initially and also a bit laid back (especially during festive periods).

Q: Did a relocation company help you with your move?

A:  Yes.

Family and children

Q: Did your children settle in easily?

A:  We had our kids after moving here. In any case, I think KL offers great avenues for kids to explore and entertain. 

Q: What are the schools like, any particular suggestions?

A:  A good range of schools following the British, American, Australian and IB curriculum are available here. We send our daughter to Garden International School which is well recognised for its approach to British curriculum.

Q: How would you rate the healthcare?

A:  Quality affordable healthcare is available in the city.

And finally…

Q: Is there any other advice you like to offer new expat arrivals?

A:  This is a friendly city, although the city may not seem exciting enough (particularly nightlife as compared to Singapore) initially, be open to the opportunities to mingle around and you are bound to have fun.  Learning the local language also helps, especially when you need to communicate with service staff and also on your road trips into the lovely Malaysian country.  

~ interviewed January 2010

> Are you an expat living in Malaysia? We'd love to hear your story, so please contact us.

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