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Moving To Malaysia – What To Expect As A New Expat

When you make the decision to move to a new country, you will face many challenges – and this will start before you make the move! Informing your friends and family will be tough and you might face opposition from quite a few people which would just serve to heighten your own uncertainties. The best way to deal with your relocation is to research and prepare as much as possible. Here are a few things you can expect as a new Expat in Malaysia:

A Multi- Racial country

Malaysia has a multi-ethnic and multi-racial country with little or no discrimination. The three main cultures are the Malay, Chinese and Indian and this has resulted in a wide variety of cuisines, clothing and culture.Noisy Celebrations

The downside to Malaysia’s rich and varied cultural life is that every culture celebrates its own festivals with loud fireworks, music and a great deal of chanting and just plain good old-fashioned yelling!

Excellent Infrastructure

From a world-class airport to a diverse and developed road network, Malaysia’s infrastructure is without doubt one of the most developed in Asia. Most families own more than one car so the larger cities still experience traffic problems and clogged roads during rush hours. Toll roads will require you to pay using the Touch-n-Go cards which are easily available at gas stations, toll kiosks and Touch-n-Go hubs.

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Bahasa Malaysia is the official language but English, as a second language, is widely spoken. The language of business is English too, so expats have little to worry about where language is concerned. There are over 100 spoken languages in Malaysia and there is even a colloquial form of English called Manglish which is a combination of English and Malay with Mandarin, Tamil and even American slang influences. Although this is often heard on the streets it is being actively discouraged by the Malaysian government.


The climate is perfect for a beach holiday but it’s not really ideal for a work environment. It may take a while to get used to spending the majority of your day indoors to escape the heat and humidity.

Internet and Mobile banking

The international and local banks offer a wide variety of services and the system is highly efficient. It is fairly easy to get a bank account and there is very little paperwork and legwork required. In most cases, just a work permit and a visa is all you would need to set up a personal bank account.

Domestic help

It is fairly easy to get a maid – either as a live-in or on a bi-weekly basis. The wages for a maid range from 10 RM an hour to 700 RM a month for a live-in maid.


Many countries have excellent private healthcare but sub-standard public healthcare; however, Malaysia offers high-quality and affordable treatment in both sectors. Even specialists and dentists charge relatively low consultation and treatment fees. As an expat, you can receive treatment at a government-run hospital and if you pay contributions to the Employees Provident Fund you will automatically be covered for all necessary treatment at a public hospital. If you prefer to opt for private healthcare, you should get comprehensive health insurance.

Driver’s Dilemma

Driving in Malaysia can be absolutely terrifying for expats who are used to following the rules of the road! It is not uncommon for motorists to suddenly change lanes without signalling or talk on their mobile phones while driving while motorcyclists swerve and weave through traffic even at high speeds. The safest way to drive in Malaysia is to assume that the other people will not follow the rules and so you have to be doubly sure that you do!


Haze is an on-going problem in many Southeast Asian countries and Malaysia is one of the worst affected. Haze is caused by the accumulation of dust, smoke and other air particles. In 2005, the haze lasted a week and it prompted crisis talks when it brought certain parts of the country to a standstill.

You can never be “fully” prepared for your move and no matter how much you research there will always be things that you will only learn on location. Join a local expat group to help you get over the culture shock as quickly as possible.

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