Who are you?
My name is Jigna and I head the English Department in a reputed college in Kuala Lumpur. Before this, I have taught in an International School and have headed a group of pre-schools. I have been in the education field for about 14 years now. I am married and have two school-going children who attend an International School here.
Where, when and why did you move abroad?
We moved to Kuala Lumpur in 1996 from Mumbai, India, almost 17 years ago. We had lived in Mumbai for over 10 years. We moved mainly for work purposes as we started a new business venture in Kuala Lumpur. We also thought it would be a good place to bring up a family, with Malaysia being multi-cultural. Malaysia is also well-known for its stable economy, fine sunny weather and a peaceful environment.What challenges did you face during the move?
The biggest challenge we faced was food. Having been vegetarians all our life, India was an easy place to live in. Vegetarian food was available everywhere. In Malaysia, however, back then we would have to explain the meaning of vegetarian in restaurants, and still we’d get served food with meat. Slowly, we found some decent vegetarian places. Over the years though, the country has become more vegetarian friendly. Language was also a challenge sometimes, but the local language was quite easy to learn. Before we got a car of our own, we had to rely on taxis, and that was a challenge sometimes. Meters were not used, especially if they knew you were a foreigner.
How did you find somewhere to live?
We had some common friends and family who helped introduce us to some really wonderful real estate agents. Once we looked at some places, it was not difficult to decide what we wanted. The whole process of getting a place and moving in was very smooth. Movers here are very accommodating, helping us with the smallest matters.
Are there many other expats in your area?
There are many expats in Kuala Lumpur right now. Many areas such as Mont Kiara and Ampang are a hot spot for expats. Multinational companies in Kuala Lumpur are a magnet for expats and they offer very lucrative packages for them. We live in Bangsar right now, and this is an upscale area of Kuala Lumpur where there are many expats.
What is your relationship like with the locals?
The one magical thing about Kuala Lumpur is the locals. They are the nicest people. Having travelled to many countries, I noticed that what sets Malaysia apart is the local people. They are almost always kind and helpful. From the bus driver who takes my children to school to my local domestic helper, they are all wonderful people. Many of our neighbors are locals, and they have always been very nice to us.
What do you like about life where you are?
Life in Malaysia is very well-paced and easy. If you plan your work and home areas well, you won’t face traffic jams, you can get home at a decent hour and have quality family time. Kuala Lumpur offers a lot of activities for families and you can almost always have a fulfilling weekend. The pollution here is very low and the weather is lovely. I love the fact that we don’t need clothes for four seasons. Malls and supermarkets are open till 10pm every night, and that makes shopping easy. Each neighborhood pretty much has its own supermarket, restaurants, classes for kids and this way you don’t have to travel far.
What do you dislike about your expat life?
There is nothing much to dislike here except that sometimes you get taken advantage of because you’re not a local and may not know a lot of things like a local would. Language is still a barrier sometimes, especially if you plan to go to a government department. Otherwise, it has been a very pleasant experience so far.
What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?
Do your research well in advance. There are several expat forums where you can chat with people here and get a lot of things done before you even move. Look at home options carefully. A lot of areas are great to live, but have traffic issues. There are a number of International Schools in Kuala Lumpur, but they are all almost always full and have a long waiting list. So, if you have school going children, you will need to register way in advance.
What are your plans for the future?
Malaysia is a place we see ourselves living in for a long time. Business has been good and the children have settled well in their school and we have made some really wonderful friends. The plan is definitely to stay on till we can. This country grows on you!