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Stephen Sovie, Tanjung Tokong area of Penang

Who are you?

My name is Stephen Sovie

Where, when and why did you move abroad?

I have always been drawn to Asia and after visiting a number of countries in Asia I decided upon Malaysia, primarily because I had a close friend here and because of the MM2H visa program.

What challenges did you face during the move?

The biggest challenge I faced was with the US banking system and finding a suitable way to access my money in the US.How did you find somewhere to live?

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My Malaysian friend assisted me in buying a home, by visiting the homes, sending photos and information and arranging the Sales and Purchase agreement.

What is your relationship like with the locals?

There is a large expat community here, but I choose not to have a close relationship with it, due to the cliqueness of most groups. I primarily associate with the locals for friendship and social contacts.

What do you like about life where you are?

The best part of living where I do is that just about everything I need, such as pharmacy, banks, grocery stores medical clinics, restaurants and other eateries are within walking distance.

What do you dislike about your expat life?

I must admit that at times I have to struggle with the extreme heat and humidity, especially on days where the air quality is bad.

How does shopping (for food/clothes/household items etc.) differ compared to back home?

Regarding shopping here, I find that the choices and selection of just about everything is nothing like home. Here when shopping for an item, if it does exist at all here, you only have 1 or 2 choices.

I enjoy the food in Malaysia, but I do miss the varieties of food from back home. It is rather expensive and somewhat difficult to eat healthy here, as people do not like salads and most of the vegetables are cooked in a great deal of oil. With rice being served at every meal it is quite easy to gain weight quickly, especially for us Westerners who do not eat that much of it.

What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?

Many people have suffered from culture shock after moving abroad, but I had no problems at all. I never experienced any kind of discrimination or ill feelings from the locals, but I have received some nasty remarks and behaviour from other expats because of my nationality.

My advice to anyone moving to Malaysia, or any other country to live is to mix with the locals and treat them as equals. Too many expats come here and only socialize with their fellow countrymen. If you are going to do that you might as well stay home.

Stephen shares more information about life in Malaysia through his blog Retired in Malaysia.