How To Move To Malaysia

There’s not a huge amount of moving about the world going on at the moment, but that doesn’t mean you can’t research and plan. And if you’ve got a move to Malaysia on your mind, we have the perfect guest to give you some insider knowledge.


Writer Kirsten Raccuia and her husband Mark moved from the USA to Penang seven years ago. In this episode, she’s going to talk through their experiences with visas, working options, renting, and why you don’t need to necessarily freak out if you inspect a place with no kitchen. We also cover whether you need to learn one of the three main Malaysian languages, and what she’d do differently if they made their move again.


Hey there, it’s Carlie with the Expat Focus podcast.

There’s not a huge amount of moving about the world going on at the moment, but that doesn’t mean you can’t research and plan. And if you’ve got a move to Malaysia on your mind, I have the perfect guest to give you some insider knowledge.

Writer Kirsten Raccuia and her husband Mark moved from the USA to Penang seven years ago. In this episode, she’s going to talk through their experiences with visas, working options, renting, and why you don’t need to necessarily freak out if you inspect a place with no kitchen. We also cover whether you need to learn one of the three main Malaysian languages, and what she’d do differently if they made their move again.

Kirsten, tell me your expat story and how you ended up living in Malaysia.

Kirsten: Well, Mark and I decided when we first met … We started talking about living abroad in 2001, and we just knew it would happen for us one day, but we just wanted to try something different.
We knew in our future that … As much as we loved America, we just thought there’s more out there. And we love traveling. We wanted to be able to do it more. We fell in love with Costa Rica, and we thought for a decade that we were going to move to Costa Rica. And every chance we got, we travelled there and drove across the country and tried to find our perfect expat home.

But we never really found that there. And we started reading a magazine called international living, and it’s all about moving abroad and retiring abroad, living overseas, and what life is like elsewhere, and it just gave us food for thought.

And so, for a decade, literally, we read that magazine, like poured over it and over it and over it. And finally, we ended up going to a conference. We decided, in 2012, this is the year we’re going to move to Costa Rica. We’re going to just go there. We’re going to rent a car. We’re going to find a place when we get there, and we’ll figure it out.

And, in 2012, we went to a conference that was about living abroad and all the things you don’t think about, like mail and money and banking and all those things. And you think about it, but you don’t know how you’re going to solve the problems. Right. So we went to this conference that would teach us a lot about that.

And we met somebody who talked about Malaysia, and I didn’t think Malaysia was a place for us, because it’s quite far, like the other side of the planet. But we went with open eyes and wanted to listen to everything. And we heard about Malaysia. We thought it sounded amazing. And we loved Southeast Asia, because we’d been there for travels and visiting a friend.

We thought, okay, we’ll go for a vacation, and we’ll check it out for a couple of weeks. So we did. And that was in December of 2012. And by the second week here, I was like, ‘Okay, great. Now we’ve found our expat home across the globe. And here we are. I may have to go tell my family that we are going to move to Malaysia.’ It’s hard enough to tell them you’re going to move a six-hour plane ride away.

Carlie: Yeah, to Costa Rica.

Kirsten: Yeah. I think there’s a huge difference. So it was quite hard. But we just fell in love with Penang, and we just thought, this is definitely our home.

Carlie: What is it about Penang, especially in Malaysia, for those like myself who have never been there and don’t really understand the geography of the country. Can you describe Penang for me and why it really sang to you on that visit?

Kirsten: It’s a little island off the western coast of Peninsular Malaysia, and I had no idea about Malaysia before we came here, and it’s a totally multicultural country. So there’s three major ethnicities here. There’s the Malay, there’s the Chinese, and then there’s the Indians. Everyone’s Malaysian, but there are three subsets, basically.

And because of that, there’s this beautiful cultural mashup that is so unique and exotic and easy going. The people are so amazing and the food is amazing. Everybody speaks English. So I would say that made it this perfect world for us.

We knew that we’d have to work. We didn’t have to start to learn a new language to do that. We can communicate easily here. It’s kind of first world and developing world all at the same time. You can go into a mall and spend a million dollars at Michael Kors and Coach and all that kind of stuff, but you can have a dollar meal. And there’s everything in between.

So we loved the cultural mashup. We loved how exotic it is, but how comfortable it is. So it’s got all the first world amenities that we wanted in life. We didn’t want to pioneer living in the jungle somewhere and try to make it work. We wanted to live in a place where there were other expats and there was a booming lifestyle that’s full of energy. And Penang has that in spades.

Carlie: Step one, after your visit to Malaysia and deciding this is where you want to move, would be getting permission to be there. So what did you discover when you looked into visas, and what did you end up going with?

Kirsten: Once we moved here, we did a tourist visa for a year, which is where every three months you travel in and out. They don’t like that, like every other country – no country likes that you’re traveling in and out and doing visa runs.

Carlie: But they kind of tolerate it, don’t they?

Kirsten: They tolerate it, but they don’t have to. And at any given moment, they can just be like, ‘Nope, you’re not coming back.’ But we had already rented a place. We were moving. If they had said, ‘Oh, you’re not coming back in,’ we would have been horrified.

What would we have done? We would have had to find another country to move to, all of a sudden. There was always that weighing on us.

So then we started a business here, a medical tourism business, and we got a business visa, which is a two-year visa. But when that visa was up and we had decided to close that business, because it sucked, Mark was old enough to get a 10-year visa.

So one of the most attractive reasons for a lot of people, especially retirees, is this MM2H, which is ‘Malaysia my second home.’ And it’s a 10-year renewable visa, which is pretty much unheard of in the world, like a 10-year visa. You can get it when you’re under 50, but it doubles the amount of money you have to put into the country.

So basically, the 10-year visa, when Mark turned 50, we said, ‘Let’s go for it.’ People call it a retirement visa, but it’s really not. You’re not allowed to work on that visa, which is why people think it’s a retirement visa, but for the most part, it is like … You have to prove that you can sustain yourself in the country, without being a burden to the country itself.

So for us, when we had the opportunity to do that, we thought, oh, let’s just do it. We’re not going to create a business in Malaysia any longer. We’re going to work on our own things. We’re going to recreate ourselves again. We are not planning to go anywhere for a while, and let’s just go for it.

And basically, what you need to do for it is – besides the medicals and that kind of stuff – the biggest requirement is money. So you have to put in, at this moment – it changes often, but at this moment – I believe, if you’re over 50, you have to put 150,000 ringgit into a bank account here that you can’t touch, for the most part.

There are a couple of things you can do to take a little bit out. But for the most part, you have to leave it in a bank here.

Carlie: So is that like your security blanket?

Kirsten: Yeah.

Carlie: So you’re not a burden on the local system.

Kirsten: Exactly. So it proves to them that we don’t need Malaysia’s handouts to live here. We can survive. We can support ourselves. But you also have to prove that you have enough monthly income coming in, so that you’re, again, not going to work here. So I think that is 10,000 ringgit a month.

So that could be from real estate. It could be from a pension. It could be from whatever. It could be from a job – if you are working remotely, it could be your job back in the States. So, the primary thing is that they want to make sure you aren’t going to tax the system.

So once you have proven that, you have to get a health check. They have to make sure that you are not a criminal. You know, that kind of stuff. That’s kind of basic, the paperwork. But having a 10-year visa and not having to worry about it, and traveling in and out when we feel like it and no one questioning a thing. It’s definitely the easiest way to go.

Because after that one year, when I was getting questioned every time we came back in – like, ‘Why you keep coming back in? What’s going on? Are you doing visa runs?’ ‘No, we just have friends and family here.’ You know, that guilt. I must look like I’m guilty.

Carlie: Are you the type that gets really nervous at those customs checks, and you’re not guilty, but you make yourself look guilty? That’s me, all the time.

Kirsten: Totally, and for no reason at all. I’m completely legit, and I still, even now, I’m like, ‘What if they say no?’ They can’t say no. I have a legal reason to be here, but they are just power hungry, I think, sometimes.

Carlie: So, a couple of questions. You mentioned 10,000 in local currency. What would that be in US dollars per month?

Kirsten: I think it’s about – it changes, obviously, but about – $2,000.

Carlie: Okay. And how do you and your husband manage that, in terms of showing that you have income coming in?

Kirsten: So, what we did was … We have some rental properties in America, so that was what worked for us at the time. But again, just so you know, everything … In the last three years, we’ve had three different prime ministers, so things keep changing. The visa programme itself will be there, but sometimes they decide they want to change requirements.

For the most part, the money has stayed the same. But I don’t want you to put this out there and not let people know that these requirements change, because it can change at any time, and Malaysia is a developing nation and they develop rules as they go sometimes.

Carlie: Yeah, absolutely.

Kirsten: Yeah, so we did it with real estate, and we have an agent here who helped us with everything, which I think is key. You don’t have to have an agent do it, but I feel like, for the money that you spend to hire an agent, it’s like paying somebody to take away any headaches that you will have.

Because you will have [headaches]. It’s red tape; it’s bureaucratic stuff. You will have headaches. Why not just pay someone else to do it? We know people who’ve done it themselves, and they say, ‘It’s not so horrible’, but I’d say that 99% of the people here on an MM2H do it with an agent.

Carlie: And so, what do people do if they’re not on a one-year tourist visa, or they’re not on this visa for over fifties? What is another common visa that foreigners in Malaysia tend to tend to be on?

Kirsten: So there’s no one-year visa. It’s a three-month visa for Americans, but for different countries it’s maybe 30 days or 60 days. It’s different for different countries. That’s it. It’s either the tourist visa, which is the temporary one, a business visa, which you have to apply for when you’re here and try to get that, or …

If expats come here on a work contract, their company will get them a working visa. But other than that, there’s really nothing else. There are some people who can get permanent residency after living here for 10 years, or a talent visa. If they show up, and they open up a business, and they show that they’ve got some skills that are needed here, they can get a talent visa. But 99% of people are either tourist visa or MM2H.

Carlie: So, for an expat looking for a local job, how realistic is that in Malaysia?

Kirsten: I would say you don’t come to Malaysia looking for a job. You come to Malaysia with a job with a company that’s here. There’s a ton of manufacturing here. So Bose is here and Boston Scientific – there’s tons of manufacturing here.

And so, people come here with a job already lined up. Don’t come to Malaysia and think you’re going to find a job here, because it’s really hard. I mean, maybe if you want to work in a hostel, in exchange for payment, for a few months for your travel time, that kind of thing … If you’re backpacking through, that’s one thing, but in general, it’s not easy just to come here and find a job.

And you’re not allowed legally to work here. So if you do find a job, you’re doing it under the table at a restaurant or a bar or whatever. And they do have people who come around and check those kinds of things, and you can get arrested and deported. So it’s not worth it. I would either line that up before you come or—

Carlie: You’re a foreigner in Malaysia, and you’re not entitled to work. How does that affect things like opening a local bank account? Is that a difficult thing to do as an expat in the country? Or is it relatively straightforward?

Kirsten: The weird thing about opening a bank account here is that you have to have a letter of recommendation from either a Malay or someone on an MM2H who has a bank account here. So once you get this letter of introduction that ‘we are upstanding citizens and people like us and we are not criminals,’ then you can set an appointment with a bank.

And for the most part, they’ll just tell you what the requirements are for opening a bank account, putting your money in, that kind of thing. So it’s pretty straightforward after that. But again, that changes. We haven’t opened up a bank account in seven years, so that might have changed and might change every other day.

So again, these are not the hard, steadfast rules. But it’s not impossible. If you’re not planning to stay here for a couple of years, there’s no point in opening up a bank account here. But once you decide you’re going to go through MM2H and all that stuff, you will need one, and it’s not impossible.

You just need your letter of recommendation, and you’re going to have to put your money into a local bank account here. You have to put your MM2H money in and let it sit here. You can’t take it out. So they have to let you open up a bank account. On a tourist visa, it’s a different story. You’re not supposed to, probably, but do people do it? Probably, because there are people who live here on a tourist visa for 20 years.

Carlie: Are fee-free banks very common in Malaysia? I know, here in France, my biggest shock was that every bank charges a monthly fee and a fee for the privilege of having a card and a fee for absolutely everything you do. It wasn’t like in Australia and the UK, where there is so much competition that you can basically open a bank account for nothing.

Kirsten: There are ATM charges here in Malaysia. Pretty much every bank does charge that, but our bank in America refunds those fees to us. So we don’t get the ATM charges here, but I don’t think there’s an ATM here or a bank here that won’t charge for using an ATM.

I don’t know if we actually get charged for having an account here, but I know that if we use our bank account – if we go to the ATM from our bank – we won’t get charged fees. But if we go to a different one in any country … You know, you’ll get charged ATM fees from anywhere.

Carlie: And so, what bank do you bank with in Malaysia?

Kirsten: We have Hong Leong – it’s a local bank. But there’s HSBC here. I think that’s a common one across the world.

Carlie: And did you have any criteria when you were looking for your Malaysian bank, or did you just find one that would accept you guys, and that was fine?

Kirsten: Well, we had friends who had banked there. Because we had to get a letter of introduction. So, we had friends. And throughout the years, we have had a couple of different bank accounts, because of the business visa. We had one different one, which was HSBC or CIMB. But yeah, they’re all kind of the same.

Carlie: So, you’re landlords yourselves, and I did read, on your blog, an interesting post about renting. And I’m really curious about the process of finding a place to live, because on paper, I’m not sure if an expat who’s not working in the country, whose visa might be long-term or might not, would be a really attractive candidate for a Malaysian landlord. So can you talk me through the process of finding a place to live?

Kirsten: So, in our first year, when we were doing just the tourist visa, we were very upfront with our landlady, and we said, ‘Hey, we’re on a tourist visa.’ But like I said, people have lived in Penang for 20 years, or in Malaysia for 20 years, and have never had a problem being on a tourist visa.

So a lot of local landlords are happy to have an expat living there, because they know that we will take care of the property and that it’s not going to be that 20 people in the family are going to come and move in with us and that we’re going to destroy the place. And unfortunately, that does happen here sometimes.

In general, they are very happy to have Western expats living in their place. If it’s for a month, or it’s for six months, whatever it is there, they just know that we will take care of their place. And usually we are there for the long-term.

When we signed our first lease, we signed for six months, because we were just too scared to sign a year lease, but then we had another six months. But if you’re on a tourist visa, you just have to be honest, and tell your landlord, ‘I’m on a tourist visa.’

And I don’t think they even ask, to be honest. So maybe you don’t even have to say anything. But there might be a call one day, when you’re like, ‘I can’t come back into the country, so I have to break the lease.’ And you just don’t want to do that.

There are a lot of rentals available here. There are so many open units here that I think a landlord who’s taking care of a unit, or wants to have somebody in, will do anything to make it work for you.

So if it ends up that you’re there for six months, at least they’ve got six months of rent, because there’s so much competition, and there are so many empty units, that they’re just happy to have somebody making monthly payments for however long.

Carlie: I noticed, in your blog post, you said that you inspected something like 30 apartments over a short period, which sounds insane. Is that just because you’re a really picky person, or because the standard of the apartments you were seeing or the locations weren’t right?

Kirsten: Well, a little bit of all of those things. So, I wouldn’t say that we’re so picky, but we didn’t realise … We saw a lot of places that hadn’t been lived in and were a dump and totally dirty, but we didn’t realise that that would all be fixed.

And even when the realtor would be like, ‘Oh, yeah, don’t worry. They’ll clean it up for you.’ We were like, ‘This place has got three inches of dust and there’s cockroaches and there’s brown water coming out of the sink. I don’t know if I feel like that’s something I want to sign a lease on.’ But because there’s a glut of properties, people don’t fix them up until they have somebody planning to move in.

Some places we saw that had no kitchen, and they’d be like, ‘Oh yeah, don’t worry. We’ll put it in the kitchen for you.’ But it’s like, really? We had a hard time really wrapping our minds around that.

Now we know, if we saw a place that had no kitchen, but we love the place, we’d be like, ‘Yeah, we’ll sign the deal. As soon as you put in the kitchen, you give us pictures.’ Or we are going to build a kitchen together, or whatever it is. But we didn’t realise that then.

And we had a hard time trusting that, because, coming from America, you would never show an apartment without a kitchen. You just wouldn’t. You would build a kitchen and then let people come and see it. And if they didn’t like the apartment because of the kitchen, that’s too bad.

So, for us, we saw so many places, because there were places that were unfinished and there were places that were filthy. And there were places that the realtors … We’d say we want to live in one area, and they’d be like, ‘Okay, great, come in. Let’s go. I’ll show you these places in Tanjung Bungah.’ And then, next thing you know, we’re driving half an hour away. We’d be like, ‘But you’re not listening to our needs.’

So, there was a little bit of all of those things. I feel like now it wouldn’t take us nearly as long, because we would understand that.

Carlie: How was your experience with real estate agents then? Is it necessary to go through an agent to rent a place in Malaysia? Or could you have done it privately through forums and directly with landlords.

Kirsten: We didn’t hire an agent; we did it ourselves. So what would happen was we would go online, we’d find these places, and then we’d call the real estate agents directly, who could show it to us. So we ended up working with like 20 different real estate agents.

No, they’re not that great here, in general. It’s not the same as in America, and from what I’ve gathered and heard from friends in Australia, where you can hire an agent and that agent’s going to take you to all the places. You can do that here, and they are getting better and more knowledgeable.

We would call up someone and be like, ‘Okay, so how big is the place? What’s the square footage?’ And they’d be like, ‘We don’t know.’

Carlie: Doesn’t give you much confidence.

Kirsten: Exactly. So you don’t need to hire somebody, but there are people that would help. You could find someone that you’ve been referred to that has done a great job for a friend.

I wouldn’t just pick someone willy nilly off the internet and be like, ‘Can you find places for me?’ Because they suck. But if you get a referral from somebody, then you can go with it. We know realtors now who I would definitely say to go with, but we would still go online and do the research ourselves, because we’re just those kinds of people.

Carlie: Did you have to sign a contract and pay a deposit? Does it work pretty standard in that regard when it comes to renting a place in Malaysia?

Kirsten: The longer the contract, the more they’re willing to negotiate, but I would never suggest, if it’s your first year, to sign a multi-year lease, just because you never know what your neighbours or the neighbourhood is like until you’re there for a couple of months.

The deposit is a two-month security deposit, and you also have to pay an agent fee. So that’s usually for one year; that’s usually like half of a month’s rent. If it’s longer than a year, then you pay the full month’s rent. It’s generally a two-month security deposit, but everything is negotiable. So it doesn’t hurt to try to negotiate that down if you want to.

Carlie: What sort of negotiations were you guys able to do?

Kirsten: We definitely negotiated. I think we negotiated the rent down a bit. I think she originally wanted like 3,500 and now we’re at 2,800. And every year she tries to raise it, and we always say no. So we’ve stayed at 2,800 for the last five years / six years.

And I think we negotiated some of the furniture. So the furnishings were kind of awful in some of the rooms here, so we said, ‘Look, you have to change the couch. You have to take out the bed.’ So, you know, you can negotiate taking out furniture. You can negotiate the rent. You can negotiate pretty much anything.

If you want them to put in something, if you want them to put in a washing machine or dishwasher, ask for it. You have power, because—

Carlie: Because it’s a renter’s market, right? That’s really good to know. Kirsten, you mentioned that most people in Malaysia speak English. Is there a need or a desire from many foreigners to learn the local language, and what would that language be?

Kirsten: Because so many people speak English here, there is no need to learn another language. It is a nice thing to do if you want to, but the challenge with learning another language also is that there’s Milay or Bahasa, and there is Hokkien and Mandarin (Hokkien is a dialect of Mandarin, basically), and then the Indian people would speak either Hindi or Tamel. So I think learning a language here … I mean, most people would say—

Carlie: You would have to choose?

Kirsten: Yeah. Everybody here speaks English, for the most part, and Bahasa. So, if you learn Bahasa, you could speak it to everybody. However, when you’re speaking to a Chinese person, they don’t want to speak Bahasa to you. They want to either speak Hokkien, Mandarin or English. So it’s kind of up in the air.

If you want to learn a language, it depends on who you’re going to spend most of your time with. If you’re going to spend most of your time with Chinese Malaysians, then learning Hokkien is the best way to go, but that’s not easy. I mean, it’s learning Mandarin.

Hokkien is only spoken in like one section of China and here, so there’s no benefit of learning Hokkien. It’s better to learn Mandarin, but that’s not an easy feat. So most people here will learn a little bit of Bahasa, just the niceties.

So, I know how to say ‘thank you’ in Hokkien, ‘good morning’ in Bahasa, ‘thank you’ in Tamel, and that kind of stuff. It’s just a little bit of everything, but English is easiest, and that’s what most people speak.

Carlie: Does that mean that administrative issues can be all done in English then as well, and any official documents you have?

Kirsten: No, there are a lot of official documents that are only in Bahasa, which makes it a challenge – another reason why hiring someone to do the MM2H is important. A lot of that stuff is in Bahasa, but it’s also sometimes in English on some forms. So, you have to ask for English translations and stuff like that. It’s not all done in English.

Carlie: My next question is about healthcare. We talked about the types of visas that expats can get from Malaysia and the importance of having money in a local bank account to show that you’re not going to be a burden on the local system. Does that mean that you can’t register for the local public health service? That you need private insurance? Or how does that work for a foreigner?

Kirsten: So there is no registration here. You just show up at a hospital and you go to the doctor. It’s pretty amazing, actually. And the healthcare system in Malaysia is amazing. The doctors have all been trained abroad in the world. Half of our doctors have had offices in Australia and the other half in the UK and some in America.

Every doctor here has worked outside of the country and learned everything they know, for the most part, away. That’s not to say that there aren’t Malaysian doctors that have never left. But basically, if you get sick, there are two different things you can do.

You can go to a local clinic, which we go to, and it’s like $12 to go see a doctor. And it’s just a quick thing, if you have a cold or fever. If you’re really sick, or you need to see a specialist, you literally just go to the hospital where that specialist works, you take a number, and you wait for them to call you. And then you go see that specialist.

So you don’t have to get referrals to see anybody. You just show up, and you have to pay out of your own pocket. If you want to get insurance in Malaysia, you can, but for an expat on an MM2H, you have to have insurance.

But we didn’t have insurance for the first couple of years, because we were just paying out of pocket. Everything is so inexpensive. I had a sinus surgery, and I spent three days in the hospital, with a private room and around the clock care, at an amazing hospital, and everything was super modern, and it cost us $1800, which is a joke, because in America, you couldn’t even take an ambulance to the hospital and pay less than that.

So, you know, for us, that actually was what we were paying, almost, per month for insurance in America. We were paying $1,100 a month. So, for us, we were thrilled with having top-notch healthcare for peanuts.

So you don’t have to have insurance here, but you have to be able to pay for it. You can put it on your credit card or pay cash, they don’t care, but most expats … Let me rephrase that. When you first get your MM2H, you do have to have insurance.

But some people kind of let it lapse, and it doesn’t really matter, because they just have a fund that they know that, if anything happens, they’ll have money to cover it. But insurance is really cheap here and worth getting, and the coverage is good.

Carlie: And based on the cost of things like medical procedures, I can understand now why medical tourism might be a thing in Malaysia.

Kirsten: Yeah, it’s a huge thing in Malaysia. It’s huge for other Asians to come here. It’s not known for it in Australia and America, which is why that was the business that we had that we closed. Because we were trying to move people from the UK and Australia and America to Malaysia for healthcare.

And we did, but Thailand just supersedes Malaysia in some respects, not in the doctor healthcare department, but in customer service. Thai people are lovely, and they’re happy to have you and smile around you. Malaysians are more like, ‘What? What do you need? What do you want?’

Carlie: Malaysians aren’t as open.

Kirsten: Yeah. [They’re] not as soft, let’s just say. The other day, I went and had a little thing lasered off, and I’m used to someone being like, ‘Okay, so just take a deep breath, and it’s going to be okay.’ And the doctor was like, ‘Yeah, hold on. This is going to hurt.’ There are no subtleties.

Carlie: Not the most amazing bedside manner.

Kirsten: Or none, or none at all. Yeah.

Carlie: So, my final question, Kirsten, is going to be on the local education system, particularly for foreigners that might be coming to Malaysia with children. Now, I know from what I’ve read on your blog that you yourself don’t have kids. Do you have any insights into local schooling?

Kirsten: All the expats that I know who are here with children, they all go to private schools or international schools. I don’t even know if they would be able to go to a local school. I have no idea, but they don’t. They go to international schools, and there are a handful of international schools here.

Some of them are like Christian-based, and some of them are not, but they’re not cheap. And a lot of them have expats and locals, but the education itself is a very good education. I do know that, but that’s kind of my limitations on that one.

Carlie: And I guess for expat families, international schools make a lot of sense, if they’re not necessarily going to be spending the rest of their lives in Malaysia, or if they want to make sure their children have a real global outlook, I guess, from their formative years.

Kirsten: Yeah, and it is quite amazing. When I talk to my friends who have kids here, in their school and their class … Maybe it’s 30 people in their class, and they’ve got, literally, in 30 people, probably 15 different nations, which is pretty amazing. And that speaks to Penang itself and Malaysia itself. I’ve never been around such a diverse group of people.

Every time we have a dinner party or a get-together or a party, you could speak to people from 15 different countries. Coming from Chicago, I didn’t have that kind of exposure to everyone from Zimbabwe to South Africa, to Germany, to Scotland. And that is one of the things I truly love about living here.

Carlie: Kirsten, just finally, if you could make your move to Malaysia again and do the last seven years again, is there anything, or any key points, that you would have done differently?

Kirsten: Yeah. I would have probably tried to figure out a way to work remotely. I owned a business before, and I sold it, and I think I would not have sold it. I would have just worked remotely. It would have made our lives here a lot easier, and we wouldn’t have had to reinvent ourselves so dramatically, upon the move.

But I don’t think I would change where we are or how we came about it or anything else. I think learning from your mistakes and how things go is part of the journey. And it’s made me a stronger, smarter, better, more patient person, because of moving away.

Carlie: What’s your best piece of advice for anyone looking at making the move to Malaysia, not necessarily tomorrow, based on the state of the world, but in the future?

Kirsten: I would say the best piece of advice is do a test run. Don’t just show up in Malaysia and hope you’re going to like it. It’s not your home. It’s not America. It’s not Australia. It is nothing like it. You will stand out here. There are a ton of expats here, but you are a foreigner, and you will always be looked at as a foreigner here.

But you will be welcomed. There’s no question about it. The Malaysians love foreigners. They’re happy to have us here. And they are kind people, and I’ve never felt anything but warm welcomes from Malaysians.

But my biggest advice would be that you have to come and check it out, because the heat could kill you. The humidity could kill you. And maybe you don’t like the food. I don’t know. That would be crazy, because everybody loves the food, but if you plan to move out of your home country and you are making a full move, I would definitely go and test it out for at least a month, if you can.

And don’t go on vacation there. Go there and look at real estate. Look at where you want to live. Look at grocery stores. Look at how your daily life is going to be. Look at schools, if you have kids. [Look at] how your daily life is going to be, because it’s not vacation.

That’s it for this episode. If you have any questions about expat life in Malaysia, or want to share your own experiences, you can head over to expatfocus.com, where you’ll find links to our forums and Facebook groups.

Be sure to check out our other episodes. We cover all aspects of expat life, all over the world. If you like what we do, please share us, subscribe on your favourite podcast app, and we’d love to read your review. I’ll catch you next time!

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