Frank: Expatriate Life After Retirement
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Kuala Lumpur, etc.
I was raised and educated as a Chemical Engineer in The Netherlands. After my studies my wife Francien and I left our home country in 1982 in search for some adventure. Back then we intended to return within a few years, but indeed never did! We immigrated to South Africa where our first daughter was born in Kempton Park. In 1986, I joined an American Multinational Petrochemical company and started a 28 year international career. I posted in Italy, The Netherlands, four different locations in Germany, twice in the USA, Kuwait, and in Saudi Arabia. Our youngest daughter was born in The Netherlands to move to Germany when she was only 2 months old. We have provided our two daughters with a truly international upbringing supported by an excellent global network of International Schools and communities. After 33 years of international lifestyle I decided to withdraw from a 24/7 active working life at the age of 57. I intend to continue an active expatriate way of life together with my wife and therefore decided to move to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. We arrived there in June 2015.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
On the highway of my life, I was mostly on the fast lane. Too young to move into the slow lane, I want to continue my nomadic lifestyle, exploring new countries and cultures. My wife and I both do not know what that new phase in our life will look like, but we like to share our experiences finding out new purpose, meaning and direction in the next few years, while being in full control of our own time. I retired from full-time employment in March 2015 and shortly after started my blog.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
My wife and I traveled from Europe to Malaysia on a container ship and when we passed the Horn of Africa through pirate waters, we documented our rather unique experiences in this post.
Tell us about the ways your new life in Kuala Lumpur differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
We have been here in Kuala Lumpur (or KL as the locals prefer to call their city) only for a few weeks now. The first impression is very much the same as with the other 14 international moves we have made before. It is all about finding your way around, meeting real estate agents looking for housing, meeting new people and therefore joining organizations like InterNations. KL is indeed a very international city and the people generally are very friendly and helpful.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Kuala Lumpur? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
As mentioned above, we have made 14 different international moves and have learned what needs to be done during the first few months at a new location. Nevertheless, we underestimated the sweltering mid-summer heat in the city, making walking (which we very much like to do) outdoors rather strenuous.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
In the Middle East a colleague of mine refused to move into an apartment, because according to him there was a bad Djinn! At first this sounded very funny to me, until I was made to understand that in the Koran indeed Djinn’s are being described as much as angels are mentioned in the Bible. We had to arrange for a specially trained religious person to get rid of this bad Djinn, before he would move in!
What might first be funny, can turn out to become very serious in a certain cultural environment!
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Kuala Lumpur?
- Understand the three main culture groups you will be dealing with: Malay, Chinese and Indian people.
- Be patient, things will work out here, albeit a bit slower than what you might be used to.
- Do not stay only within the expatriate community in KL, but rather also open yourself to the local culture(s).
How is the expat community in Kuala Lumpur? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
We have only been here a few weeks, but being such an international city, we do not expect any problems to make new friends in KL.
How would you summarize your expat life in Kuala Lumpur in a single, catchy sentence?
It is life in the fast lane!