Happy Go KL
Please tell us a little bit about yourselves. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Kuala Lumpur, etc.
We are four friends who have lived in Kuala Lumpur for some years now. We are originally from Finland, the Netherlands, the Philippines and France. We blog at Happy Go KL.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
We were constantly asked practical questions on what to do in KL with kids, where to buy certain items and tips for holiday destinations. We thought there should really be a blog for all that and since there wasn’t any, decided to start one. We have been writing HappyGoKL for a year now.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
- Most of our blog posts are on what to do with kids in the city. You wouldn’t believe it but there are actually lots of green areas in KL, FRIM being one of the coolest.
- Lists of things to do are always popular, like this one on weekend family breakfast favorites.
- Local markets are always great for shopping and general atmosphere.
- In addition to being a great city, travelling to other destinations in Malaysia and the region is easy and affordable. One of the great things about KL is that it is so easy to get to amazing family-friendly holiday destinations. One of our last year’s coolest trips was to China.
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?
Life in KL is very different and at the same time you can live like in any big city in the world — especially with young kids the days are filled with school and kids’ stuff.
Generally settling in Kuala Lumpur has been easy. The challenges have been related to as much to the “trailing spouse syndrome” as to the host country.
Getting used to driving on the streets and highways of KL takes a bit of time. Malaysian driving can be described as somewhat haphazard with many seemingly oblivious to the rules. Road accidents have been ranked as the leading cause of death in this country so do steel yourself when you drive, especially on high-speed roads.
With the 3 cultures that coexist in Malaysia, there is always a local festival or holiday, plus those working get a day or two off work! We celebrate it all — Chinese New Year, Deepavali, Ramadan, Hari Raya, Thaipusam, Christmas. It’s fun seeing the décor in malls and commercial spaces change rather frequently.
On the other hand, the society is going through some challenging times and there seems to be more and more polarization within the country, politically and economically.
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?
Becoming a trailing spouse was a major change to all of us. It is still challenging to find employment for the spouse in Malaysia, especially if you have young children. The child care system and schools are not geared towards having two working parents in the family. When you add bad public transport and terrible traffic (compared to more developed cities that one may be used to), it gets quite tricky. That’s not something you can change, but maybe prepare for if that’s the situation you’ll find yourself in — ideally the spouse could come along with a portable career or studies lined up.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
There is a lot of humor in everyday life in KL. We are accustomed to asking for “big size” when shopping for clothes or acting as translators between native English speaking visitors and local English speakers (lah!).
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Kuala Lumpur?
- Do your research beforehand, join groups that suit your interests as soon as you arrive and make friends! Ask a lot of questions.
- Choose where you want to live carefully, it makes a huge difference. Do no commit to a place before coming to KL and seeing it for yourself.
- Another important factor is the school, check out the different options and either live close by or make sure the daily commute is smooth. Traffic will swallow a lot of your time anyway. Prices of international schools are astronomical; take that into account in your planning.
How is the expat community in Kuala Lumpur? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
Kuala Lumpur has a huge number of expats and if you want to socialize with others in the same situation, it is very easy. There are societies for many nationalities and playgroups for families. Ibu, a local support organization, is a great place to meet other families with young kids. The hot climate means a lot of time is spent by the pool, where you naturally meet other families living in the same condo or area. We all live in the same area and met either in the playground, school or through common friends. The working spouses obviously meet people through work, both expat and local.
How would you summarize your expat life in Kuala Lumpur in a single, catchy sentence?
KL is a tropical city with many faces, fabulous travel opportunities and a great lifestyle for families.