Dan and Jenny: Uncharted Plan
Obviously, you should never start any adventure abroad without thinking it through. But planning so much in advance than you cannot appreciate the wonders of your new surroundings anymore is also less than recommendable. Dan and Jenny probably chose the right method before they moved to Malaysia: going prepared, but not mapping out everything in advance! They blog at Uncharted Plan.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Malaysia, etc.
We are Dan and Jenny McNair, from Atlanta, GA (USA) and we moved to Kuala Lumpur in July 2010.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
Our blogging started pretty much right away but we quickly realized how challenging it was to keep it updated as frequently as originally planned. Lately we’ve worked on increasing our posts and adding some new features. We started blogging for two reasons: (1) to keep friends and family updated on our adventures through short stories and photos; and (2) to offer some travel tips to readers who might be in a similar place we were a couple years ago, because when we researched online before our move, it was hard to find good information about being an expat in Malaysia and teaching at an international school.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
Tell us about the ways your new life in Malaysia differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
Life in Malaysia has been very different from home but we knew it would be, so rather than experiencing “culture shock”, we tried to keep an open mind about the differences and to laugh at and learn from them as much as possible. Overall, the experience has been amazing and we would definitely recommend others to try it. We would do it again in a heartbeat, but we'd also be lying if we denied being at least a little homesick. Coming from Georgia, perhaps the thing we miss the most is the “southern hospitality” we probably took for granted. The unique food in Malaysia has been an interesting adventure, travel is incredibly easy within as well as in-and-out-of KL and there’s a tremendous diversity here that makes it an exciting place to live and work.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Malaysia? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
Thanks to the international school network, we felt very well prepared for our transition to Kuala Lumpur. If anything, perhaps we would have packed differently or chosen a different flight. We didn’t really know what we would need to bring, and in hindsight we could have survived by bringing fewer clothes and instead packing more pictures and reminders of home. Also, by taking a flight with so many stops shared by different airlines, we fell victim to the lost/delayed baggage experience which was a tough way to spend the first few days in a foreign country. Full story on that here...
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
We’ve captured a few of the funny experiences that come with being an expat, on our page called “The Bizarre”. Perhaps the most frequently recurring theme that we find humorous is the creativity with which people in this region are able to pack humans, animals and the most incredible amount of stuff onto their motorbikes. It’s amazing how much one can carry, and amazing that there are not more accidents.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Malaysia?
- Connect. Try to connect with someone who’s done it. Plug into the network early that will be your core community once you move, sync up with strangers through social media or contact us! Regardless of who you speak with, it’s helpful to have someone you can pepper with questions about all the “little details”, before you set foot on the plane for your moving day.
- Research. Do your own research through blogs, websites, reviews, etc. Find out as much as you can about the various areas where you might be considering buying or renting your home. By doing a little homework on the front end, you can find a lot of information about schools, housing, cost of living, entertainment, restaurants, public transit and work commutes all before you sign the paperwork on your new place.
- Plan & Prepare. Once you have gathered as much help as you can to answer your questions, put together a plan. What do you need to do at home and by when, in order to be ready to leave? For us it included selling and storage a lot of stuff. Also, what do you want/need to pack and bring with you versus buying when you arrive? Unless you have an unlimited budget for excess and overweight bags, you will likely need to rely on some creative packing techniques and making some tough decisions about what to leave behind.
How is the expat community in Malaysia? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
The expat community in KL is very well established. While we have not participated as much in the corporate environment of expats, it’s very visible and offers a lot to its members. You can enjoy it for the diversity of the countries represented, or find a sub-group of members specific to your home nation. There are countless events, publications and organizations designed to make expat life easier and more interesting in Malaysia. Our network centered around the international school community and we were fortunate to meet a lot of fellow educators to go through this experience together, as well as some who were more seasoned from whom we were able to learn.
How would you summarize your expat life in Malaysia in a single, catchy sentence?
"If you keep your eyes open, you will see something everyday that you've never seen before."