Duncan: Our Home Called Kuantan
Life comes with many unexpected twists and turns sometimes: after quite a few detours, the adventure which began as a two-year span of volunteer work in Malaysia and Singapore ended with marriage and prolonged expat life abroad. And what should have been a blog focusing on tennis became a vivid illustration of Duncan’s life in Malaysia.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Malaysia, etc.
My name is Duncan Horne and I’m from Leicester, England. I first moved to Malaysia in June 2002 as a volunteer worker. That lasted for 2 years upon which I returned home to England. In May 2006 I moved back to Malaysia again, this time as a result of marrying a local Malaysian.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I began a blog in 2009 originally to be the topic of Roger Federer – how quickly things change! My blog changed into a blog about Kuantan, my new hometown, and has found much success and a wide following as a result.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
I have a number of favorite entries, particularly those about our stays at hotels and visiting tourist attractions here in Kuantan.
- Our stay at Swiss garden Resort & Spa
- Our tour of The Zenith Hotel and interview with the GM
- Our stay at Vistana Hotel
- The fascinating Lao Zi dragon temple near Kuantan
- I really love this post documenting the Ten Thousand Buddhas Hall in Kuantan
- Always enjoy visiting this lovely scenic park in Kuantan
- Had an intriguing visit to Sungai Lembing
- Exploring the hidden charm of Kuantan old town
- Hindu temple in Kuantan
- All of the blog posts on this page
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?
When I first moved to Malaysia back in 2002 I did have a bit of culture shock which lasted for a month or two. I found myself thinking about home and missing friends and family quite often. However, once I got to know the local people and settled into my work, things became a whole lot easier. The hot and humid weather was a big thing, as well as the wide array of Asian food on offer. I soon got used to dirty and smelly public toilets too. Anyway, I took the good with the bad and just really started enjoying living the Asian life. Life is much more laid back here in Malaysia, easy to get on with people and make good new friends, which was quite the opposite in England. The drinking culture of England brought a lot of pressure as I’m not a drinker, and that aspect is so much more comfortable and tolerable in Malaysia. Every day feels like a holiday here, and I wouldn’t give it up for the world.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Malaysia? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
I think it’s impossible to be fully prepared for everything about a new life abroad. You can read endless books on a new country of residence, its food, people, economy and so on, but nothing beats experience! I think it’s important to go with a positive attitude and open mind, and realize that the way of life is not going to be like back home - then you will be able to settle a lot quicker and be more adaptable to change.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
My wife was taking driving lessons and one afternoon somebody from the driving school called. My wife was asleep so I took the call. Unfortunately the lady on the other end couldn’t speak English, so trying to be clever I attempted to tell her that my wife was sleeping. However, I didn’t realize that I was speaking in the Iban language, which my wife had been teaching me, and not Bahasa Melayu (the national language). So I was saying “Fidelia tinduk” (in Iban) getting myself confused with “tidur” (the word for sleep I should have been using!) So there was a lot of confusion before the call ended and I remember myself complaining, “That woman can’t even talk her own language!” Not until I related the story to my wife did she inform me that it was I who was using the wrong language!
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Malaysia?
- Approach the expat journey with an open mind
- Try to live the local way of life instead of your own ‘back home’ way of living
- Immerse yourself in the work you’re doing in Malaysia
How is the expat community in Malaysia? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
I am a different type of expat to what is usually understood by the title “expat”. I didn’t move here together with my family like most expats do who move abroad for work purposes. My wife is actually a local Malaysian and I moved here to settle down with no money, no job, a complete fresh start in a town I had never knew existed. However, I am still living the expat life now; it’s just that I’ve gone through it in an entirely different set of circumstances. It was very tough at first but gradually I’ve settled down to normal life and have now met one or two fellow expats here too. It was pretty difficult locating other expats but I have made a friendship with one guy from the Netherlands, whom we see from time to time. However, it is with the local Malaysians whom I converse with the most. Sometimes I forget I was from England and really don’t think of myself as an expat. I thoroughly enjoy my life in Malaysia and I feel like I’ve never been anywhere else!
How would you summarize your expat life in Malaysia in a single, catchy sentence?
“Every day feels like a holiday!”