Michele: Malaysian Meanders
Even if you think you are blessed with a great set of circumstances and preparation, expat life can still continue to surprise you day after day. But in the end isn’t that what really makes it all exciting? We’re sure Michele would agree. At Malaysian Meanders she blogs about expat life in Malaysia - and the wonders that come with it.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Malaysia, etc.
I used to be a stay-at-home mom living in Texas. Then, my husband’s company moved us over to Penang, Malaysia in the summer of 2011. I like to joke that since we brought our kids, I took my job with me, too. We’ll be here for a couple of years and then plan on returning to Texas.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I started blogging a few weeks before we left America. I thought it would be an excellent way to keep our friends and family updated on our adventures and would serve as a diary to remember our time here. Also, reading expat blogs before I moved really helped me to foresee what this new country had in store for my family.
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?
Goodness, I need my entire blog to explain all the ways that life is different. I’m the American-born child of Chinese-Filipino immigrants, so parts of the culture and food were already familiar to me. Growing up in Texas prepared me for the tropical heat and humidity. The major culture shock has come from getting used to driving in Malaysia and giving up the one-stop-shopping mega grocery stores in America. I love the lower cost of living here.
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 don’t think anyone can every fully prepare for a move to an unfamiliar country. You simply can’t anticipate everything. Even after living here for a few months, things continue to surprise me.
In retrospect, I shipped over too much. I had been worried that my kids and I would need many of our old belongings in order to feel secure in our new surroundings. In reality, they haven’t touched many of their toys, and I’ve been too busy exploring to use many of my American items.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
My children and I went to the shallow swimming pools at the Youth Park with some friends during our first week in Malaysia. We were so excited to see wild monkeys that we started filming them. While we were distracted, another group of monkeys was going through our bags we had left on a park bench. When I looked over, they had already grabbed my clothes, towel, and snacks. Luckily, I convinced them to drop it all. This was when it really struck me that life here was going to be different. You would never have this problem in Texas.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Malaysia?
- Start putting aside money for travel vacations. Thailand, Cambodia, Singapore and other countries are close enough to visit on a long weekend.
- If you’re a Westerner, stock up on hot weather clothing and shoes because the Asian sizes may have a hard time fitting you.
- Let go of expectations and just be ready to accept whatever minor inconveniences and irritations come your way. Then, you’ll fit in with the typical “ok-lah” Malay outlook on life.
How is the expat community in Malaysia? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
I have found the expat community in Penang to be very welcoming even though I haven’t joined any expat clubs. Before I moved, I expected to befriend locals. It’s been a bonus to also find friends who come from around the world. It really brings a global perspective to discussions — everything from politics to child-rearing. My housing complex and my children’s school have been a wonderful way to meet people.
How would you summarize your expat life in Malaysia in a single, catchy sentence?
Malaysia continues to excite me with new adventures — culinary, cultural, architectural, and just day-to-day life.