Every time we leave
a posting I try to make a list of the things I will miss and the things I
really can’t wait to leave behind. My
list for Kazakhstan
is here and when I look back it turns out to have been spot
We have been away from Malaysia for about three months now and while we are waiting for dependent visas on the new posting (a few weeks now I am told) I thought it would be a good time to reflect on life in our previous posting.
Here are a few of
the things I will miss:
child-friendliness: Malaysia is an extremely friendly country. People here love children and love having
them with them. There are very few
‘child free’ events. It is not unusual
for babies to be entertained or even fed by waiting staff in a restaurant while we eat our meals. All children here get cooed over but Mini EE
with her blonde hair and horrendously pale skin (Malaysians are intrigued by pale skin)
gets a lot of extra attention. It is not
just friendliness to children – people bend over backwards to try to help when
needed (for example when we burst a tyre on the motorway) and it is very common
to be invited to celebrate other people’s key religious events at an ‘open
- The ease of day to
day life: Of course there are cultural
differences, there are differences between life in European countries that are
just next door to each other but Malaysia is an easy country for day to day
life. All the amenities of life in
Europe are here, the supermarkets are well stocked, the roads are well
maintained, the infrastructure works (probably better than the UK), it is easy to
get your car maintained so culture aside my day to day life is not really any
different to life in the UK or the Netherlands.
- Drive Through
Coffee: This makes my (horrendous)
afternoon school run somewhat more bearable.
In Venezuela we had drive through Pizza Huts but here in Malaysia we have
drive through Starbucks and you get a discount for using your own car mug!
- Dim Sum: Who doesn’t like these little tastes of
perfection. My personal favourite are
Xiao Long Bao – Shanghainese soup and pork dumplings. Our local restaurant serves some of the best
- Our Miri house and
our Ipoh neighbourhood: Our house in
Miri was one of the very best we have ever had.
It was a perfect match for us and we loved living there. The neighbourhood was, however, not ideal for
walking the dogs. In Ipoh we have the
opposite situation, the house is not really ideal and the living areas are open
plan and cramped with never quite enough space to put stuff away. The local area is, however, absolutely
wonderful. Beautifully maintained and
teeming with wildlife. If we could have
had our Miri house in this location it would have been a match made in heaven.
|Our Ipoh neighbourhood - one of the most beautiful|
places we have ever lived
- The tailor and
fabric shop: I can get the most
beautiful array of fabric here and the tailors will make it up for me. I can ask for a pattern or they will copy a
dress I already have. They even scale
things down as we had a number of copies of Mr EEs favourite casual shirt made
and smaller versions for Master EE (not to be worn simultaneously I might add).
- Car Park
Machines: I can see that this might
puzzle people but I have never yet come across a car park where the ticket
machines do not work. They accept a full
range of notes and some coins and the notes can be inserted into the machine
any way around and it does not matter if they are a little creased. Anyone who has had to try to buy a parking
ticket from a Network Southeast Railway Station or an NCP carpark in the UK
will sympathise with my admiration of this simple efficiency.
fulfilled: Malaysia has some amazing
locations, some of which such as Mulu and Niah Caves or the town of Melaka Mr
EE and I had wanted to see for many, many years. Our time in Malaysia gave us the privilege to
explore these sites at our leisure.
|Gunung Mulu National Park|
- Pantai Bungai: this
beach in Borneo is a piece of paradise on Earth. I hope when my time comes to travel through
the tunnel of light that I will step out somewhere like this beach to see all
my dogs running towards me in welcome, the family members who pre-deceased me
walking slowly behind with smiles on their faces.
|Paradise does exist|
- Massage and foot
rubs: I have some particularly nasty
problems with my back which means that my muscles are in a constant state of
tension, I have not been able to relax them fully in about 13 years. I find
that having a massage every now and then helps to ease the pain a little and
gives me a greater degree of movement. I
also happen to really love foot rubs so the large number of reflexology shops
with their chairs and footstools all in a row are an affordable and regular
Things I will not
- The ease of day to
day life: Now I sound like a hypocrite
but as well as being one of the key benefits of life in Malaysia it is also
something that drives me that little bit wild.
We became expats to have an adventure and to see something more of life.
While it is nice that life is easy it
has become that little bit dull and lacking in challenge.
- The urban
landscape: With a few notable exceptions
the urban landscape of Malaysia is fairly dull. Many towns (and suburbs of towns) look
exactly the same and this gets rather depressing.
|The urban landscape is not inspiring|
- The rain: The timings of rain showers seem to be rather
more erratic than their equivalents in Nigeria which you could set your clock
by. Here you are never quite sure when
it will rain, it could be any time of the day and the showers last a long time.
|A light shower|
- The profusion of
shop assistants: Malaysia has a
fantastic service culture and people are only too pleased to help you. This can go too far, however. Go into any shop or department store other
than a supermarket and pick something up to look at it and an assistant will
materialise out of thin air partly to offer assistance and partly to make sure
that you don’t take anything. It all
gets a little claustrophobic to be honest with people taking things off you to
put behind the desk for when you are ready to pay. It makes it quite hard to see how things work
together and you have to be quite firm about holding on to your purchases if
you want to do that.
- Children’s Shoes: I have a bee in my bonnet about
the problems of finding proper shoes for children here. It is almost impossible which is bizarre as
just about everything else you could ever hope to need is here to buy.
- Never mind: This is a popular Malaysian phrase, used as
an equivalent to ‘don’t worry’ (which also winds me up). It doesn’t quite serve the same purpose,
however. When we moved in to Ipoh the
landlord had failed to deliver on a promise of a proper oven and we spent quite
a few days haggling about it. Being told
‘never mind’ really made me want to say ‘but I do mind, a very great deal’ in
rather more trenchant terms than I just wrote.
Of course I didn’t but oh how I wanted to. I did get an oven of sorts in the end but it
is another thing I really won’t miss.
- Parking: Malaysians are incredibly selfish when it
comes to parking. People here seem to be
obsessed with walking the shortest distance possible and so spaces close to the
shops/cinema/restaurant are at a premium.
People think nothing of double parking, parking in the road, parking in
the sightlines of turns etc. We always
park that little bit further away. Not
only is it easier but it lessens the risk of returning to your car and finding
someone has blocked you in.
|People park everywhere - getting through can be a nightmare|
- Driving: Malaysian
roads are a pleasure to drive on, beautifully maintained and well managed. The standards of driving, however, are
dire. People speed, tailgate, drive
annoyingly, passively, slowly, undertake, cut in, pull out on hills when their
engines can’t handle the acceleration and generally make extremely poor
- Haze: the haze during our time in Malaysia was some of the worst on record. It made life miserable for some time and our town was not even that badly affected.
|A day of light haze, at times we could not see even the trees|
- Pavements: Pavements here are high, very high and quite
difficult to lift a pushchair up on to.
They are also poorly maintained, often narrow and have many breaks for
side roads. The covered 5 footway of the
shophouses should be an easy place to walk but they are usually crowded with
shop displays and goods for sale.
Walking anywhere in town is near to impossible if you are on your own
with a pushchair.
- In shop
displays: For some unknown reason shops
seem to delight in setting up extra little display shelves at the end of most
of the aisles (chemists are particularly bad for this). They are always positioned in just such a way
to make it impossible to actually get into the aisle you need.
- The Ringgit’s
value: The Ringgit has tumbled in value
in the 18 months since we arrived and we have noticed a concomitant rise in
costs of living. It has also meant that
many of the trips we were hoping to make, to Indonesia, to Cambodia, Vietnam
and Laos, were not possible. This
combined with only a small number of holiday days has meant that, other than a
few trips to Brunei or business trips for Mr EE we have not left Malaysia in
the 18 months since we arrived. We are
long overdue a good holiday!
- Our house in Ipoh:
the area might be lovely but the house is awful. Before I sound like a spoiled expat I do acknowledge that we lived in one of the best areas in Ipoh in a house that many would dream to own. It was, however, very poorly maintained with leaks in the roof, mould in the bathrooms and a host of other problems that meant we were paying a high amount for low quality. The kitchen was almost designed to minimise shelf
space (all the time giving the illusion of masses of storage), the hob had only one working ring and the oven was dire. Our bedroom
had vinyl wall paper! I have lived in some truly dire expat pads but this is approaching one of the worst.
- Poor quality
meat: The meat in Malaysia is absolutely
dire. It is often very fatty and poor
quality. When we do find decent meat it
is sold in small packets and is very expensive indeed.
I asked the rest of
the family what they thought. Mr EE
broadly agreed with my analysis. Master
EE said he would miss the scenery and exploring the wild. Miss EE said she would miss learning Chinese
and exploring temples. They both said
they would not miss the rain, the mosquitoes and the long flight back to the
So a fairly even
split between positives and negatives!
Malaysia has not been a bad posting, it is a pretty easy place to live
but I think we might have come to it too early in life. At the current stage of our lives and given
the age of our children we have been craving something that little bit more
interesting and adventurous. I think
Malaysia as a destination would suit us far more in about 15-20 years’ time. We will, however, certainly bear it in mind as a possible holiday destination to see some of the places we have not managed to get to.
|We would not have missed the chance to meet this little chap for all the world|
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