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anyone here living in Malaysia?

(143 Posts)
sanam2010 Sun 27-Oct-13 21:59:35

can we have a thread to get together British expats in Malaysia? am thinking of moving there with two preschoolers and would love to chat and exchange ideas about places, kindergartens, etc etc...

FatOwl Sun 27-Oct-13 23:58:39

I've lived in Malaysia for ten years.
There are a few other that I know of -KLdragon and loopy loopy I think.

How certain are you you're coming?
What can we help you with?

FatOwl Mon 28-Oct-13 00:36:29

Sorry, was being brief on my phone then.

Where in malaysia are you coming to?
I live in KL where there is a big expat community, but there are expats in Penang, Johor and Miri. Everywhere really!

Assuming you are coming for work, be sure to know what is included in your benefits package.
Schooling is great, but expensive. If your dc will be starting school while you are here (you say they are pre-school age now), you might want to think about looking at schools as soon as possible as many of the better international school have waiting lists, esp for the younger years.

Likewise, medical care is great but you will need private medical cover.

Areas to live, really depend on where you work.

It is a good place to live, the food and climate are great, fantastic travel and holiday opportunites. My kids were 2, 6 and 9 when we came, and are now 12, 15 and 19. (19 year old is now at uni back in the UK) - they have flourished here-they have friends from all over the world and have had a much much better education that they would have done in the UK (not putting down state school in general- just the ones they would have gone to if we'd stayed in the UK lol!)

The driving and red tape is a joke, and it is a long way from home.
People say it is child friendly, but I came with a two year old and found it frustrating I couldn't walk anywhere (storm drains, dodgy pavements with motorbikes driving along them), and preschools were full time or nothing. That was my experience though- lots of people live here with toddlers and love it.

The crime rate is rising, but I still feel safer here than I do in London. You just need to be sensible.

Happy to help with anything!

MarjorieAntrobus Mon 28-Oct-13 00:46:46

Me too! Adding my name to the list. Been here four years.

We have had threads in the past, but we'll happily talk to you on this one. grin

MarjorieAntrobus Mon 28-Oct-13 00:58:18

I agree with all of Fatowl's post.

Yep, international schools good but expensive.

You need health insurance.

Housing can be cheap, though depends hugely on area. Petrol, eating out, cigarettes also cheap. Alcohol expensive, also car purchase.

Climate is always hot, sometimes with rain.

Yup to red tape.

Many Brits here, lots of them with small children.

What can we help you with, specifically?

sanam2010 Mon 28-Oct-13 11:06:43

oh great thanks, glad to see so many here! My husband and I both work online so I started to think it really doesn't make much sense to live in London of all places given the cost of housing and private schools. So we would come on our own budget not with a package but obviously happy as childcare and preschools seem to be much cheaper than in London.

KL looks fantastic in terms of facilities but I read it's quite polluted, even more than London? What do you think of air quality there? If not KL, I am looking at where else to go where there is relatively fresh air, close to the beach and an expat community that is big enough so there are international preschools / kindergartens. Penang looks good although some people say the ocean there is not the best. Which place in Malaysia would you choose if you were free to choose? I heard from someone working online who lives in Malacca/Melaka, is that nice? Any other places I should look at? Johor is near Singapore, I guess that is also relatively expensive and potentially not so great beaches?

MasterOfTheYoniverse Mon 28-Oct-13 11:43:27

Hi! can I join? not in Malaysia but live between SG and HK.
Why is your heart set on Malaysia if you don't mind my asking? Is it because its easy to get a visa?

Other places you could consider are Bali and Phuket which both have very decent british schools, well established expat communities, and good beaches. Visas are fairly easy to arrange.
The level of medical care is better in Phuket, just make sure you get a good medical cover.

KL is definitely big a polluted but a great place to be. Johor is a no man's land but Marlborough just opened a branch there and they have nice gated communities if you can survived the incestuous feel of living in one of those? And you can be in and out of Singapore every day if you have a car. Beaches not great but good weekend spots a a couple of hours north.

How about Bangkok? Its has cleaned up nicely in the last few years and has become quite user friendly.
Vietnam too. Ho Chi Minh is a big metropolis but retains old world charm. Decent schools, good expat community and housing and fab beaches nearby AND seasons, somehow.

Sorry really feel like i've just stirred the s**t here but thought maybe you could think laterally in case Malaysia was not feasible?


FatOwl Mon 28-Oct-13 12:20:35

If you are paying for yourself, I'd actually look at avoiding KL. The beaches are not fantastic, your nearest is Port Dickson, which is not great and very crowded at the weekends.
Melaka is nice, historical town to visit but no beach as such. Not sure at about the international school there. There were some not great reviews recently.
Penang might be worth looking at, beaches are OK, it's Malaysia's second city, expat community and a choice of schools, but you would not be paying KL prices (think of the difference between London and Manchester in pricing). Probably a bit more limited in imported stuff in supermarkets though if that bothers you (Heinz beans, breakfast cereal etc- if that bothers you)
Johor is very close to singapore and being populated mainly by people living there and commuting to Singapore. (and why wouldn't you? a friend of mine has just moved to Johor from a two bedroom shoe box in SG to a four bed house with pool, five mins from her kids school, her dh leaves the house at 7 and it at his desk in central SG by 8am) Pricing are rising there though due to the new Marlborough College International school and the SG overspill mainly.

The air quality in KL is generally OK, but is often worse in June-August- known as the Haze, which comes from forest burning in Indonesia. It's nowhere near as bad as China.

If you rely on the internet to work though, be aware that high speed broadband is expensive and patchy, esp outside KL. You have one choice- Telekom Malaysia, and they are arses. I've been on the phone crying with frustration more than once, we pay about RM350 a month (about 70 pounds) for 20mps, we barely get 1mps most of the time, but we are charged all the same, claiming they only promise "up to" 20mps. Some other companies are now offering broadband, like Unifi and Maxis (the mobile provider), but they are all ultimately owned by TM (and government controlled)

FatOwl Mon 28-Oct-13 12:25:06

X-posted with Master there- I agree, KL would not be my first choice if not tied to work.
Phuket would be lovely!
Very good schools in bangkok (but like KL, not cheap)

sanam2010 Mon 28-Oct-13 16:49:45

fatowl, very interesting point about broadband speed, I had somehow heard that Malaysia was great about broadband connections, maybe that was just in comparison to Thailand or Vietnam :-(. Hopefully in Penang it would be alright.

MasteroftheYoniverse, I am definitely also looking at other places like Bali, Phuket and Ho Chi Minh. I liked Malaysia because it seemed like there were a lot of English or English / Mandarin speaking preschools, whereas in Phuket it seemed very "expaty", that potentially in the international schools it is only expat kids? In malaysia I had the impression because of the big Chinese community our children could be in a local type kindergarten where most speak English and Mandarin with lots of local kids, rather than having to be either in a place where no-one speaks English or everyone is white if you know what I mean. But if anyone can recommend great pre-schools in Phuket, I'm all ears. We've been to Phuket and Cambodia and Singapore many times and love all of them, Singapore just seems to expensive already and Phuket I wasn't sure about the preschool situation, but would love to hear recommendations.

I didn't know Ho Chi Minh was close to nice beaches, that definitely sounds quite interesting as well. I loved Cambodia so I am sure I would love Vietnam as well. I would definitely want to be in one of those places and then travel to all of them thanks to AirAsia. Basically all I need is high quality childcare at very decent prices so I can work without feeling my kids are unhappy, so the better the choices are on that side the easier it will be for us.

It seems like several of you mention medical care in Malaysia is not so great? Are there no high quality international hospitals in Penang, for example? And what about illnesses such as Dengue fever or Malaria? I read there is a risk of those in Penang but it seems so close to Phuket and I never worried about those in Phuket. Or is it just a mild risk? I've been to the Philippines as well (now that I come to think of it!) and there were definitely many regions where it existed theoretically but it was really unlikely you would get it, and then regions where you had to be really careful. Is there a big difference between the places we're discussing here?

FatOwl Mon 28-Oct-13 23:03:53

Medical care in Malaysia is good, if you can pay for it. The local/government providers are extremely variable but improving, but as a foreigner, you will struggle to get through the red tape to access it.
For day to day stuff, the private care isn't that expensive, a trip to the dr with prescription will typical set you back about RM100 (about 20 pounds). An overnight in hospital will quickly run into 1000s.

There is no Malaria in Peninsular Malaysia. Dengue fever is a problem, you need to know the signs and prevention techniques (basically mosquito bite prevention). For most people though, Dengue is like a dose of flu- Dh has had it, the fataliies usually come about with people who leave it very late to get treatment, or have it for a second time and get the hemoragic (sp?) version of the disease.

There are lots and lots of pre-school which are English speaking but will also teach Mandarin.
You say your dc are pre-school age, but how long would it be before you'd actually be looking at schools?
Many of the pre-schools cater up to 6-7, (as that is when the state education starts). There is a mushrooming of "international" schools in malaysia (and indeed SEAsia in general), the vast majority of which are privately run, for profit, and are generally poor in quality (there are very little checks in place), the teaching quality is down to good luck rather than any kind of regulation or management - my current obsession is reading international school reviews, so let me know if you start looking at specific schools.

MasterOfTheYoniverse Tue 29-Oct-13 00:11:23

Oh yes, very good point about broadband speed!!
Even in HK it can be a PB. No optic fiber in our building although we are in a very expaty area. But there are usually ways around it.

Interesting about mandarin tuition. Yes certainly you'd be able to find that in Malaysia but honestly don't put your hopes too high. The chinese community of the straights speak other dialects although mandarin is the Medium of instruction in schools. So its hard to find ways to practice everyday and progress really depends on practicing.
You'd have to make it through to middle school before you can really say they are learning.
My son now in year 5 can read & write basic simplified. DD in year 1 can sing and knows her fruit, colors etc….
They both started in nursery around 3 years old. So its really a marathon and probably will involve extra home tuition if you feel they are so inclined. We are definitely getting DD a tutor as soon as she settles in her new school. Its the critical point where 2-3 lessons a week in an international just won't cut it.
So I guess what am saying is that you really need to be committed and make it clear to the schools/teachers that you are serious about your child learning mandarin so they can push them a bit.

Medical care is good. Even public hospitals seem good. DH had an ear pb folowing a dive and was treated in a tiny hospital in Langkawi (15 years ago!) and it was clean, efficient. we were redirected to a private hospital in Penang for a follow up and agree that was not expensive.

MarjorieAntrobus Tue 29-Oct-13 00:27:00

OP, how is this going to work in terms of visas? If you are British you can enter Malaysia for 90 days as a tourist, and keep popping off to Singapore or Thailand on visa runs to extend that. So far so good, but officially you wouldn't be allowed to work. I know you would be working (online) but it would be unofficial, iyswim. How would you open a bank account here without an Employment Pass (ie a work visa), or take a lease on a house without a Malaysian bank account and your employer's reference?

Maybe there are more ways of doing this than I realise, and please do put me right. I know of MM2H, but that requires a hefty cash commitment, and the Residence Pass, but that requires you to have lived here for a couple of years already.

FatOwl Tue 29-Oct-13 00:37:16

Ah yes, the tuition culture...don't get me started.

It grates on me that parents pays RM1000s per term for tuition, when they have already forked out RM10K+ in school fees for private tuition for a child who is not struggling, in fact, usually excelling.

It is so ingrained into the culture here though, it will never go.

At the risk of totally outing myself, I am on the governing board of an international school in malaysia (hence my trawling through school reviews) and the tuition subject does come up.
I am uncomfortable with it, as even after 10 years here- if I felt I needed to seek a private tutor for my child, it would be because the school is lacking in some way, which in the competitive school market, is a problem. But it really isn't seen that way at all by anyone else!

I'm digressing from the OP though...

There is an excellent private hospital in Penang, a friends dh broke his ankle there recently. It was a nasty break and it needed surgery to be set and pinned, excellent care apparently.

FatOwl Tue 29-Oct-13 00:41:42

x-posted with marjorie there
She's right, renting a house/bank accounts etc will be interesting without an EP
Not impossible though. You could look at getting the 10 year talent visa, which means (I think) that you can work for who you like, but I think you need to show how you benefit the Malaysian economy.
MM2H does require a lump sum of cash.

MarjorieAntrobus Tue 29-Oct-13 01:30:17

Fatowl is the Talent Visa the same as the thing I am calling the Residence Pass or is it a separate extra thing? My v limited understanding of the Residence Pass (based on talking to two people who have got it) is that it is available for people who have had EPs for two years (or more) who want to be able to stay on in MY but change employers.

FatOwl Tue 29-Oct-13 02:30:44

I think it's the same thing, we looked into it briefly but decided against it.
People I know are using the term Talent visa, different from Permanent residence (PR) which is just a short stop from a Malaysian passport. (many foreigners who marry malaysians get PR, not full blown citizenship)
We're on an EP.

I think we are talking about the same thing

Looks like it won't work for the OP though, as it's doesn't seem to be available for people new to Malaysia, I don't think you can enter on it, you need to have had an EP previously.
I know several people who have these, but all have come in on an EP, and have left their employer and transferred to the talent visa.

MarjorieAntrobus Tue 29-Oct-13 02:41:25

Yes, thought so, same thing different name. Malaysia lah.

MarjorieAntrobus Tue 29-Oct-13 02:46:16

Yes, we're on an EP too. Getting the talent visa/residence pass might be useful for me so that I would be able to work. Apparently they process it very speedily.

BraveMerida Tue 29-Oct-13 02:56:11

Just popping in to say hi (waves....while having har cut)

I'm Merida and I live in kl....been here 2 1/2 years now....can I hijack the thread and ask whether anyone has any recommendations for local house movers please?

MarjorieAntrobus Tue 29-Oct-13 03:09:00

Have you tried Crown, AlliedPickfords, Asiantigers etc?

BraveMerida Tue 29-Oct-13 03:11:29

Not yet, but I imagine crown and allied would be more international movers and likely to be $$$$$$

MarjorieAntrobus Tue 29-Oct-13 03:20:37

They do local moves.

BraveMerida Tue 29-Oct-13 03:25:07

Thank you..Will probably get them to quote as a bench mark.

MarjorieAntrobus Tue 29-Oct-13 04:11:41

Good plan. Nothing to lose by getting them to quote. Also they should be reliable with regard to losses, breakages etc, because they have a reputation to uphold. Even if I was moving just 200 yards down the road I would use one of the big names.

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