Did you know there are around 200,000 foreigners living in Malaysia? Aside from that, there were more than 25 million tourists visiting the country in 2015 and the number has steadily increased every year. As Malaysians, we speak highly of things such as great food, superb holiday locations and many others. But have we wondered what non-citizens of this country love about Malaysia?
When The Star Online published an article stating that expatriates ranked Malaysia among the top 20 places for affordable high quality living, it shouldn’t come as a surprise. Food, housing, transportation, and travel have been considered as affordable. For example, Andhika Pratama and Nikita Putri from Indonesia have expressed that despite a higher currency rate, the cost of living in Kuala Lumpur is surprisingly lower than Jakarta. For only RM500 per month, they could rent a decent room to live, whereas in their hometowns, RM600 or 2 million rupiahs is sometimes not enough to get them a small room. Another instance is how Indonesian beauty fanatic, Santika Juliawati, found cheaper prices for beauty products here than in her home country.
Who doesn’t want to experience summer for 365 days? A tropical country like Malaysia has hot weather throughout the year, with the occasional rainy and monsoon seasons. This way, foreigners can visit resort islands like Pulau Perhentian, Pulau Langkawi, and Pulau Redang anytime of the year. And this is especially great for foreigners from northern countries; Malaysia is a nice, warm break from the bleak and cold winter days.
Like Singapore, majority of the Malaysian population comprises of Malays, Chinese, Indians and other races. However, with the growing expat community and visitors from neighboring countries like Brunei, Vietnam, Myanmar, and Thailand, Malaysia is surely turning into a big melting pot. Not only Malaysia embraces its diverse cultures, material or financial backgrounds are of no importance. One can easily find expensive cars like BMW, Mercedes Benz, and even the occasional Ferarris parked in front of a local mamak or hawker center. This is a big deal because many Southeast Asians, specifically Indonesians, have expressed how life in Indonesia is driven by material status and Malaysia provides a balance when it comes to socioeconomic statuses.
Commerce in Malaysia has consistently done well due to the rapid raise in economic development. In fact, Malaysia has the 3rd largest market for start-ups and many e-commerce companies seek for foreign talents as much as local employees. For example, companies like iPrice, a price comparison website, employs people from more than 20 countries like The Czech Republic, Vietnam, Thailand, Germany, Iran, United States, Italy and many others.
The fourth-wave of feminism is on the rise and women in Malaysia demand more safety and equal acceptance. Newcomer Indah Mustikasari from Indonesia loves how safe commuting in Kuala Lumpur is for women. “People here are more women-friendly. Once, I went home late at night wearing a mini dress and nobody came to bother me. Unlike in Indonesia, you can get catcalled even if you’re covering every inch of your body,” she said. Another example of how Malaysia is becoming safer for women is the women-only coaches on inner-city trains.
Local food is something a foreigner would sometimes worry about before visiting a country. But fret not, because like their people, food in Malaysia is highly diverse. There is a mixture of Malay, Chinese, and Indian cuisine with many kinds of fusion cuisines like Nyonya, Thai, Viet, and Western food. Mamaks and food stalls are normally open for 24-hours, so expats have more options for a late-night meal other than McDonald’s. Filipino MJ Mendoza admits that if she went back to the Philippines for good, she would miss eating nasi lemak, satay, and roti the most. For Indonesians, Singaporeans, and Bruneians, the food in Malaysia are quite similar to their local food so they don’t have to worry about missing a taste from home.
While Malaysians may complain of bad traffic jams or weather conditions, the overall traffic condition, stable climate, and good public transportation; those are some of the reasons why Theresia Clara prefer Malaysia than her home country, Indonesia. Major areas in Klang Valley are connected by buses and light rail or mass rapid transit trains. Although the inner-city train lines are not yet integrated, more stations are being built around Klang Valley, making it so much easier to move about in the city. Besides KL, Uber and Grab are also available in other major cities like Kuching, Johor Bahru, and Georgetown.
Malaysia is easily accessible from any Southeast Asian countries and foreigners who seek to explore the region can do so without blowing a hole in your wallet. Travel within and outside Malaysia is cheap and hassle-free. Bea Angelica Ricafrente from the Philippines express that it’s so easy to fly anywhere within the Southeast Asian region from Malaysia because there are no transits required.
Foreigners don’t even have to exit the country to explore and find cultural gems. With their rich history and diverse cultures, Malaysia is filled with natural attractions and World Heritage sites like Batu Caves, Gunung Gading National Park, Malacca Christ Church, and Manukan Island. “There are natural attractions within hours of driving and explore forests, beaches, mountains or hills,” said Pakistani student Ashad Razavi. For Ukrainian Daria Kim, she loves living in Malaysia because “I can learn more about other cultures and even languages. Also, I like that I can easily visit other island to get away from daily life and see something new.”
Why pay hundreds of thousands or even millions to pursue your higher education when you can pay lesser and get the same quality of curriculum? Malaysia hosts branch campuses from many foreign universities like Monash, Nottingham, Curtin, Heriot-Watt, Newcastle, and Swinburne. Iranian Nahal Atei and Sri Lankan Thilan Sangapalaarachchi from Monash University in Malaysia likes the fact that students can get the same qualifications with half the cost of the Australian campus. Paired with the relatively cheap cost of living, students here have more financial freedom to travel, shop, and more.
Of course, there are many other reasons why foreigners love to visit or live in Malaysia. For many, this country is a home away from home. It offers a perfect balance of familiarity and the unknown. Malaysia is truly Asia, as it represents what the whole of Southeast Asia stands for in just one country.
This article was written by Febriani Ramadhanya and Jeremy Chew