Welcome visitor/expat/spaceship alien to Malaysia, land of colour, quirkiness and decidedly good food.
This is a frank guide to what to expect in the country, no whitewashing, cross my curry-loving heart.
1. If you’re white, you’ve got it made. Mostly.
It’s probably a throwback to our British-ruled days but if you’re white, Malaysians will be ingratiatingly nice to you. Most Malaysians understand simple English despite our falling education standards and signboards, street signs et all are mostly in English/roman characters.
BUT expect to be fleeced by cab drivers who will charge you at least double the normal going rate or be charged more at casual (read: places with no official menu) eateries. In cabs make sure they’re going by the meter though some times you will have no choice.
If you’re a non-white foreigner, depending on what nationality you are, you’ll probably be sniffed at. Just ask the Bangladeshis or Indonesians.
2. The food here is pretty decent
If you’re not adventurous, no worries. We have McDonalds, KFC and even Popeyes. All kosher of course.
But if you want your choice of Indian food, visit Brickfields (just look out for pickpockets)
Chinese food? Jalan Alor is your best bet (also, beware for pickpockets. And horrible drivers)
Malay food? Snoop around Central Market. As always, watch your wallet.
Ask a Malaysian about food and they’ll recommend many an eatery. There’s so much to be had – try the following essentials: nasi lemak, laksa, wan tan noodles, bak kut teh (pork eaters only), rendang, banana leaf rice.
3. Our public transport is awful
If you live near rail systems like the Monorail or Putra/Star links, you’re in luck. Otherwise, be aware our cabs are notorious for overcharging and our buses are unpredictable and very badly maintained.
4. But don’t worry! Malaysia’s not a bad place to live really
…especially if you’re a foreigner. Even though the ringgit is three to one USD, it’s still in your favour. There are pubs, a sizable expat population and despite the odd hiccup here and there, Kuala Lumpur is still a very safe city to be in and Malaysia has a lot to offer food and tourism-wise.
When you feel like taking a break out of KL, visit Penang and Melaka for the food, Terengganu for the islands, Sabah for the diving. Singapore and Thailand are also only a train/bus/plane ride away for pretty cheap.
A fine example of an expat who’s been here for a long time and is deliriously happy in Malaysia: Gareth Davies otherwise known as Shaolin Tiger who blogs at shaolintiger.com. Have a look at his blog and his experiences of the country to get a feel of Malaysia’s wonderful muddle of a life.
Again, welcome to Malaysia, make sure you get out and eat!