InterNations Featured Blog
Johanna: Irish Nomad in Malaysia
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Kuala Lumpur, etc.
I’m Irish but have lived overseas since 1993. I’ve lived in Aberdeen, Houston, Singapore, Manila, Oslo and moved to Kuala Lumpur in July 2010. I used to develop medical implants, but I now write both fact and fiction.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I started blogging about life in Norway during the winter of 2006 just before I gave birth to my third child. Having a baby in a cold climate was such a different experience to having two in the Tropics, that I couldn’t resist writing about it. Wool breast pads, anyone? I started a new blog when we moved to Kuala Lumpur.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
Don’t really have a favorite.
Tell us about the ways your new life in Kuala Lumpur differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
As a seasoned expat, or nomad, I don’t have a set vision of home, so I tend not to fall into the trap of comparing my host country to another place. Having lived in Asia before, moving to Kuala Lumpur was very easy and felt very familiar. I didn’t experience any culture shock. I was desperately sad to leave Norway, so it was a great surprise that I settled so easily back in South East Asia. It probably helped that life in Kuala Lumpur is so vastly different to that in Oslo that there was no point in even trying to make comparisons.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Kuala Lumpur? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
I was very happy with the move. I learned a lot from my move to Manila in 2001, so I wasn’t going to repeat mistakes made then. I cam with a determination to make the best of the move, and that helped a lot.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
I’ve actually published several articles in the Weekly Telegraph Expat Living section about funny things that have happened while living abroad – the Catholic wedding in Singapore with a PowerPoint presentation but no booze, the honesty of Filipinos in pointing out my physical flaws, the alien anti-fashion world of winter clothing in Norway. I’m still waiting for something hilarious to happen in Kuala Lumpur J
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Kuala Lumpur?
- Decide you are going to make a success of the move and maintain a positive attitude as best as you can.
- Accept that in the first few months you may be brought to tears by the most innocuous of things. This doesn’t mean you are going mad or failing; it’s just part of the journey of adjustment to massive change. Cry when you need to then be determined to make the best of the next day.
- Research housing and schooling well in advance of the move as there is heavy demand for both, especially the latter. It’s also a good idea to research cultural issues both in the work place and in Malaysia society, before you start working/living here.
How is the expat community in Kuala Lumpur? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
As I have three children attending an international school, I met people immediately, and was very lucky to make a couple of close friends – American & French - through my children. I’m not a very sociable person, but for those who are there is a very lively expat scene, with many nationalities having their own associations that organize get-togethers.
How would you summarize your expat life in Kuala Lumpur in a single, catchy sentence?
Busy, interesting and sweaty, with lots of opportunities for new experiences and travel.