Anabelle: Not So Desperate Housewife
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Kuala Lumpur, etc.
I am a Chinese citizen born and bred in Manila, Philippines. Typical Chinese family background, I am part of the 3rd generation in the Philippines. Grandparents were from China, but as of today I don't have relatives there (or at least I don't know them). I call myself Chinese-Filipino simply because I grew up there and adopted their customs and culture, yet keeping the Chinese heritage. I moved to Singapore then to Kuala Lumpur in 2006 when I got married. We have called Kuala Lumpur our home since then. We knew from the first 6 months that we would like it here and decided to look around for property and we did our purchase on our 8th month living here.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I had some free time in my hands when I quit my job in 2006. I was preparing for my wedding and my move to Singapore, hence started the blog. At first it was just a few entries. Eventually when I realized that it was helping people, especially expats who wanted to know more about Malaysia, I continued on.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
I know that grocery shopping and cost of living are typical, everyday stuff. I wrote about it just to share my experience, and I saw a lot of interest about it. I guess when you are moving to a new country, apart from the neighbourhood, the concerns on cost and how to go about daily life is important. And perhaps you cannot find detailed stuff on that from magazines, newspaper or online articles.
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?
Luckily, the move was within South East Asia, which means the differences were not earth-shattering. Yes, there were many cultural differences and it took time to understand it. Just the food culture alone was different: in the Philippines where people are mostly Catholic, we ate anything and everything. Here in Malaysia, I discovered the "sensitivity" in food. If I had guests coming to my home, I had to consider a few things: are they Muslim (meaning we cannot serve pork). Are they vegetarian? Or perhaps they don't eat beef? Depending on the race and religion, there were no-no's and you had to be sensitive to those.
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?
No one can be fully 100% prepared for everything. You just need to take each day as it comes. And you need to be open to change. Be brave. Go out and live the moment. The expats I knew who enclosed themselves within their world did not enjoy the place as much as those who opened up. Eventually, most of the expats who were here for 2-3 year contracts always end up regretting not fully enjoying their time in KL, especially when they had to go back to their home country. I had to say goodbye to many of my friends who were here for expat contracts. Most of them left willing to stay here a little longer. So my advice is seize the day!
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
Our first road trip to Penang, we drove around and wondered why there were many streets named "Jalan Sehala". Hmm, that's weird. We knew "Jalan" meant street. Why so many streets named with the same name? Only to find out finally that it meant "one way". We had a good laugh.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Kuala Lumpur?
- Go out and don't fear the unknown. Most of the people here are nice and helpful.
- If you can afford it, do get a car, whether rental or purchase. It is easier to get around and will probably give you more freedom to explore Malaysia (and appreciate it).
- Enjoy and maximize the benefits of Malaysia. Cost of living is pretty good — you can have a maid, go the salon or have a facial monthly, get a massage… find out what makes you happy.
How is the expat community in Kuala Lumpur? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
There is a huge expat community. Just check the number of International Schools around. My daughter will be attending the French International School soon. And they have American, British, Australian, Japanese and more international schools… Living in Mont Kiara area allows you to meet like-minded people easily, and I find this even easier when you have kids. Prior to having my daughter, the people we interact with were mostly from work — a mix of locals and expats. Once you have a little one who goes to school, you will be amazed at how easily you can meet more expats and discover the similarities (and share stories!).
There are also expat magazines that get delivered to you for free. They organize stuff like bars, restaurant food trips and other activities… if you are single or married with no kids, this is an easy way to mingle and meet other expats.
How would you summarize your expat life in Kuala Lumpur in a single, catchy sentence?
Expat thirty-something mom who is enjoying everything that Kuala Lumpur has to offer.