Malaysia–Warts And All
“Malaysia might be the closest thing to paradise in all Asia,” writes Asia Correspondent Wendy Justice, “and it’s certainly the most welcoming country in this part of the world for foreign retirees. However, like any country, Malaysia has its drawbacks.
“Probably the most difficult adjustment for foreigners moving to Malaysia is the weather. As the country is located so near to the Equator, there is little seasonal temperature variation. It’s hot and humid year-round. Daytime temperatures are always in the high 80’s to middle 90’s Fahrenheit, and they rarely fall below the mid-70’s at night.
“Some might call that idyllic, but you have to factor in the humidity, which makes it feel much hotter at times. Definitely, if you’re coming from a cooler clime, it’s going to take time for you to acclimate.
“The good news is that you’re never far from the mountains, where temperatures can be cooler than in the city by 15 degrees or more.
“A final note about the climate: Kuala Lumpur is located in the Klang Valley, surrounded by mountains. As a result, you rarely have more than the slightest breeze, and inversions are common. As a result, Georgetown, for example, which is right on the sea, can be as hot as KL, but feels a bit cooler.
“Malaysian media is controlled by the government, meaning it is unusual to see any article in the Malaysian press that is in any way critical of the government. But this isn’t an issue for you, as a foreign resident here. You have access to many uncensored English-language publications in the bookstores, such as The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the International Herald Tribune, Time, Newsweek, The Economist, and so on, and international Internet news sources are not censored at all.
“Movies, on the other hand, are censored, and some movies popular in the States never make it to Malaysia, due to nudity or other content the Malaysians find objectionable.
“Although public transportation is quite good in Kuala Lumpur, traffic can be heavy and intimidating. Taxi drivers sometimes try to take advantage of the situation by refusing to use the meter, but the majority of drivers are honest.
“In Georgetown, the only public transportation is the bus. If you don’t have a car, you’ll find yourself using taxis more often than in KL, and taxi drivers in the Georgetown/Penang area do not use meters. The good news is that the traffic in this part of the country is not nearly as challenging as in KL, and most foreigners living in Penang decide to invest in a car or motorbike anyway.
“I recommend that you rent or buy a place with security. Burglaries can happen anywhere in the world, and Malaysia is no exception. Watch your wallet or purse in crowds, as pick-pocketing happens. Violent crime, though, is extremely rare.
“Customer service can be irritatingly lax. Very little happens during national holidays, of which there are many.
“Shopping in this country can be a frustrating experience. When grocery shopping, for example, you’ll find that the price marked on an item is frequently not the price scanned at the check-out. Although most places will honor the price marked, it’s an inconvenience to have to hunt down a manager to make the adjustment.
“It’s also not uncommon to go into a store showing a huge assortment of display items only to discover that most of them are currently out-of-stock. Again, this qualifies as a minor annoyance, but it helps if you’re prepared for it ahead of time.
“What else can I tell you about the realities of Malaysia to help prepare you for life here?
“You should know about the bugs. The heat and humidity provide the perfect environment for them, and they thrive here. Mosquitoes present the greatest health hazard, but mosquitoes bearing malaria have been eradicated in the cities. We do have outbreaks of dengue fever.
“You’ll want to keep your home clean and crumb-free. This is the best defense against visits from six-legged pests.”