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Culture and climate

With its access to modern amenities and richly multicultural society, adjusting to life in Malaysia shouldn't be too arduous for expats wishing to make a home there.

A heady mix of cultures and a travel hub for South East Asia, the people of Malaysia are very accepting of expatriates. The two main differences are likely to be the climate and the prevalence of religion.

With a tropical, equatorial climate offering an abundance of sun and high temperatures, the humidity may take some getting used to, particularly if you are accustomed to spending a lot of time outdoors. Make sure to allow yourself time for your body to adjust to avoid becoming exhausted. Depending on which area you are settling in, expect moderate monsoon seasons and, in the major cities, the presence of bouts of smog-like, bad air quality.

The predominant religion among the population being Muslim, you should make yourself aware of cultural mores so as to avoid causing offence to people adhering to the conservative Islamic traditions. While expatriates are under no obligation to practice the religion themselves, it is, of course, important to be respectful of local customs. The people of Malaysia are renowned for their warm and welcoming attitude to foreigners. Although the official language of Malaysia is Bahasa Malaysia, most people (particularly in a business environment and in cities) do also speak English, as a result of the country’s colonial past.

Other religions

While the prevailing religion in Malaysia is Islam, many others are followed: Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism and traditional Chinese religions are all practised in the country. With such a wide range of faiths, comes a wealth of different festivals all year round. Whether you’re religious or not, these occasions are times of celebration and joy, and Malaysians welcome all to join in with the festivities. Relocating to Malaysia, there will never be a dull moment. With all the amazing experiences and opportunities, your life will be enriched with everything that this colourful country has to offer.

In addition to the religious festivals, Malaysia’s rich cultural tapestry, along with its varied geographical features, also offer a host of alternative festivals, including music and sports. Typically occurring in July or August, the Rainforest World Music Festival celebrates musical diversity on an international scale. The three-day event offers music workshops, food stalls and main stage evening concerts. The annual Labaun Water Festival is also one for the calendar, inviting participants to experience different watersport activities such as fishing, island kayaking, and cross-channel swimming. For lovers of less conventional watersports, the festival also offers activities like beach tug of war and even pillow fighting!

Kimbra, an expatriate from the USA living in Kuala Lumpur since 2012, was interviewed by about her life in Malaysia: “What I love most is the diversity and acceptance — of people, of cultures, of religions, and of activities. The quality of life is amazing as the opportunities are endless in what you choose to spend your time doing.”

The wide range of food available in Malaysia is also a boon — reflecting the diverse population, you can expect a wide array of Chinese, Malay, and Indian dishes to be widely available, and international supermarkets stock a variety of foods. You will be spoilt for choice.

As is to be expected when relocating to any country, don't be surprised to have to rise to particular challenges — for example, the traffic in Kuala Lumpur is particularly bad, and instances of petty crime do occur. The work-life balance may be slightly different to what you’re used to at home, depending on your job and location, but business hours can run later.

Like any country, Malaysia has an amazing array of landmarks to visit. Whether you have a taste for the wild side or perhaps the urban metropolis, there’s plenty for you to do. Some must-see places include the Petronas Towers (the tallest twin towers in the world), Taman Negara — an ancient rainforest — and also the Mulu Caves, home to one of the largest single cave passages on earth. World-renowned, Malaysia’s Orangutan sanctuaries are scattered across the country. Not only are these huge tourist attractions but they’re also a vital resource in helping to save this endangered animal. Visiting the Orangutans is said to be more than just a face-to-face encounter, it’s a deeply moving, almost spiritual experience.

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