Monthly Archives: November 2012

Lifestyle migration, home, and material things

Many people I have spoken to, about living in Malaysia and about living in Spain (in my other projects), have emphasised how the quality of life they seek has very little to do with material possessions. As David Bowden put it:

“One of the problem of being overseas is (for me at least) you never know how long you will be here.  I never know where home is so that’s why I don’t accumulate stuff – my stuff tends to be mementos of trips – so often small things – a textile obtained in the Borneo jungles, a bamboo fish trap from Cambodia etc”.

It is also fascinating what people do accumulate that helps make a place feel like home. I have noticed in Asian homes, the goods are often Asian influenced, whereas in Spain many people tried to recreate a little bit of England, even scattering their tiled floors with rugs and dotting candles around to make a cosy atmosphere!



A response from a lifestyle migrant

Section 1: About You

Nationality: australian and american (it’s complicated)

Age: 50

Marital Status: Married and she still speaks with me which is a minor miracle given that she’s known me for 20 over years. Even my dog didn’t talk to me for such a long time!

Nationality of partner: Malaysian

Children/grandchildren: Yes, children and they are available for rent, lease, hire and generally ownership. Will pay good money Level of Education: Compulsive. 2 bachelors in Computer Science and Economics, diplomas in Computer Hardware and Fashion Design (it’s complicated!), two MBAs, one in International business and other in global IT. Plus a chartered accountant and compulsive overachiever (not sure why) Residence status/visa category: Work permit Housing situation (i.e. homeowner, tenant, second home owner etc.): Homeowner cos my bank lets me be Main occupation: Now this is an intriguing one. I am a freelance photographer and journalist for mainly sporting events (motor racing) though I do travel stuff as well. I write a column for a few newspapers in the region and I’m also a IT/Telecommunications analyst for a company in the UK and I run a business development e-learning content for large organizations. Which is the main one? Depends on time of day, level of caffeine and general inclination

 Section 2: About your migration to Thailand or Malaysia

1) How long have you lived in Thailand/Malaysia? This time, 6 years – Malaysia

2) Why did you decide to move to Thailand/Malaysia? Was working for a multinational in the US and they wanted to put a technical center in asia somewhere. I put my hand up and they decided on Malaysia, though I may have helped that decision, and so, before the grace of God, go I

3) Have you lived in any other countries before moving here? Please tell us where you lived, for how long and for what reasons? Originally in Australia (Sydney) – fed up with forced feeding at parents house every Sunday so moved to Perth with the company I worked for (Fujitsu) for a few years. They liked what I did so they invited me to spent some time doing software development in Japan so went there for 18 months then back to Australia. Spent a little time back in Australia then decided to go on holiday to the UK. Ended up getting a job there which resulted in me being in the UK for 5 years, then a small dash across the channel to help on a project in Paris for 2 years, a small sideline to a project in New York for 9 months and then back to the UK. Girlfriend decided didn’t like the cold so I called a few people in Australia about a job. “Nothing here” they said “but there’s a project in Malaysia”. Fast forward to losing the girlfriend, meeting new girl (soon to become wife), new baby son, too much travelling in the region, “How about we move somewhere else” (wife) and off to the US where we stayed in Texas for 12 years until that fateful day when .. “Oooh, Malaysia would be nice”.

4) How did you feel about leaving the UK? Still miss it to this day regardless of rain etc etc.

5) What is your work situation? Manic most days

6) How do your work experiences in Thailand/Malaysia compare to the UK? UK is a lot more formal, more structured with a stronger delineation of work time and social time. There’s also more rigor to agreements at a formal level though informal agreements have a lot of weight here. It’s also a very small market and, as an expat, you get an even more visible profile. Reneging on a deal or ripping someone off can be done once but few if any will do business with you after that. Less enforcement by law and more enforcement by reputation – that thing which takes a lifetime to earn and a moment to lose

7) What are you experiences with the local language – are you learning? Is language a problem for work/leisure? I learnt Malay first time here but use it little – actually better to learn to understand it and then not speak it because the assumption is you can’t speak it. Most people here speak at least three languages – Malay, language of origin and English. The people who worked for me here on average had four so – chance are good that people will speak enough english to get by. Socially, most people in KL will have good English and will speak it most of the time in preference to anything else unless with a group of ‘their people’ (e.g if they are Chinese, everyone will likely chat on in Cantonese)

 Section 3: About your lifestyle

1) What are the main advantages and disadvantages about your lifestyle in Thailand/Malaysia?Its hot – thats a disadvantage. You are very visible which can be good and bad. Travel is easy and relatively inexpensive. Food is varied and usually of high quality.

2) What kind of social life do you have? Mostly eating out with friends. I play squash and run with a bunch of people some local some expat. Try to avoid the late night bar scene. Very active community around racing here both bikes and cars so I am involved with those guys also

a) What kinds of activities do you enjoy? Squash, photography, motorsports, cooking etc

b) Have you found it easy to make friends in Thailand/Malaysia? Absolutely. People are curious and like to know your views and why you have chosen to be in Malaysia. They have a shy pride in the country which, if you are positive about Malaysia, tends to blossom into a relaxed discussion of food, weather and the usual topics

c) What kind of friendships have you made (e.g. mostly Western, mixed nationality, family-oriented)? Very much mixed with distinct groups around hobbies, family etc

3) Are you a member of any social clubs or organisations? If yes, please elaborate on the type of clubs you are  involved with. If no, please explain your reasons. Not really structured enough to be involved in clubs per say. Tend to do more things with friends on the spur of the moment

4) What is the ex-pat community infrastructure in your town/city like? How has it changed since you lived there? I avoid most of this though I do know there are good communities for most of the nationalities – English, US, French etc

5) How integrated do you feel with the local community? Is integration important to you? Integration is very important. I want to live here not just visit here regardless of how long I am actually in Malaysia. Its only by doing things that the locals do, learning about the culture etc that you get to know what its like to be here.

6) How much contact do you have with friends and family in the UK? Still extensive via skype mostly, mutual visits – I am back in Europe or the US once a year at least depending on schedules

7) Do you ever think about returning to the UK? I am more likely to return to the US

8) If someone you knew thought about moving to Thailand or Malaysia would you recommend it to them? Absolutely. Come with an open mind and open heart and you’ll have a great time. Things get done but at a different pace and relationships are supremely important.

9) What does ‘the good life’ mean to you? Do you think you have achieved it? Not sure I know what that is. I am many things but bored is not one of them. Asia is challenging, the people great, the lifestyle free of tornados, tsunamis and a host of political and social issues. So if the good life means doing what you love, then the answer is probably yes.

10) Do you think you have changed the place you live in now in any way? maybe. this one is harder than the last. I am known by people and get recognized because of my writing and photography. How much change I have bought to this place. Really not sure

 Hope all this helps

 Regards, Hugh


Please note that the prize for Best Story as advertised in The Expat magazine, here, was supposed to say best story emailed to us, as per this link, here.

The face-to-face interview part of the research was already completed before this magazine went to press and individuals who respond to the survey cannot be identified. So, if you wish to be considered for the hamper, please email us your story and include your contact details. Deadline: 30th November 2012.

I’m afraid this applies to Malaysia respondents only.

Many thanks and we look forward to hearing from you!

Our Research Featured in The Expat

The Expat Magazine

Our research has been mentioned in The Expat magazine. Here.

This is an incredible publication, very glossy, high-end production, with masses of interesting articles and features. It is published by The Expat Group, who also now print and post Expressions, the magazine of the International Women’s Association (IWA) of Penang.

Another good read is Expatriate Lifestyle,which calls itself Malaysia’s Number 1 Expatriate Magazine.

I am impressed by the quality and breadth of these publications. Reading them also gives some insight into what the publishers think expats in Malaysia are interested in: events, food, property, family life, travel, community, and financial matters.

I’d be interested to know if readers think these publications do reflect your interests.

Expat Ladies in Bangkok

During my stay in Bangkok I met with the publisher of a recent arrival to the expat magazine rack in Thailand. Expat Ladies in Bangkok has just published its fifth issue (online and in print) and the magazine is becoming increasingly popular with expat women in Thailand. It was suggested to me during my research that a typical expat woman nowadays is ‘younger, university educated, professional and very much into social media’. As such the content of the magazine ranges from educational and health features about international schooling or local hospitals to fitness, beauty and travel columns. Despite the Bangkok focus it is distributed to all the main expat outposts in Thailand: Hua Hin, Phuket, Chiang Mai and Pattaya. The magazine is written in English but its contributors originate from far and wide, brought together by their residency in Thailand and an ‘internationalist’ perspective.

Have a look at the latest issue here which includes a special feature on on Thailand’s Buddhist nuns fighting for gender equality as well as other features on weekending in Hua Hin, motorbiking in Phuket and motherhood in Bangkok.

Time lapse video of Penang

Lifestyle Migrants in Penang often seem to celebrate their adopted country, sharing experiences, photos, blogs, events, advice and so on. Have a look at this wonderful time lapse video of Penang that has been circulating recently. It has been compiled by Fwukai Quah from over 15000 photos. Click here