Frank and Francien come from the Netherlands. In 1986, Frank joined an American multinational in South Africa, and for 35 years he was enjoying the prosperities of an international career. Since his retirement in 2015, Frank and his wife Francien have been living an exciting adventure in the vibrant capital of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur.
I studied in The Netherlands and worked as an expatriate the last 33 years in Europe, USA, Middle East and Africa. I have now retired and with my wife will continue our expatriate lifestyle which we both like so much. Our home base is currently in ...
Hi Frank, where are you from and what are you doing nowadays?
My wife Francien and I were both born, raised, and educated in the Netherlands, but in 1982 we left our home country in search of some adventure. Back then, we intended to return within a few years, but we never did! We immigrated to South Africa where our first daughter was born in Kempton Park. In 1986, I joined an American multinational petrochemical company, and carried out a 35-year international career. We were sent to Italy, the Netherlands, Germany, South Africa, USA, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Our youngest daughter was born in the Netherlands, and moved to Germany when she was only two months old. We have provided our two daughters, Marcella and Winnie, with a truly international upbringing supported by an excellent global network of international schools and communities. Both now live and work respectively in Kuala Lumpur and Berlin. I stopped working in March 2015, and together with Francien we live an active and at times adventurous life.
Why did you choose to expatriate to Malaysia?
Francien and I had never lived in Asia. We had only visited a few times for business and holidays, including a visit to Malaysia. When our oldest daughter took on a job in Kuala Lumpur in 2014, she suggested we should try to retire there. It was an easy decision for us.
What procedures did you have to follow to move there?
We moved from our last posting in Saudi Arabia to Kuala Lumpur without many procedures. Initially, we entered the country on a three-month tourist visa. As soon as we decided to stay for at least a few years, we acquired a MM2H visa. Apart from the usual paper work we had to complete, the process went smoothly. With the current apartment availability in Kuala Lumpur, it took us two weeks to find and move into an apartment in Kuala Lumpur's city centre without many bureaucratic hurdles.
How long have you been in the country?
After a 28-day journey on a container ship from Rotterdam, we arrived in Kuala Lumpur in July 2015.
What has attracted you to Kuala Lumpur?
We were informed that Kuala Lumpur is a cosmopolitan city with lots of interesting things to do. At the same time, it's a travel hub, which is ideal for us, as we intended to travel a lot in Southeast Asia. And then, there is always the warm climate Francien and I love so much!
What has surprised you the most at your arrival?
We have worked and lived in many countries around the world the past 35 years, but it has never been so easy for us to meet up with new people and build up a social life. There are so many active expatriate groups with interesting and like-minded people, which made it really easy for us to make friends and feel at home. There are more non-working expatriates who share similar experiences than we expected.
Was it difficult to find accommodation?
It was very easy. It took us only two weeks after our arrival to move into a nice apartment in Kuala Lumpur city centre. The procedure to sign a lease agreement was quite simple. In fact, in all the countries that we have lived, nowhere has the process of finding and moving into an apartment been so easy!
How do you find the Malaysian lifestyle?
We live an expat life here in Kuala Lumpur. We do mingle with locals occasionally, but foremost we socialize with other expats. That means we continue to have an expat lifestyle as we have been used to many years around the world. One thing which is different here is the ease to meet new people, due to the many expat groups and activities available. Daily routine is laid-back and easy going in a climate that makes you enjoy an outdoors and stress-free life.
Have you been able to adapt yourself to the country and to its society?
Absolutely! Francien and I enjoy the easy going lifestyle — for the most part stress-free. The sun makes people smile and the climate enables us to do a lot of outdoor activities, which we very much like! Meeting many new people and befriending them made us feel at home.
What does your every day life in Kuala Lumpur look like?
Our social life has developed thanks to our memberships of many expat groups. I'm a regular visitor of a number of business councils to keep up to date with economic events in the area. I'm also the mentor of a few young entrepreneurs, sharing my global management experience with some very ambitious people. Francien regularly visits many cultural events organised by the Malaysia Culture Group.
We exercise at least four times a week. We also attend culture groups, go hiking in the surrounding hills of Kuala Lumpur, rafting, camping and enjoy socialising at home with friends or at organised expat events around the city. I did some spectacular diving off the coast of Borneo. I also enjoy an occasional round of golf on one of the many courses around the city.
In this culturally rich country almost every month we can attend special festivities — Chinese New Year, “Thaipusam”, “Deepavali”, National Day, “Ramadan”, Halloween, Christmas... As for getting bored in Kuala Lumpur, just forget about it!
How do you spend your leisure time?
Kuala Lumpur is an airline hub, which makes it so easy to travel to and, compared to the rest of the world, at a relatively good price. Since our arrival in Malaysia, we have visited Hong Kong, Bali, Sumatra, Java, Myanmar, Cambodia, China, and Thailand, exploring those countries and learning more about their people and cultures.
Any particular experience in the country you would like to share with us?
Attending one evening the annual “Thaipusam” Tamil festival at Batu Caves was a very intense experience. Seeing people going through a lot of pain for their religion was a humbling experience.
What is your opinion on the cost of living in Kuala Lumpur?
As far as we are concerned, this very much depends on where you come from. Taking the European cost of living as a reference, groceries are around 30% cheaper. However, alcoholic drinks are much more expensive. The cost of renting accommodation and paying utilities is around 40% cheaper than in Europe. With low tax rates, Kuala Lumpur is very attractive to Europeans to live in.
Your favorite local dishes?
We like foremost eating at local “open air” restaurants and banana leaf eateries. We like spicy food, but we also enjoy the many international restaurants around the city. If we really have to mention one of our favourite dishes, it's the spicy beef “Redang”!
What do you miss the most about your home country?
We miss some typical sweets (“dropjes”, “chocolade”, “frites” and “kroketten”) that one can only buy and enjoy in Holland. Not being able to attend family events back home is a draw-back every expatriate in the world has to deal with. But other than that, Kuala Lumpur offers us everything we need to feel comfortable and at home.
What has motivated you to write your blog “Expatriate life after retirement ”?
I started the blog foremost because I enjoy writing. It helps me reflect on so many things we have experienced and putting all these adventures in perspective. I have published one book in 2012 (“International Roaming: A family chasing home abroad”), and since I have now more time on hands, I wanted to share our experiences with others. It is always nice to receive comments back from readers, and I trust there will be some learnings for others.
Would you like to give any advice to soon-to-be expatriates in Malaysia?
Open yourself up to the new cultures around you. Make an extra effort to step out of your comfort zone, and very soon you will have expanded that same comfort zone considerably. There is much to see and explore, some things you will not always like, but so many things you will embrace the moment you see them. The people are friendly here and certainly the expat community in Kuala Lumpur is very open-minded and inviting.
Register at your embassy, because they do organise national celebrations, and have supporting country specific groups — Dutch club, German-speaking society, American club, etc.
Here is another tip for you: Do not follow the expatriate-saying: “Oh, no wonder, this is Malaysia...”. We hear this too many times. You are a guest in this country and although certain things will be different from what you have been used to, you have to accept it. Locals will very much appreciate your understanding, and this will also make your life a bit easier in situations which are not working out as well as they would back home!
What are your plans for the future?
Francien and I enjoy Malaysia so much that we regard Kuala Lumpur as our home for at least the next couple of years, enabling us to continue exploring Southeast Asia as there is so much still to be seen. We have met great people here, and we are enjoying an active social life, which for us is an anchor in our unrooted lives.