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Discovering Malaysia

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Malaysia attracts students, young professionals, families and retirees from all over the world. It is a highly appealing destination for expatriates, which is partly thanks to initiatives established by authorities to attract a foreign workforce. In 2015, the Prime Minister unveiled a five-year-plan to join the ranks of 'high income' countries by 2020.

Its major cities are fast developing and offer all modern amenities, international schools, good healthcare, and a generally high standard of living, which makes it attractive to professionals, families and retirees alike. Concurrently, its social and geographic diversity appeals to those with a penchant for architecture, food, culture and exploration. It is also a central South-East Asian travel hub where English is widely spoken, and a plethora of low-cost airlines makes it an affordable and convenient base.

In the 2017 Annual Global Retirement Index, Malaysia has been ranked as the 6th best place in the world to retire, and was the only country in Asia to make the top 10. Unrivalled public transport, clean and modern cities, idyllic islands, world-class food, and a low cost of living were cited as just some of the reasons for this ranking.

Geography and demographics

Malaysia is a veritable melting pot, with 13 states and three federal territories that range across a variety of landscapes, including lush rainforests, pristine beaches and cosmopolitan cities. It also boasts four UNESCO World Heritage Sites (two cultural, two natural) the Archaeological Heritage of the Lenggong Valley, Gunung Mulu National Park, Kinabalu Park and the Historic Cities of the Straits of Malacca, which are George Town and Melaka.

The country is divided into two distinct parts Peninsular Malaysia, which lies south of Thailand; and East Malaysia, which lies on the island of Borneo. Peninsular and East Malaysia are separated by the South China Sea, and together share land borders with Thailand, Brunei and Indonesia. Peninsular Malaysia is currently connected to Singapore across the Johor Strait by two bridges, but there are also plans to develop a cross-border Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system to enhance the connection.

Malaysia's biggest cities are its capital of Kuala Lumpur, the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Georgetown on Penang Island, Ipoh, and Johor Bahru.

Based on recent estimates by the United Nations, the population of Malaysia is around 31 million, 77% of which reside in urban centres. A myriad of indigenous ethnic groups live throughout Malaysia, but the country's main three ethnic groups are the Malays, Chinese and Indians. The Malays are the largest of these, making up over 50% of the population, while the Malaysian Chinese form about 25% of the population, and the Malaysian Indians make up about 10%. The fusion of these cultures makes for a fascinating country and a multicultural society.

Languages

Each ethnic group living in Malaysia has its own language and, in addition to this, different regional dialects are also spoken. 134 living languages are believed to still be in practice across the country. However, Bahasa Malaysia, often referred to as Malay, has been the country's official language since 1968, and it is the most commonly spoken due to the majority of the population being of Malay ethnicity. Many people also speak English as it is compulsory at school and it is widely considered to still be the business language, despite its decline since Malaysia gained independence from the British.

Due to the mixed range of influences, language in Malaysia tends to be quite fluid and Malaysians have a tendency to mix languages while speaking. Many locals also adopt a version of English referred to as 'Manglish', which is a fusion of several languages spoken in the country, with English as the base.

Economy

The production of raw natural resource materials, such as rubber and tin, used to be Malaysia's economic foundation, but, since the 1970s, the country has developed a well-diversified economy and has become a leading exporter of electrical appliances and compononents, as well as palm oil and natural gas. It is one of 13 countries to have recorded average growth of more than 7% per year for 25 years and the economic outlook of the country remains favourable, thanks to an improvement in global trade.

As a result of the country's progress in the fields of information and communication technology, science and tourism, as well as its tax incentives in different sectors to encourage investments, Malaysia has become an attractive hub for foreign and local businesspeople.

Climate

The tropical climes only serve to heighten Malaysia's appeal to foreigners. It is mainly hot and humid all year-round, with temperatures ranging from 21ºC to 32ºC in most places, but it's considerably cooler in the highlands. Different parts of the country have different wet and dry seasons, but rainfall patterns vary between 2,000 and 2,500mm per year, and rain is an expected and refreshing part of life in Malaysia.

Expatriation

Employment opportunities and a relatively low cost of living in Malaysia attract many foreign professionals, especially to the capital of Kuala Lumpur. As Malaysians are largely well educated and suitable for many roles, there are restrictions in certain sectors when it comes to hiring foreigners. However, there are still labour shortages in some fields due to fast growth, and there are opportunities in the country's National Key Economic Areas.

Nevertheless, a foreign national must fulfil a strict criteria to gain the right to work in Malaysia only highly-skilled, qualified or experienced professionals are considered.

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.
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See also

If you wish to travel to Malaysia with your pet, whether it is a cat or a dog, conditions will vary according to your home country. No birds are permitted.
Malaysia is a cultural melting pot, and the lifestyle reflects this. Expats can expect to experience a wide range of food and festivities.
Malaysia has a highly developed telecommunications network. Though fibre broadband is limited, internet speeds are quite good. There is also 4G.
No matter how you like to spend your leisure time, expats are sure to be kept busy in Kuala Lumpur from activities from kids activities to dining out.
If you are moving to Malaysia, you will likely need a removal company to ship your belongings there. From Europe, this can take as little as three weeks.

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