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The Malaysian lifestyle

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Malaysia is such a melting pot of geographical, cultural and social diversity that there really is something to cater for any lifestyle. Its islands, beaches, rainforests and metropoles make it an exciting travel hub that many expatriates make the most of while living in the country. It's easy and relatively affordable to spend weekends and holidays exploring other parts of Malaysia or neighbouring countries.

Meanwhile, its different cultures make for fascinating variations in religion, cuisine, celebrations and architecture, so exploring the city in which you live will be an adventure in itself.

Your lifestyle in Malaysia can be as extravagant or as humble as you wish it to be. In the big cities, such as Kuala Lumpur, Johor Bahru and Penang, there are many restaurants and entertainment options that can keep you busy throughout the day and night. The big cities also have big expat communities, so there are likely to be lots of events and social occasions for you to take full advantage of.

However, the country also offers a lot of very affordable and even free options, such as sports and nature activities. You could join a sports club, or meet up with friends to go for a hike, cycle or jog. You can also dine at a hawker stall or local cafe for a fraction of the price of a western restaurant.

One thing's for sure, in Malaysia you will be exposed to a unique way of life and it's up to you to shape this to fit your needs and interests.

Public holidays

Public holidays in Malaysia are numerous, due to different cultural and religious occasions such as Eid, Diwali and Chinese New Year as well as national celebrations, such as Malaysia Day. Many holidays are based on the lunar calendar, so the dates change each year, and public holidays can even vary by state as well as community.

Events in Malaysia

Life in Malaysia is marked by several events and festivals, which preserve the local cultures and traditions, and celebrate Malaysia's vibrant heritage. Kuala Lumpur and other major cities have a particularly rich cultural, gastronomic and sporting calendar. It's worth travelling across the country to various events so that you can experience different cities and remote areas in all their glory.

Thaipusam festival is mainly celebrated by Tamil communities in Malaysia but is one such event that shouldn't be missed. It is a fascinating time for many foreigners, who gather in their thousands to watch the processions in which devotees pierce parts of their body with hooks, spears and skewers.

George Town Festival is another event worth travelling for. It is a month-long celebration of culture and community that takes place on Penang island and is growing into a major Asian art event.

Do be warned about travelling to certain places during certain periods, such as Penang during Chinese New Year. At this time of year, traffic and finding accommodation can be very challenging, and many shops and restaurants close down. During Ramadan, you may find it difficult to find restaurants which are open during the day in certain parts of the country, when eating in public is often avoided, out of respect for those fasting.

Malaysian cuisine

Food is an essential part of Malaysian culture. Many locals joke that eating is Malaysia's national sport, and foreigners may be surprised to see the willingness of Malaysians to travel far and wait a long time for what they consider the best 'char kuay teow' (fried flat noodle dish) or 'nasi lemak' (coconut rice dish). Certain areas of Malaysia or even specific hawker stalls have a reputation for a particularly good type of food, and most locals will know where best to go for each dish. Many Malaysians pride themselves on their knowledge and love of local food, and won't settle for substandard fare.

It's also quite normal practice to have several small meals a day and to even be planning your next meal while eating one. Expect your time in Malaysia to be nothing short of a food odyssey if you are as obsessed with food as the locals.

In some Indian restaurants, no cutlery is used and your right hand is the chosen instrument instead. However, this is not practiced in Chinese restaurants. In a formal Chinese dining situation, several dishes will be ordered and shared with the whole table, using chopsticks, and a fork and spoon if requested.

A 'kedai kopi' directly translates to a 'coffee shop', but is typically a no-frills, roadside cafe that serves local dishes and drinks. 'Mamak' stalls are local Malay or Indian restaurants, which operate for 24 hours a day so you'll never have to worry about going hungry in Malaysia, no matter what the time!

However, alcohol is very expensive in Malaysia, so it's worth buying a bottle at Duty Free when flying into the country if you enjoy a glass.

Sports in Malaysia

Thanks to its humid temperature and plethora of pristine beaches and islands, Malaysia is a great place to do watersports, such as scuba diving, kayaking and parasailing. The Perhentian Islands and Sipadan are particularly well known for their incredible diving experiences.

Golf is also a popular pastime amongst Malaysians and expats alike, and there are several world-class golf courses across the country some of which are even part of housing developments.

  Useful links:

Sports.my - News and sport agenda
Public Holidays - Calendar of national holidays

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 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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