What is it really like to live in Kuala Lumpur


I am in final stage of an interview in KL Selangor. I have never been to KL before and was wondering what is it like compare to London?

I guess it is similar to asian city where we dont walk but grab a taxi, hot and humid city. How about the community life, accomodation, best area...

Please describe your everyday life and how much you like it!
Thanks so much for your help,

KL is very much like London, but you have to throw away everything you know about London and start from scratch because presumptions will destroy your opinion of your potential new country.

Lots of English speakers, just like London
It has pavements, just like London
It's crowded, just like London
It has epic Pizza, just like London

That's about it for similarities.

London would have guards around a charcoal heater for health and safety reasons, but even suggesting it in KL will get you a look as if to ask, are you stupid; why would anyone touch a hot burner?

Hot and humid, great people, and amazing steamboat stands at night.
Only one pity, Selangor is a bit of a way out from the city, but it's a nice place.

Malaysia is a fantastic place for the novice backpacker, for exactly the same reasons it's a fantastic place for the novice expat.

One caveat -No sense of adventure or a mind closed to new ideas will make life miserable for you.
If either applies to you - Don't go.

Hi Audrey,

Yes KL is very different from London. And yes people take taxis everywhere, or perhaps LRT trains and buses too. KL is a modern and cosmopolitan city which is fast developing, full of shopping malls, restaurants and shops everywhere.

Selangor is a big state and it would help to know which part of KL Selangor you may be working in as I'm sure people here can offer a lot more information if they knew that.

I've lived in two places in KL, firstly in Bukit Bintang area which is fantastic if you are either single or living as a couple. It is an exciting and vibrant part of the city with lots of malls, restaurants, hotels etc, all within walking distance.

I also lived in Bangsar which I really loved because it is a more high class area, loads of nice restaurants and nearby malls. Bangsar is relaxed and perhaps better suited for families though, so if you like a busy nightlife then I wouldn't recommend it.

KL is always hot with temperatures around 32 deg C but sometimes rising to 38 deg C. For eating out, you can really eat well very cheaply if you want to. The food is amazing, western, local , Italian, Japanese etc...they have it all actually.

If you live in a condo, you generally have some kind of community life, but people are not overly friendly.  Of course it is easy to find friends it you want.

I moved to KL because they speak English, I could buy property under my own name, and because it is pretty well developed and well located. I stayed there for 12 years and suddenly realised that it wasn't all that interesting, just easy to live there. So last year I moved to Indonesia, somewhere cooler and stress-free.


I can think of three differences.

1) there wont ever be a dark cold gloomy day
2) fantastic food is far less expensive
3) absence of culture

I judge a place, culture, based on whats on the radio, whats in the museums, whats in the art shows, what people are reading.
In Malaysia, teen pop is on the radio, the museums are empty, the art shows are atrocious, and what they are reading is how to get ahead in life financially.

The architecture is infantile. I wish Malaysians could travel Europe and see incredible architecture and come back with some IDEAS, if nothing else works.

I love childrens art, the younger the better. In US, the shows are amazing. Here, childrens art is .....i cant even describe it.....lets say its not art and let it go.

There is no culture. Muslim-Malay get their culture from arabic people because they never developed their own. Their mind is Islam, not the development of art, music, literature in the general sense so the country is barren. The Chinese dont ply much of their ancient culture, the emphasis is getting by and making money, no time for culture.

A Malay woman showed me a picture of water, boats and buildings. She remarked that she didnt know Greece was so beautiful. I said, you mean Venice, Italy? And it was obvious it was Venice. Thats what I also mean here, where is the life interest in basic things like geography?

The point here isnt to jab Malaysians but to say that westerners, with a greater thirst, will find themselves slowly being sucked dry. They will find local conversations progressively less interesting, find less to do, less to learn, and looking progressively harder for something that isnt there. On this point I agree with Hansson, sooner or later you figure out Malaysia is a great, fun and fantastic place.....on the road to somewhere else. Hate to say but its true,

I think cvco does not know what s/he is talking about in commenting that Malaysia is lacking in culture. Quite ironic because I cannot think of a place more diverse in Asian culture than KL.

Even if you judge culture based on whats on the radio, whats in the museums, whats in the art shows, what people are reading, presumably you are only familiar with the English medium, which, you're right, is not Malaysian culture. Atrocious art shows? I don't know what you consider art shows, there are definitely no broadway musicals or world class symphony orchestras, but there are a lot of Malay, Indian and Chinese traditional shows that may not be familiar to you. It appears you have quite a sheltered and shallow exposure to Malaysian culture and its people because I know many Malaysians who can discuss English, heck even other European classics with you at length.

No comment about the architecture. It's pretty shabby, but remember, this is Asia and Asian architecture is not the same as Europeans. Neither is superior. Having said that, I still think KL architecture. You could, however, venture out to many of its other states to see some beautiful traditional Malay architecture.

You saying that Malay Muslims get their culture from Arabic people is ridiculous. Malay culture is deep sated and generations old, as is the culture of the Indians and Chinese, who have been living here for generations and if you maybe took the time to learn and appreciate, you'd be able to see that Malaysian culture, is a very unique amalgamation of Malay, Chinese and Indian culture, and is special in its own way.

You whole post just goes to show how shallow your exposure is, as I am sure, many people in Greece would not be able to tell, say the famous James Bond Island from Perhentian Islands.

Although I agree that KL as a city is quite boring, at most 2 years here is more than enough, but to say that Malaysia is culture-less and its people are money hungry and uninteresting, is so offensive and wrong it's almost funny.

Maybe you should widen your horizons before being so quick to jump the gun and say that something is culture-less just because it's not similar to whatever Western culture you're familiar with. You're just as bad as all those not formally educated people in the deep jungles of Borneo who think all Caucasians only have "White People culture" and Africans have "African culture". They never went to school. What's your excuse?


Ok, first, i'm very happy you have found so much culture to love in Malaysia. Go ahead be my guest!

Lets go through a few points.

Among my intro to Malaysian life when I arrived 17 years ago was a Malay woman who asked if there was anything special I would like to do. I said, can we go to the national museum? She said, no way, she would dump any person who suggested such a boring date. Later I went myself and saw what, rooms full of military badges and military swords. Where are the exhibits? Nothing. Its not that she knew whats there, its that the average Malaysian has very little interest in what is customarily in a museum. They simply do not care. The ones who do care are usually Malaysians who studied and traveled abroad.

Youre wrong about the symphony, its excellent and praised by outsiders. They asked me to join but I couldnt commit the time. They have foreigners come in for a season or two, the orchestra is something of a revolving group and they are very commendable. I befriended a Chinese fellow who was a fan of the orchestra and he would have me spellbound for hours with his superior musical knowledge.

Art shows? One example is years ago Sunway hosted a culture and fine art exhibition in the mall and when it was installed it was appallingly bad. Local fine artists are hacks and years ago i stopped even going to art dealers because I couldnt stand looking at what was presented as local fine art. Malaysians do better in the crafts scene.

How can you say something, anything, is boring but then berate me for saying the same? I downgrade the architecture, so do you, and then you berate me. Huh?

Ive been top to bottom in Malaysia and have been to all Asian countries repeatedly. China, Japan and maybe Indonesia have the cultures, and to a lesser extent Thailand and Vietnam. List out the items you consider to be culture in Malaysia, Singapore and Philippines. And dont mention food, religious elements or celebrity stars. Go ahead. Define Malaysian culture, and I mean what the races share communally. For example, what books written locally or original music are loved by all? What do they think about as a group?

What I do see are competing races who ply the cultures of their home countries to the extent they care to. What is truly Malaysian (ALL people) is another matter and thats what im getting at here.

I'll be clearer. The local architecture, not to mention city planning, is ugly, no matter which race designed it. Governments idea of the promotion of Malay culture in the designs is well.....sort of zero...absence of beauty and logic and sense... (and very arabic by the way, compare with Mid-East designs) but its their idea, their culture and thats it. I dont judge the emergence of any so-called culture based on my perception of beauty, thats their deal and interpretation.  Its not up to me, I wish them godspeed. BUT for many foreigners, it wont be enjoyed for long. Thats all I meant.

And the people themselves, and I say Malay and Muslim-Indian in this sentence, are very arabic or we'll say Middle Eastern in their thinking. From Najib on down. I read articles from ministers, Najib, others and start laughing because I knew the same exact words and logic from my own Mid-Eastern friends. Malays got their culture from Muslims 600 years ago and still use it. Islam is stronger than a Malay, and Islamic ways of thinking and life permeate everything. If there was a true Malay culture without Islam then I guess that would be a mix of Orang Asli and Indonesian.

I asked Malaysians what they consider what it means to be a Malaysian. They think and then fall back on their racial ancestry. "Well, we Chinese think this and this..." Importing a culture doesnt create one or if it does then the closest Malaysia come to a culture is a mix of three major other countries--Saudi Arabia, India and China. But since a true mix is hard to find one can almost think of Malaysia as three (or more) independent countries under one roof. My own landlord says he is Malaysian in passport and Chinese in everything else. Thats a sad thing to hear when one is looking for a unique Malaysian culture. Yes I know there are Sarawakian crafts, there are drums, blowpipes, kiris, but whats underneath? What melds them as one group of Malaysians, not of Indian or Iban?

And i never said Malaysia should be like Europe, I said they should go visit to see beauty, maybe it would spark something inside them. But, they will be the first to say they dont need to, they already have everything. Ok fine.

But none of this matters. The point was that a foreigner, expecting to find a lot will be increasingly disappointed over time and to get along here will have to forget it all. For me personally thats hard and is contributing to my desire to leave.

cvco :

But none of this matters. The point was that a foreigner, expecting to find a lot will be increasingly disappointed over time and to get along here will have to forget it all. For me personally thats hard and is contributing to my desire to leave.

I think there must be two countries called Malaysia because I don't know the one you describe.

As with most countries, the TV and radio is popular entertainment, not a cultural experience. If that is your standard, you must assume Britain has no culture because Radio 1 is a pop station.

Malaysia also has pop stations and also a rich mix of cultures, some imported and others that developed locally.
My short time in Malaysia was spent trying to visit Malaysia, not listening to radio stations.
I went out to villages, meeting people and finding out out how things ticked.
I visited one of the Chinese 'communist' guarded villages from the crisis, tiny Malay only villages with wooden shacks, was invited to celebrations and festivals, visited old British places, learning how they worked at the time and how Malaysia absorbed and altered them to suit Malaysian cultural norms.
My short time wasn't even close to long enough to give me more than a snapshot into the country; I'd probably need at least five years to get a reasonable idea and to have much hope of finding most of what is there, even if it isn't on the radio.

Malaysia is blessed with a really interesting cultural mix, but it isn't pushed into your face, you have to get out there and find it, but that's the Malaysia between Thailand and Singapore; is there another culturally dead country that shares the name?

I've lived all over Asia for most of my life and I have to agree with much of what CVCO is saying. I think you truly understand the "real" Malaysia and it is refreshing to see it's spelt out so clearly.

I first visited Malaysia in 1979 and stayed at the home of a family friend who is a former Malaysian Ambassador to the Netherlands, and was shown KL by one of Najib's brothers. But that was a long time ago.

More recently, I have lived in Malaysia for 12 years and I have always felt that Malaysia, while interesting for shopping, doesn't have an awful lot of culture, and, I agree that many people seem only to care about making money. I've personally felt that way for many years but became lazy with the easy lifestyle. I believe I know Malaysia extremely well. I've read many of the books on Malaysian history, along with many books on Southeast Asian and Asian History. I've even read Lee Kuan Yew's "Singapore Story" and "Crucial Years", which detail much of the historical and often complicated relationship between Singapore and Malaysia since before these two countries became independent. I have traveled all over the country, exploring and meeting with so many people of different races.

Yes, there is top-spinning, and kite flying, and batik making but on a very small scale. But living there for 12 years, I just feel that as Malaysia develops, whatever remains of it's national culture is slowly disappearing.

Sure, Malaysia is a multi-cultural country and each ethnic group has it's own culture which is often limited to religion, temples or mosques and it's food. I've visited lots of museums in Malaysia too, many of which seem to display lots and lots of photos of historical local events.

As you mentioned, many Malays originate from Indonesia. Do you remember the argument some years ago about where the "Wayang Kulit" comes from? You just don't see them in Malaysia, but only in Indonesia. Yet Malaysians say it is originally Malaysian and not Indonesia. And if you want to buy Malaysian handicrafts and souvenirs then go to Central Market, but be aware that some of these items are imported from Indonesia.

Having lived a comfortable life in Malaysia for so many years, I just started feeling bored. Other people may find Malaysia more interesting than I do, it is just my own personal opinion. Now I live in Indonesia, full of culture and surrounded by kind, humble and softly spoken people who take nothing for granted.

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