Your new local habits in Malaysia

Hello everyone,

Living in Malaysia is a great way to immerse in a new culture and lifestyle.

Have you embraced local customs since you've lived in Malaysia? If so, which one(s)?

Did local customs change the way you see things, appreciate life or organize your daily routines? As far as the language is concerned, did you learn new expressions or words and do you use them?

What do you like most about the lifestyle in your host country? Are there any local specificities you are still struggling with?

Thanks in advance,


I am from the United States and have been in Malaysia for more than 7 mo now.  I have met a Chinese woman online back in the States and as I was just beginning to receive my retirement pension I realized there was no way that I could ever fully retire on the pension I was receiving and live in the States.
The woman I met was a Taoist and introduced me to her religion.  Even though I could not except the religion over my Christian faith, I was impressed with the philosophy of the Tao Te Ching insomuch that I had immediately applied those principles to my daily life.  I made major changes in my attitude in regards to daily living, religion and tolerance of the differences in other people.  I applied Meditation to my daily routine and it has helped me greatly to grow in my Christian faith.
When I first met this Chinese Lady (May) I never even considered that a relationship would blossom as she was half way around the world from me and, frankly, Asian women have never really been my type.  As I came to know her better I found so many good qualities in her that I knew would be difficult to find in any woman, I began to explore the possibilities of living in Malaysia.  Everything seemed to fit as the cost of living is much lower, and the language barrier was not so much of a problem as many people in Malaysia speak English, and the adoption of the Taoist philosophy to my everyday life, it all just made a lot of sense to make the move.  I had nothing to tie me down in the US except my home which I am renting out and that only adds to my income.
I came for a 6 week visit in November of 2015 to see just how I could adjust to the new lifestyle and really found it to be a much easier transformation then I originally had determined by my research.  My relationship with May was flourishing and the only hitch that was in my way of staying in Malaysia permanently was a Visa.  We had scoured the internet for options as the MM2H Visa was a bit out of my grasp and we had come across the LTSVP Visa which the only thing that would not qualify me for was being married to a Malaysian.  As time passed and our relationship became stronger (now over 1 years old) we decided that we wanted to share the rest of our lives together.  We will be getting Married sometime within the month.  We actually considered marriage back in December, but haven't actually had the time to start the process as she has a business and her deadlines have not allowed her the time do what is necessary to register as legally Married. 
So here I am, with only a few more hurdles left, about to become a full time resident in Malaysia.  Just the Marriage and obtaining the LTSVP Visa remains in the way.  I am very much looking forward to enjoying the rest of my life, my retirement, and very much in love with the Woman I intend to spend the rest of my life with.

Hi Stan,

That's a great story and thanks for sharing. I wish you success in your new life in Malaysia.


Hi, my story May be little different and May typical one. I love lots of things around, sight seeing, clean beaches, fresh air on highlands, spicy food, however not so lucky to have good experience at my job. I started working with an international school owned by a Chinese family. Had a terrible experience with their family politics and money making traits, finally I was forced to resigned when I demanded job description, SOP's, handbooks or any guide line to work with.....but nothing, no system procedure. I experienced the worst racism ever in my last 22years of professional life. They were so obsessed with native English speakers that they were unable to make it they most of them are not even competent enough for the post but, since they could use them as show pieces to impress the parents of children studying there. I was saddened to see hypocrisy around and even in the schools, where we are supposed to be role model. I have not seen that much obsession of speaking in English. My apologies if this text offend anybody in this group. This is my experience and I am being open about it.

Another thing, I have no idea what effect it's going leave on my stay, converting my dependent pass to work permit and then cancelling it just after eight months. I wonder how much time it will take to convert it again to dependent.pass or if I Will be lucky enough to get a job again....

Im not sure how to answer but I will suppose after so long I must have picked up something. Back in the US people will say ive changed but they dont say how. Its probably that Ive picked up speech habits. After that, I notice that people dont look at me the same as they used to. Newcomers have a way, a walk, a sound, clothing that identifies them  and thats somewhat worn off of me for whatever it is that ive picked up.

But everyone will pick up food and shopping habits sooner or later. Even foods they didnt like at the beginning will slowly grow on them--maybe even durian in some cases! But I dont pray for that particular one myself!

I picked up the habit of frequent shopping at wet markets. In the beginning I only went to night markets and never wet markets. Slowly wet markets got added and i'm a pretty much a junkie nowadays. However, locals are still not used to me yet. Over years I only saw ONE westerner in a wet market so I do look alien to the traders.

Hmmm...I never thought about that...wet markets.....ok sometimes Im just accepted and no odd looks from people.  Other times they look at me so peculiarly they are on the verge of not selling to me --"you cant understand our ways so get out!" THAT kind of look.

If foreigners drive or ride bikes they will also pick up traffic habits like cutting queues and maybe even wielding a parang at times!

(aiyo....see? You caught me in a speech habit, i said AT TIMES instead of SOMETIMES. Ahh! You caught me in another one, i said AIYO.) But after so long I still do not say LAH. I count that as GOOD. Newcomers, dont say LAH! It doesnt even look right on a foreigner, to be honest.

About shopping, in the old days I couldnt get used to local brands of things in the markets and would load up on USA stuff whenever I made the trips. Now, about 80% is local I only buy USA items like Excedrin headache medicine because many items are not available in Malaysia still. Ive forced myself to use as many local items as I can and just forget USA preferences and as a result you get all the local habits.

I also picked up habits like joining locals for morning walks in the hills (Penang) and I like that. I also look forward to Ramadan/Raya time for the foods, and open houses, and Chinese New Year for foods and lion dances and fireworks. But I never caught the habit of going to Batu Caves to watch Indians pulling weights with hooks through their skin. I just cant.

I also, for a time, picked up the habit of going out to eat after 11 or 12am. Sometimes even 130am. But I quit that, its absurd! Go to sleep!!

Overall the main habit i've picked up is liking everyone. I dont have any western friends here, only locals in all races. When its you, in a crowd of 40 locals, and its like that all the time, you pick up bits of everyones habits and ways. This didnt come immediately, it took years to blend into. And Im not aware of all of them. Someone who knows me well would have to list out the changes they see in me. Maybe I am 50% local now? Its possible. As such, USA fades a bit more every year.

Lifestyle - oh i hv a very specific answer to that @ Bkt Bintang area Lot 10, Fahrenheit 88, Pavilion, and also @ Suria KLCC and Mid Valley Mega mall. I dont mind getting stuck in a jam, finding a parking space is always a problem
Culture -  I like fasting month. Love those varieties of food i cn find from Ramadhan market. Its like food heaven, esp kuih, love em!  Ondeh ondeh and sekaya are my fave.
No spicy food for me, i will nvr get use to that one. I dont like curry and i dislike the smell of asam laksa. Big no-no
Holidays - too much holidays in a year.
Durian season - i love durian chilled. I cn eat a lot.
Best place to go on holiday - Langkawi, locals are warm n friendly unlike KL people.
Anything im struggling with? Mmmm tipical chinese people, my co-workers are all chinese n i cant seem to get along well with em no matter how hard i try. Lol
But living in Chinese community i hv no problem with that. They mind their own business i mind my own and we live in peace.

My view abt muslim people changed. I used to be afraid of em but since i lived here in Malaysia, i thought Muslims are actually nice people. Dont talk abt those in my country coz i find them violent and aggressive.

Language - i hv learned a lil bit of Cantonese and Bahasa but i don't use em much.

I got the habit of using my right hand for almost everything but struggle with eating with my right hand. I can do it but I dont like it.

Rizzablen mentioned fear of Muslim. I grew up in USA and thought there was only one kind of Muslim and they are peaceful and polite. After a while in Malaysia, still thinking all are the same, i put myself in some unhappy situations at times. I dont like to sterotype but a man with a beard and white cap is not the same as others. There are many strata of belief here, from narrow-minded, traditional, literal, hard-nosed belief right down to no belief at all. After a while you can easily pick out the Muslim who are modern, open minded, educated and traveled. Those are the easiest to like and be friends with. A tudung is also not a measure of belief like I previously thought. You have to experiment with the person and see. Sooner or later you pick out the types you are comfortable with and stay with those. Others you learn to steer away from so that you wont raise any conflict with them.

I did NOT pick up the local ways of being nosy, and thank god for that. I dislike nosy people. Recently I read an article about the 10 things never to ask an american and those are the very 10 personal questions im constantly asked. It puts me in such high discomfort that if I cannot dis-lodge the conversation from being a nosy one, ive been known to simply walk away right in the middle of the conversation and leave the other person standing there perplexed. To me, there is a difference between friendly and sociable, and nosy. Malaysians dont seem to know any difference and put everything in one pot. In the beginning when I was more anxious to meet and make friends, I answered any question at all. Now I register my discomfort and hope we can move on to better topics.

I also did NOT pick up the frequent habit of staring at people. To a westerner anyway,  staring is extremely rude and Im no longer nice to people who stare. I fight back.


Thank you for sharing your lovely story. All the best to you and May in your upcoming wedding & marriage.  :heart:

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