A trailing spouse from Sydney to Kuala Lumpur

  • Expat in Kuala Lumpur
Published 2018-01-19 13:00

Being a trailing spouse doesn't necessarily mean sitting at home, feeling bored. That's precisely what Paula, an Aussie expat, talks to Expat.com about. She has lived in Hong Kong for more than a decade, and now lives in Kuala Lumpur where she's enjoying a great life between her daily routine and weekend getaways.

Please introduce yourself. Where are you from, what brought you to Malaysia, and what were you doing before you arrived in Kuala Lumpur?

I am originally from Sydney, Australia, however we have lived in Asia for almost 11 years. Prior to moving to Kuala Lumpur my husband was working in Hong Kong so I was a trailing spouse.

How long have you been in Malaysia?

3 years.

What is the process to move to  Malaysia?

Malaysia is like any other country within Asia, finding schools was not such an issue this time around because they have an Australia school which most other countries do not. Visas for Malaysia needed to be sorted prior to the move and we were lucky enough to find a house on one of my look-sees, so we spent Christmas on holidays and came back in time for the container to arrive. 

What is your favourite thing about KL, and what is your least favourite thing?

My favourite thing is the great (and extremely close) holiday destinations in and around Malaysia. The affordability of living here is also an added bonus along with the fact you can buy Aussie brands. But the traffic here is painful, the amount of cars along with the terrible driving and the amount of scooters really is scary. The other painful thing is the lack of customer service here (which is non-existent) and the lack of skilled contractors.

culture in Kuala Lumpur

What has surprised you the most about Malaysia?

How much I really love living here, despite the traffic and the customer service, it is a great place to live.

How easy or difficult it is to find accommodation in Malaysia, and what type of accommodation is available for expats?

Easy, as there is new construction going on everywhere all the time, so there are always vacant homes. Most people live in gated communities, and many live in condos. However there are a few that choose to live in homes and hire their own security.

What are the year’s biggest holidays in Malaysia?

We celebrate a lot of cultural holidays, and have many public holidays, from Chinese New Year, Deepavali, and Hari Raya to Christmas Day. It really is a melting pot of cultures here.

How do you find the lifestyle in KL?

I have to say we travel a lot on the weekends, but when we are in town we eat out a lot, and movies are also very affordable here. We also like to spend time relaxing by the pool, as it is always hot here, and time in the water is a necessity.

How is the transportation system in KL? How do you move around?

We are fortunate to have a car, however Ubers are easy and so is their competitor Grab Car. Otherwise there is free bus service to move around the city, and the train system is pretty reliable.

Living in Kuala Lumpur

Have you been able to adapt to KL and the society?

Yes, it has been one of the easier transitions.

How is the everyday life for you in KL?

Busy, traffic is always an issue and so is parking in major shopping centres in and around lunch time. I am also involved in MANZA (the Malaysian, Australian, NZ Association) which always has things going on.

What do you do in your free time?

Apart from travelling, we do enjoy eating out. There are so many restaurants in KL along and a lot of great bars.

What new habits have you developed in KL? And what old habits have you quit in KL?

We drive everywhere! We hardly walk anymore as it is too hot outside all year round. Prior to moving to Malaysia, I was hiking and playing sport every other day in Hong Kong, and here you just don’t have the sport clubs like you do in other places. And although you can hike here, it isn’t as accessible, and running outside isn’t an option.

What is your opinion on the cost of living in KL? Can you give us a few examples?

It is so affordable here in comparison to other places e.g. the cost of a movie ticket is approximately $5 AU as apposed to $20 AU or eyebrow shaping (a girl has her priorities) $3 AU compared to $30 AU.

Expat in KL

What is something that you would like to do in Malaysia, but haven’t had the opportunity to do yet?

If you had asked me last week I would have said visit Langkawi, but I have now ticked that off my bucket list.

Share your most memorable experience in Malaysia.

My first day driving here, I was nervous beyond belief and struggled with the gps system. I look back now and I am grateful I tried it because otherwise I would never have driven here.

If you could do the move to Malaysia over, what would you do differently?

I would have lived closer to the area I live in now. I went with an expat area but the traffic in and around that area (especially during school hours) is a nightmare.

What do you think of the local cuisine? What are your favourite dishes?

I love Asian food but unfortunately not local Malaysian as it is too rich and heavy for my stomach. I do however LOVE the many banana leaf restaurants they have here.

What do you miss the most about your home country?

The beaches.

event in KL

Have you had a moment that you almost felt like leaving from KL? How did you overcome that? What kept you in KL?

No, not really. I am blessed in the unique situation where I am able to fly home to Sydney once a month.

Give us some useful tips that soon-to-expatriates in Malaysia will benefit from.

Have patience, everything is on Malaysian time here. Be okay with running late, because traffic, especially during friday lunch times and rainy days, is a nightmare. If you plan to go away during public holidays such as CNY, then book early and leave for the airport at least an hour or two earlier than you planned.

If you had to advise an expat on five items to bring with them in KL, which would that be?

1- Bring a sense of humour it will never go astray in times of frustration (and there are many here), 2 - alcohol (if you can) as it is very expensive here. 3- Hair straightener as the humid days will make your hair frizzy. 4- summer clothes as you will need plenty of them 5- a good mattress as the mattresses here seem to be too hard for my back.

What are your plans for the future?

We are moving to Singapore soon.