The Challenges of Being an Expats in Malaysia

Hi Good People!

Hope all of you are doing great in Malaysia. This is Anadeel, an expat in Malaysia and a digital marketer. I am traveler and a blogger by passion. One topic is keeping me thinking since past few days is that, what is the living standard of an expat in Malaysia? Few question really needs to be satisfied-

- Are you facing any racism at your workplace?
- Are feeling deprived of getting a job?
- Are you being neglected in terms of opening a business here?
- Are you being well paid off?
- Are you having a true social life?

Honestly, personally I have a lot of issues on it. What abut you? let's discuss and put our hands together to solve it! I believe, together we are the strongest!!

Happy reading :)


Hi Anadeel.  You hit on some subjects that I want more information about before honestly setting semi permanent footing in Malaysia.  I asked previously why some people don't seem to like it there in Malaysia and why some expats eventually leave and I never got a decent or any answer actually.  Sure, could be many reasons but honestly, what are they?  If everyone says red, then it must be red....

For me, why don't you give a self-assessment of life and conditions there in Malaysia?  What are you feeling and seeing?

Life is different for people like potentially VWC who is well established and at a different phase of life. In these circumstances Malaysia does offer a completely different experience as would any country.

The issues raised by Anadeel are actually about equal opportunities for foreigners alongside Malaysians. Unfortunately times have changed and because the only way to develop Malaysia further is for local citizens to reap the financial benefits of their education and job market.  This has meant the closing of doors to all sorts of foreigners with retrenchments numbering in the thousands.

Malaysia seems not to be offering many opportunities to foreigners now and supporting their own citizens to achieve better working and living conditions.

Mainly the three D's jobs are now only available here plus some roles in education and software engineering. Indeed newspapers are full of discussion on making 5000 the new threshold for foreigners to get an employment pass.

All these developments are disappointing to people trying to improve their prospects via living in Malaysia.

Incorporating a company now also requires substantial investment plus a differentiation between an investor and an essential employee is being strictly enforced. In other words its not an easy route to live in Malaysia. However with some own financial backing it's still possible. So in essence the bar has been raised and this is why it seems difficult now to establish one's self here.

The local solidarity possibly seems like racism and xenophobia but the roots are economically based. Having said that, any multiracial country does have some tensions and coming from more monoracial countries this may be the first experience of getting a pushback and feeling its all about closed opportunities.

VWC-visit and form your own conclusions because that will be your personal reality and experience of Malaysia. You won't be working so none of those concerns will affect you. Likewise you probably won't want to add complexity by trying to open a company because you don't need to for immigration purposes.

Malaysia still welcomes people who can contribute to its development and those who are established in their home country.

However, It is no longer "the land of opportunity"

Once again, big thanks, Gravitas.  That is some plain, no BS, information I am seeking.  Yes, I am not planning to work there (mostly) and frankly understand that if I want to stay there I do need to contribute in some fashion (some invested money and demonstrate that I have the means to not be a leech on society). 

Actually, I am sympathetic to Malaysia's desire to want to protect and elevate its own people first.  I have no problem with that.  Frankly, if the tide rises all ships benefit in my mind.  Why wouldn't I want the Malay people to be successful and productive, so that their own country reaps the rewards and gains in world stature?  I guess the only problem would be if the people there don't necessarily want to work hard for the goodies.

VWC, actually your last post is far away from the real issues. Nobody in the country cares about what you said or talks about what you said, even though such thoughts can be wholly sincere.

You have to understand first that Malaysians dont like or want foreigners, no matter how fine and wonderful their intentions are. After the tourist dollars, you are forgotten. This has to be very clear in your mind so that you can forever drop what you are talking about. If you represent a huge company ready to invest a billion dollars and heavily employ, fine, otherwise most foreigners really ought to clear out of the country if they truly value themselves and their futures. And this is moreso now than ever before.

Its not my intention to sound dismal. Malaysia is a great place to visit and enjoy. But the opportunities are first for malay, then chinese, then indian, then iban, then down the line and finally, the foreigner. Except for foreigners, the former take up 99.999999999999% of the available opportunities so what is it that you truly think you can accomplish here? And what opportunities? Even down to renting an apartment. You get behind any possible, available malay, chinese, indian and iban applicants before a landlord will talk to you.

And what challenges? Everything is, even right down to opening a door. A malaysian will hold the door for another malaysian but not for a foreigner. They can also walk in first and let the door slam in my face. That is OK the first 500 times it happens, but after 5000 times you are getting ground down very well. They cut in front in traffic, even causing accidents like I have had, then lie about whos fault it was. Thats OK the first 100 times but after that, you are getting ground down. They slip me broken and faulty paper money that I cant spend again and must take to banks and the Central Bank to try to get replacements. Challenges are from top to bottom and it gets old, especially when you have no course of redress.

If I knew at first what I know now, I never would have come. I can say that the struggles of a foreigner dont get better with time except in rare cases. The struggles wear and grate on a person until eventually one is ground to dust. Of course, people dont believe things like that, they always think it will be different for them and so you have to try for yourself and years down the road come back and write about it.

See it as a bell curve. At the beginning there is hope and excitement and you rise to meet the challenges. At some point, some years, you peak at the top of the curve and then where do you go, straight up or down the other side? For most foreigners who have ever come here, the curve is very short, just 6 months to 3 years; for others its 10 or 20 years but the conclusions of each group eventually meet, more likely at the bottom than at the top.

Why is this the case? There are some automatic reasons. One is that foreigners cant ever be a real malay or chinese or indian even if you perfectly spoke all the languages and perfectly knew the cultures, ways and dress. Second, foreigners dont have friends in higher places to pave the way for opportunity and thats because (almost) no matter who you are, you are not one of them and a chinese will help a bad and criminal chinese before he helps a good and wonderful foreigner. As to govt, govt offers nothing at all to the foreigner and only counts the days until they can be rid of you, smiling all the way.

Going back to the first thing i said, the average malaysian simply isnt interested in a foreigners altruism or charity or even good wishes, they get all that, or dont, all on their own. Second, most foreigners come in this forum asking what the country can do for them--where is my great job and salary and happy life? Who will give it to me TODAY? Then they fail in the dreams and have no idea what happened.

Thats some straight poop. Sure, to come and enjoy the place for a while, thats an excellent idea. There is a lot of good here. Go in the kitchen, enjoy the scene, the aromas, but dont touch the stove. And Malaysia isnt alone, all the SE Asia countries are the same in the way im talking. The good of the places isnt for you, its for them, but they allow you to taste, to walk around, to shuttup, to look but dont touch. Thats the deal. So the real question is, is that enough for you? A plan to dig in and become a malaysian aint gonna happen, the proof is that they wont let foreigners become citizens, to vote, to hold office, to have any real solid place in society. You can barely buy a car or a spec of real estate. Check the countries that do more for a foreigner, that respect foreigners more, that would tell you something.

Im very sure there was a time things were much better and different. I know some expats here more than 40 years and that time it was easy and open. Just in the past five years things have changed more. I stopped recommending Malaysia to people since years ago. The good days are gone and Id say its definitely not worth the effort now. But these are worthless words to a newbie who just cant see it. They have to learn it the hard way and thats OK, too.

Foreigners can become citizens but only when Spouses of Malaysians or if the government bestows the honour.

Drawback is Malaysia only recognises one citizenship at a time so a person must relinquish any other nationalities.

Before applying for citizenship a person must hold Permanent Residence status.

This all takes time and this information applies to West Malaysia.

Right, citizens....but who ever has, gravitas? Do you know any? I never met one, but i have met plenty of foreigners who waited 10 years for an answer on PR application and still never got it. Im not talking about MM2H. Officially, the govt has an path to everything but GRANTING it is an entirely other matter. Good luck with that.

If a person reads the govt websites for anything, they make it so rosy. "Just file these papers." Ok, I filed the papers, where is my result? Didnt come. Read the immigration website, there is the list of things to do for a visa. What is it, DP11? Ok, it says fill out DP11. But its not a form at all, its a list of many more things to do which for many people is a complicated mess they cant even get through. But the website says, just fill in the form. What a joke. Dont get me wrong, I know the world isnt easy. I mean only to say that Malaysia, as to foreigners, is meant to keep you out, if possible, not welcome you, rushing with open arms. And overall, something like immigration is the least of a foreigners ongoing, daily challenges. Its so tiny yet hard enough for so many. Wait for the real stuff, the daily small things that add up and up until your mind is ting tong bonkers.

Thanks cvco!  I appreciate the frankness and your perspective (which I was expecting).  Come on, I am not a rookie.  You may think the US is fairly easy but I grew up and am doing well in uber expensive San Francisco, the place that typically has 1 bedroom apartments renting for well over $2,000 US.  What is that, about 8,000 Ringgit?  I have worked here all my life and despite all the competition from youngsters I am still valued.  The thing is, no one, I mean no one, will outwork me.  I am first in the office and last one out.  I am sure my bosses don't want me to leave anytime soon.  Further, I have owned apartment buildings here in rough areas and I have had to deal with less than desirable tenants who are out for deep pockets all the time.  Bought my first apartment building right out of college.  I am not afraid about the probable rough treatment towards me (a foreigner) and discrimination is like my second name.  I can roll with the flow with the best of them...     

So, to all that you wrote, keep in mind these tidbits that are important:

1) First of all, I have family there, both in Malaysia and Singapore.  At least give me that, which most expats don't have.  My wife after all is Malaysian Chinese and I am an ABC (American Born Chinese).  My pale legs will give me away initially but hopefully not for long under that hot, humid sun.
2) I frankly plan to buy a home in a gated community that is nowhere near the locals.  Sure, we may rent before buying but again I am sure someone will rent to us.  Not the least worried about it. Money talks.  Everywhere.
3)  Honestly, I could care less about being a citizen or the crappy politics there (obviously until it really impacts me).  I plan to visit everywhere, enjoy the tourist traps, and I am gone.

The thing is, let's say I do settle in in what is mostly an "expat area", like a Penang or even KL which I don't foresee at all (why leave San Francisco then?).  How bad can it be, in terms of discrimination and poor treatment?  I mean, "everyone" there is non Malaysian anyway. 

Besides, I already sent in all of my documents for MM2H a few days ago.  Can't turn back now....   :)

Rule of thumb as a truly committed expat - avoid fellow citizens 😜😜 If you didn't move in the same circles back home you sure won't do so elsewhere.

Second rule of thumb.

If Malaysian by birth and approaching immigration here in any capacity, make sure the person only holds one nationality and has not juggled along by keeping their Malaysian passport.

It leads to issues as Malaysia does not recognise multiple citizenship and Malaysians must by law cancel their Malaysian citizenship if they acquire a new citizenship.

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