21 July 2016

Michelle Ross - Expat in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Michelle Ross - Expat in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Michelle Ross is a 35-year-old woman who works in education who currently lives in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  Originally from the state of Idaho, USA, Mrs. Ross served as a Peace Corps Volunteer for two years and felt that there was a whole world out there that she needed to explore, however, she and her husband moved to Malaysia due to his job. “Our residence is dictated by my husband’s job, changing every couple of years,” Mrs. Ross shared. They have been living in Kuala Lumpur for 3 months now.


Although Mrs. Ross stated that she and her husband had little difficulty obtaining visas, she noted that the process took a long time as they were trying to process their papers during the religious month of Ramadan. She added that finding friends was not a tough experience.  “There is a huge expat community in Kuala Lumpur, so new folks will find a variety of ways to get involved with others with the same interests,” she said. Mrs. Ross added that expatriates with families who are looking to meet new people will find international schools to be a great starting point. She observed that in Kuala Lumpur, the locals are also friendly and helpful to foreigners as well. “Everyone speaks English, so communication is rarely a problem,” she said.


One of the most complicated processes that expatriates frequently encounter involves the filing and handling of essential documents needed for overseas relocation. Like Mrs. Ross, it can be challenging to do such important paperwork in the middle of significant cultural or religious events, which can delay formalities. Expatriates who are pressed for time may consider hiring professional immigration services which can accelerate the immigration process and familiarize expats on immigration laws and procedures of the country that they are planning to relocate to. Furthermore, expatriates families who are looking to meet new people may want to consider checking out an international school advisory to help them find the perfect international school for their children.


Find out more about Michelle Ross’s experiences in Malaysia in her full interview below.


Q: Where are you originally from?

A: Idaho, USA


Q: What made you move out of your home country?

A: After serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer for two years, moving “home” just felt too small when there was a whole world out there to explore.


Q: Where are you living now?

A: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia


Q: How did you come to choose this new country of residence?

A: Our residence is dictated by my husband’s job, changing every couple of years


Q: How long have you been living in Malaysia?

A: 3 months


Q: What has been the most difficult experience you've had when you were new in your host country?

A: Malaysia has been an easy transition, but I’d say the toughest part is getting used to the driving style, which is very different from driving norms in the US.


Q: Would you say that formalities like getting visas or work permits and international health insurance was particularly difficult in your host country? What was your experience with these?

A: Visas were not difficult, although the process does seem to take a long time, especially if you are trying to get the work done during Ramadan, which we were.


Q: Are you living alone or with your family?

A: Just my husband and myself


Q: Was it easy making friends and meeting people? Do you mainly socialize with other expats in Malaysia? How did you manage to find a social circle in Malaysia?

A: ? There is a huge ex-pat community in Kuala Lumpur, so new folks will find a variety of ways to get involved with others with the same interests. The biggest international school, ISKL, is a great starting point for that for kids with families. There are also a number of Facebook pages dedicated to ex-pat living, as well as local publications that can assist in the process.


Q: What are the best things to do in the area? Anything to recommend to future expats?

A: The travel out of KL is great. Air Asia is a good way to hop to nearby countries for long weekends or extended vacations. I love taking visitors to the KL Bird Park, which is always a hit with young and old alike.


Q: How does the cost of living in Malaysia compared to your home?

A:  Expat living in KL can be quite expensive, especially for me since I was previously living in western China. You can find nearly anything your heart desires, but you will probably pay a pretty penny for it. For meals in an inexpensive restaurant, hawker stalls are a great way to go. My favorite place is 5RM a plate. Meals in expensive restaurants can range quite high, especially if you are looking at fine western dining or hotel buffets (which seem to be quite popular). I’d say expect to pay 150RM/person for some of these top-end places. Alcohol can be quite pricey was well, since the government has taxes on it. I’d say the wine we buy (middle of the road) is 60RM a bottle. I’m not sure of cigarette prices, although I do know they are easy to find- sold in most grocery stores.


Q: How do you find the local culture and people in your host country?

A: The local people are friendly and helpful for the most part. In KL, they are very used to foreigners and everyone speaks English, so communication is rarely a problem.


Q: What do you think are the positive and negative sides of living in Malaysia?

A: Malaysia is great for travel and I love the warm weather. The hardest part of living here is dealing with the traffic and just the sheer distance back to the States. With no direct flights from KL to the US, going home or getting guests out can be quite an ordeal.


Q: Do you miss home and family sometimes?

A: Of course, I think we all miss home and family, especially during the holidays or if we are missing out on a special event, like a wedding.


Q: How do you cope with homesickness?

A: Skype is a great way to stay connected to home. I talk with family and friends regularly, both through Skype and emails. I love to send postcards of my travels to all of my nieces and nephews, so that is another fun way to stay in touch and feel like I am a part of their lives from so far away.


Q: Do you have plans to move to a different country or back home in the future?

A: In 2016 we will move to a new country, yet to be determined.


Q: What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?

A: Each new country is just a matter of adjusting to a new way of doing things. Learning to pick up on the subtleties of a new culture is important, but never easy.


Q: What tips can you give other expats living in that country?

A: I’d say connect with other ex-pat before arriving, if at all possible. They will be able to help you find those much-desired goodies from home at the supermarkets, point you in the right direction for whom to trust with your blonde highlights or give you the name of an honest and reliable taxi driver.


Q: Do you have favourite websites or blogs about your host country?

A: www.insearchoftheendofthesidewalk.com But, there are also a lot of great food blogs out of Malaysia. Just Google “Malaylsia,” “food” and “blog” and you’ll be set!