The International Nabers - US Expat Kimbra in Malaysia

Published: 23 Feb at 9 AM
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Filed: Interviews,Malaysia
The International Nabers is the story of an adventurous couple chronicling their time as expats and as "citizens of the world". Originally from the USA, their first expat assignment led them to Malaysia, where they have been able to experience all of SE Asia through weekend getaways, immersing themselves in local cultures, and meeting various expats from all over the world. The International Nabers have an intense love for travel and go anytime schedule permits and are thoroughly enjoying expat life. Besides traveling, they love trying various cuisines, meeting new people, and sharing their own recommendations, trials, and tribulations with fellow expats.

Trishaw ride in Melaka, Malaysia
Trishaw ride in Melaka, Malaysia

Here's the interview with Kimbra...

Where are you originally from?
Well, its kind of a long story but basically, I am originally from Seattle, WA via San Diego, CA and Indianapolis, IN (USA).

In which country and city are you living now?
Kuala, Lumpur, Malaysia

How long have you lived here and how long are you planning to stay?
We moved here in April 2012 and plan to stay 3-5 years

Why did you move and what do you do?
We moved for my husband’s job, which has turned out to be an amazing career growth opportunity for him. As for me, I keep busy writing my expat & travel blog, freelance writing for websites & magazine, traveling, learning about my new hometown & culture, and meeting new people.

Did you bring family with you?
I moved here with my husband, David and we are currently expecting our first child!

The "beach" in the Phi Phi Islands, Thailand
How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
The transition is not without struggle and the best way to look at the entire experience is to know that there will be ups & downs along the way, and to embrace those moments as they all pass. Depending on whether or not you have lived overseas before and of course what country you came from, will dictate the severity of the transition. For us, this was our first overseas assignment (of many we hope!) and coming from the USA, the transition was insanely challenging. That being said, we had both done it before while in school so we knew a little of what to expect and just took each day as it came. They say it takes upwards of 1 yr to feel completely settled and I couldn't agree more!

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
It is very easy to meet people, just as long as you make an effort to put yourself out there. There are so many different types of groups to check out upon arrival. Yes, you do have to make more of an effort here than at home but the great thing is that all the expats are in the same shoes as you and the locals love mtg new people so it’s a win win situation for everyone. I love the diversity of my new friendships.

What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
Where do I even begin? As far as within the city limits, there is a ton to do and many cultural opportunities to take advantage of. Within driving distance, you can also leave the city and experience the Malaysian countryside, mountains, beaches and ports. I would say the best thing to do though (outside of KL) is to take advantage of the proximity of other countries within the region. Within 120 minutes flight time, you can get to a huge array of countries and cultures on a quick weekend getaway.

Friendly Silverleaf Monkeys in Malaysia
Friendly Silverleaf Monkeys in Malaysia
What do you enjoy most about living here?
KL has so much to offer. You can enjoy city life to the fullest- there are a massive amount of shopping malls here, a variety of restaurants and cuisines, and people from all over the world. There are neighborhoods that offer their own unique character, adding a spice of life to the city that is rare to find. I also love how you can get away from city life pretty easy with hikes in local mountains or drives to nearby ports and beaches. What I love most is the diversity and acceptance- of people, of cultures, of religions, and of activities. The quality of life is amazing as really- the opportunities are endless in what you choose to spend your time doing.

How does the cost of living compare to home?
Cost of living has increased in many ways for us compared to the states. The home we live in is more than we would spend at home but then we also need the extra security measures here, whereas at home we would not. Anything that is not locally made or grown will be expensive due to the outrageous import taxes here in Malaysia. Our grocery bill has increased dramatically yet our gas is definitely cheaper.

What negatives, if any, are there to living here?
The local police force is scarce so the roads are a madhouse with wacky drivers and petty theft is a daily danger. I miss large stores, wide lanes, and big parking lots from the states! Its also very important to watch out for purse snatching, car theft, and home theft. So constantly being on watch can be tiresome but that is the extent of the crime, nothing major or dangerous in the sense of health and wellbeing.

The International Nabers in front of the world famous Petronas Twin Towers- Kuala Lumpur
The International Nabers in front of the world famous Petronas Twin Towers- Kuala Lumpur
If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving here, what would it be?
I would just say that it is a huge adjustment to move to KL, regardless of how many times you’ve moved or how prepared you think you are. No amount of corporate training or personal research will prepare you for the onslaught of emotions and difficulties that you can and will face upon arrival. My advice is to take every day as it comes; don’t be afraid to ask questions; accept every invitation from others for the first year, be open to the experience, and allow yourself to feel every up and down that you WILL feel. It’s all normal and most settling in will take upwards of a year, so patience is KEY. Above all, smile, laugh, and realize the amazing gift you’ve been given to experience KL for a season of life!

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
For us, the hardest part was the initial settling in period. We came over with a company who had never sent an expat abroad outside of China so we were the Guinea pigs and everything was trial & error. The process for him getting a work visa was intense and time consuming. We also were on our own finding a real estate agent & home, car dealership, health/auto/home insurance, etc. Once we got through those hurdles, life changed and we began to relax a bit more.

When you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
Well this is a loaded question! I can only say that I can foresee the challenge as being just as hard as the one of going overseas. We've gone home for visits and even those were hard- a variety of emotions can & will at times get the best of you. I believe that I will look for support with my husband, family & friends, and most importantly, seek out others who have done with we did and get in contact with them for support.

Eating with our hands- banana leaf indian cuisine in KL
Eating with our hands- banana leaf indian cuisine in KL
What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
I recently wrote about this both on my blog as well as in the American Association magazine in KL. Here they are:
  1. Venture out on your own and get involved with a smile on your face!
  2. Patience is a virtue!
  3. Be aware and accepting of the difference in cost of goods from your home country & Malaysia.
  4. Dining out is an adventure and full of possibilities here in Malaysia- its a gastronomical haven!
  5. Safety is key, especially for women
  6. ….and 1 final note-
  7. Don't forget to be a tourist and allow yourself the freedom to explore your new hometown!

Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
I started my blog while we were still back in the states to document our travels and to share those experiences with family and friends. Once we moved abroad, it became a platform to diary our experiences, share our experiences with family & friends back home, and allow my own creativity, thoughts, opinions, and advice to shine through. Its become so much more! Along with travel entries & reviews on hotels, airlines, resultants, activities & more, I am also blogging about expat life- my own experiences & struggles as well as "Kimbra's Picks" of favorite spots & recommendations around Kuala Lumpur. Its a work in progress and growing every day. The best day is feedback I get from readers whom I don't know telling me how I've helped them!

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
You can contact me via my website at; my FB page- internationalnabers; or by twitter- @intlnabers
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