South African Expat Living in Malaysia - Interview with Lauren

Published: 24 Jun at 9 AM
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Filed: Interviews,Malaysia
Together with my husband Vaughan McShane, we form a travel writing and photography duo. We hail from the world's greatest city Cape Town, SOuth Africa, but we're currently exploring life in Malaysia. You're most likely to find us in/near the ocean, GoProing our adventures or frantically searching for wifi and espresso in Asia. Lauren's expat blog is called The Travel Manuel (see listing here)

Kayaking along South Africa's Wild Coast.
Kayaking along South Africa's Wild Coast.

Here's the interview with Lauren...

Where are you originally from?
South Africa

In which country and city are you living now?
Mersing, Malaysia.

How long have you lived in Malaysia and how long are you planning to stay?
We have lived here for 3 months and plan to be here for at least another 2 years.

Dinner on safari in the Kruger National Park.
Dinner on safari in the Kruger National Park.
Why did you move to Malaysia and what do you do?
Above and beyond our traveling and photography work, I got a position to mentor English Teachers at rural schools in Malaysia. It involves developing their own English and assisting them to teach English to primary school kids.

Did you bring family with you?
Yes, where I go, my husband goes ;)

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
Out of the all the countries I have relocated to, this was the first one I loved immediately. I've grown up with so much of the Malay culture in South Africa as many of my friends and some family are Cape Malay, so in way it felt like home from the start.

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
Being a tiny rural town on the coast, there are no other expats here. It's quite easy to talk to people and make acquaintances but for now the language barrier prevents strong friendships from forming. But we're learning Bahasa Melayu ( Malay) so hopefully we'll meet many more people.

Hiking Sentinel Peak in the Drakensberg mountains.
Hiking Sentinel Peak in the Drakensberg mountains.
What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
Most people only come here to board the ferry to go to Tioman Island, which I totally encourage you to do as its amazing. There is nothing much to do here other than find delicious Thai food at Greenhouse Restaurant and Indian/Malay food at Al Sayed in town and enjoy sunset walks on the beach.

What do you enjoy most about living in Malaysia?
The peace and smallness of it ( the same thing that gives me cabin fever). No traffic, no concrete jungle, just the ocean down the road and rice paddies further out. Plus it's really cheap here.

How does the cost of living in Malaysia compare to home?
It is way cheaper. Here we have a 4-bedroom house and for the same price in South Africa, you could perhaps afford to rent a room in a house. Food and petrol are cheap and so are appliances.

A day in Angthong National Park Thailand.
A day in Angthong National Park Thailand.
What negatives, if any, are there to living in Malaysia?
The fact that it's so small, means that there is no alot to do. I wouldn't mind a bit more variety as well as a cinema. But this allows means we road trip alot on the weekends and save. Also it is quite tough to make good friends here.

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving to Malaysia, what would it be?
The rural areas of Malaysia are alot more conservative than cities like Kuala Lumpur, so you will have to adjust the way you dress accordingly especially in your place of work.

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
The hardest part of living away from home is having to do life without family and friends.

When you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
It's always strange to go home at first. But as soon as you make an effort to get back into the community eg: start yoga/dance classes,work,church etc. You soon find your place in society again.

Loving Kuala Lumpur.
Loving Kuala Lumpur.
What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Go open-minded.
  2. Don't expect it to be like home. Make a new home there.
  3. Find out what the dress code in your particular town/city/work place is. Often this will differ from area to area and this will be a great help in preparing you on what to buy and take before you get there.
  4. Bring a few special things from home to make your house cosy from the get go. eg: photos of your favourite people, lightweight photo frames, a favourite jewelry box, a favourite throw/sarong.
  5. Enjoy the new, strange and wonderful things of each new place you settle in. It may only be for a season, so spend your time learning and finding the great things in the different ways in which people live, not complaining that its so different to 'your way'.
Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
Our travel blog showcases some of the world's most beautiful and quirky corners through photography, videos and writing. We offer helpful tips and guidelines for newbies as well as seasoned travellers. Having been expats for over three years, we also focus on providing helpful information for expats in Asia and hope to inspire everyone to get up and go!

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?

About the author

Expat Blog ListingLauren is a South African expat living in Malaysia. Blog description: The Travel Manuel is a blog dedicated to helping 'first time' & experienced travellers mobilise their passion for travel through insights, advice and in depth articles. We are South African expats currently living in magical Malaysia.
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