From Malaysia to Mongolia: A Few Expat Tips

By: Drinking Coffee Elsewhere: Mongolia

A Three-Month Retrospective: Some Things to Know in Case You're in That Tiny Group of People Who Move from Malaysia to Mongolia:

1.    Forget the calendar -- no matter that it may still be warm in much of the northern hemisphere -- and put those sandals in storage. Hide your cotton shirts and “sweaters” too. When you see them in the drawer, they’ll either make you feel cold or sad.

2.    Pack plenty of spices and chilies. Not only in your shipped luggage for your own kitchen, but in little packets to keep in your purse or pocket for everyday. You will understand why, and thank me, when you start eating Mongolian food.

3.    The language difference is profound: Malay is much easier to pick up than Mongolian, and you can find lots of English speakers in Malaysia if you need help. This is not the case in Mongolia. 

4.    Counter to the Asian stereotype, Mongolians will say no and are generally much more direct than Malaysians. This can be refreshing, but it may also feel a bit abrupt.

5.    Relatedly, Mongolians are much more open about bodily functions, especially sexuality, than most Malaysians, and all of it is fun to laugh about.

6.    If you move with your overfed American cat, he or she may well exceed the airline weight limit on all possible routes, and you will look like a freak for travelling with a cat in the cabin. Just smile and assume there are some animal lovers among the airline personnel – it’s just a matter of finding them.

7.    Mongolians, unlike Malaysians, aren't interested in what religion you are, nor will they ask you about it.

8.    The good news is that you can let pedicure maintenance slide (see #1 above). The bad news is Hat Hair.

9.    You will miss the lively political discussions you used to have with Malaysian taxi drivers.

10.    In Mongolia, there is no such thing as too much moisturizer. In Malaysia, there is no such thing as too many umbrellas.

11.    If you’re American, you will be surprised and a bit embarrassed at how many more of your fellow countrymen and –women have heard of Mongolia than Malaysia.

12.    Mongolians don’t talk about their president’s wife. I’m just saying.

13.    There is no escaping big, dumb American action movies. Same goes for Pringles.

14.    You will remember that seasonal change means much more than just how many times a week it rains. And you will learn that seasonal change in Mongolia does not mean getting to put your coats away.

15.    Alcohol is MUCH cheaper in Mongolia, which can be good until some drunk guy bounces off you on the sidewalk.

16.    Consider either Mauritania or Macedonia as possible next expat stops, because it will seem as if you’ve made random moves until people work out the alliteration.

17.    Note that diplomacy between the two countries has been a bit dodgy, and you may want to google “Altantuya” to find out more about this history.

18.    Durian is much more appealing than mutton. Scientific research data backs me up.

19.    Re: #18 above, Malaysia totally kicks butt in the Quality of Life Category - Local Fruit, but Mongolia has the edge in Quality of Life Category - The Unexpected. Anything can happen here.

20.    Regardless of which place you’re living, you are an outsider and thus an object of curiosity. People will stare at you. It doesn’t matter. 

21.    (I won’t repeat the platitude about maintaining a sense of humor, but if I were to do so, it would be here at #21.)

About the author

Expat Blog ListingDrinking Coffee Elsewhere: Mongolia is an American expat living in Mongolia. Blog description: Expat life and travels in Mongolia (by Coffee Elsewhere Blog)
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Contest Comments » There are 14 comments

Dina wrote 10 years ago:

Oh mean hahahahahaha! spot on! malaysia is a world by itself, as is mongolia. but mongolia offers true adventure!

John Morgan wrote 10 years ago:

Nice mix of useful info and tongue and cheek. I do appreciate the subtlety and sense of humor. #16, you might also consider Micronesia. #17, this bit of information is PRICELESS!! #6, I never liked that cat. #2, Mongolia is not a foodie destination, Keep up the blog. Fun read. хүндэтгэсэн

Addie Roose wrote 10 years ago:

Alyantuya, giggle, and about Americans knowing Mongolia, duh! They're there! :-) about not knowing Malaysia, well, they be Anericans, innit. :-)

Dayna wrote 10 years ago:

Move to Mauritius. Mellow and magnificent. And most importantly, mutton-free. I do believe that it is your God given right to be warm in July. Start planning a beach trip now.

Nooreen wrote 10 years ago:

As always: informative in a delightful tongue-in-cheek way! Re #16, Moldavia and Malta are additional options :)

Patricia Michl wrote 10 years ago:

Great insight. I think VT is cold(we have jackets for each 5 degree of temp variation) but Mongolia takes it and much more. Wonderful reading.

Vivienne Chew wrote 10 years ago:

Still waiting patiently for #20 to read - "Regardless of which place you’re living, you are an outsider and thus an object of curiosity. People will stare at you. It doesn’t matter. For this reason, buying a horse and using it as your main form of transportation in Ulanbataar? Why not. You have nothing to lose". Also #18 needs a bit more testing. I fear the sample size may have been too limited (i.e. 1 person).

Shariza wrote 10 years ago:

Hilarious! Perhaps instead of just spices and chilli, could add durian on the list to bring along, wonder how Mongolians would take it?!!! Great read!!!! Love it!

DJG wrote 10 years ago:

Durian is more appealing than Mutton?! I didn't think it possible for Durian to be considered appealing! Ha ha.

Jerry Bogert wrote 10 years ago:

Wonderful blog. Funny but useful and true as well. And I'm being completely objective.

Jessica Low wrote 10 years ago:

i was considering moving to mongolia until i read no.9 and two favorite things to do in life atm:) p/s spice shop sounds like a great idea

Mary Ann wrote 10 years ago:

Have started packaging spices to bring when we visit. Love reading this blog..informative and funny

Marion Miller wrote 10 years ago:

I love this blog ! I am learning about Mongolia and laughing at the same time,

Margot Bogert wrote 10 years ago:

I love this blog ....the writer clearly has a sense of adventure and a great sense of humor. I hope that the writer will become a role model for other expats!

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