Wednesday, March 14, 2012

An Expat Life - or not?

Good day everyone and welcome to my post for today.

I received an email from a gentleman who runs an expat site named Internations who invited me to join the site and connect with other expats around Malaysia and the world. He had come across my blog and apparently loves it. So I signed up and filled in a questionnaire. There were 9 questions and I must admit that I really enjoyed answering the questions.

It reminded me of the very first time I ventured to the shores of Malaysia and Singapore back in 2002, how I settled down, overcame culture shock and eventually lived here like it had always been my home.

This is a picture of me and a friend taken in June 2002 in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA, shortly before embarking on a 2-year volunteer placement in Malaysia and Singapore. I was a fresh 19 years old, travelling without my family for the first time, going to a strange tropical country I had never heard of before.

In Klang, Malaysia with a very good friend I met there

Celebrating my birthday with local friends in Klang, Malaysia, October 2002.

On a packed bus full of local Sarawakians heading to the beach, Kuching, Malaysia, probably around February 2004.

At a local Malaysian's farm, Kuching, Malaysia, around February 2004.

Fully settled into life in Malaysia, at a food stall in Ipoh, Malaysia, around May 2004, a month before my 2-year volunteer service came to an end.

I thought I would share with you the questionnaire I filled out today, which brought back so many great memories from the last decade of my life, seeing this young English boy mature and grow into a man in South-East Asia.

Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Malaysia, etc.
My name is Duncan Horne and I’m from Leicester, England. I first moved to Malaysia in June 2002 as a volunteer worker. That lasted for 2 years upon which I returned home to England. In May 2006 I moved back to Malaysia again, this time as a result of marrying a local Malaysian.

When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I began a blog in 2009 originally to be the topic of Roger Federer – how quickly things change! My blog changed into a blog about Kuantan, my new hometown, and has found much success and a wide following as a result.

Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours (please insert URL as well)?
I have a number of favourite entries, particularly those about our stays at hotels and visiting tourist attractions here in Kuantan.

Our stay at Swiss garden Resort & Spa:

Our tour of The Zenith Hotel and interview with the GM:

Our stay at Vistana Hotel:

The fascinating Lao Zi dragon temple near Kuantan:

I really love this post documenting the Ten Thousand Buddhas Hall in Kuantan:

Always enjoy visiting this lovely scenic park in Kuantan:

Had an intriguing visit to Sungai Lembing:

Exploring the hidden charm of Kuantan old town:

Hindu temple in Kuantan:

All of the blog posts on this page:

Tell us about the ways your new life in Malaysia differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
When I first moved to Malaysia back in 2002 I did have a bit of culture shock which lasted for a month or two. I found myself thinking about home and missing friends and family quite often. However, once I got to know the local people and settled into my work, things became a whole lot easier. The hot and humid weather was a big thing, as well as the wide array of Asian food on offer. I soon got used to dirty and smelly public toilets too. Anyway, I took the good with the bad and just really started enjoying living the Asian life. Life is much more laid back here in Malaysia, easy to get on with people and make good new friends, which was quite the opposite in England. The drinking culture of England brought a lot of pressure as I’m not a drinker, and that aspect is so much more comfortable and tolerable in Malaysia. Every day feels like a holiday here, and I wouldn’t give it up for the world.

Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Malaysia? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
I think it’s impossible to be fully prepared for everything about a new life abroad. You can read endless books on a new country of residence, its food, people, economy and so on, but nothing beats experience! I think it’s important to go with a positive attitude and open mind, and realize that the way of life is not going to be like back home, then you will be able to settle a lot quicker and be more adaptable to change.

Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
My wife was taking driving lessons and one afternoon somebody from the driving school called. My wife was asleep so I took the call. Unfortunately the lady on the other end couldn’t speak English, so trying to be clever I attempted to tell her that my wife was sleeping. However, I didn’t realize that I was speaking in the Iban language, which my wife had been teaching me, and not Bahasa Melayu (the national language). So I was saying “Fidelia tinduk” (in Iban) getting myself confused with “tidur” (the word for sleep I should have been using!) So there was a lot of confusion before the call ended and I remember myself complaining, ”That woman can’t even talk her own language!” Not until I related the story to my wife did she inform me that it was I who was using the wrong language!

Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Malaysia?
1.      Approach the expat journey with an open mind
2.      Try to live the local way of life instead of your own ‘back home’ way of living
3.      Immerse yourself in the work you’re doing in Malaysia

How is the expat community in Malaysia? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
I am a different type of expat to what is usually understood by the title “expat”. I didn’t move here together with my family like most expats do who move abroad for work purposes. My wife is actually a local Malaysian and I moved here to settle down with no money, no job, a complete fresh start in a town I had never knew existed. However, I am still living the expat life now, it’s just that I’ve gone through it in an entirely different set of circumstances. It was very tough at first but gradually I’ve settled down to normal life and have now met one or two fellow expats here too. It was pretty difficult locating other expats but I have made a friendship with one guy from the Netherlands, whom we see from time to time. However, it is with the local Malaysians whom I converse with the most. Sometimes I forget I was from England and really don’t think of myself as an expat. I thoroughly enjoy my life in Malaysia and I feel like I’ve never been anywhere else!

How would you summarize your expat life in Malaysia in a single, catchy sentence?
“Every day feels like a holiday!”

Hope you enjoyed that question and answer session with myself. I really sometimes wonder if I am an expat or not? I may have white skin but I certainly feel Malaysian. I feel at times as though I've been here all of my life. People ask me how long I'll stay here in Malaysia. My answer always is the same - 

"perhaps until the day I die."


  1. It was really good to read this Duncan. I knew about 3 months into your letters home that you loved Malaysia. After your 2 year stint there, we visited Malaysia and Singapore with you. It was then I knew I'd "lost" you to Malaysia. That's been a bitter sweet experience for me, but I have happily comes to terms with the fact that you see yourself as Malaysian now. This post has helped me to see that even more. You are my English son with a Malaysian heart. Love you Duncan, I'm proud of you.

  2. Hi Mum, thanks for your comment here. I know it's been difficult for you but you've handled it well and I think you're fine with it now. And you get free accommodation on holidays to Malaysia :)

  3. love reading this .. laugh at the part when u wrote about the conversation u have on the phone with the woman... :)

  4. This was a wonderful post Duncan. The details of your first time there and your experiences made me feel like I know you even better.
    You have certainly come a long way from that time in 2002 and I am rejoicing over having met you on line. Have a wonderful day.

  5. Beautiful photos, you look very young. I love to live an experience like yours., Very interesting. Greetings.

  6. I'm glad you like Malaysia. It's a huge thing to do; to move from your hometown to another country and for that, I take my hat off. That is truly inspirational.

  7. So interesting to read of your early days in Malaysia and how you so quickly came to terms with culture shock. I think having a wonderful set of Klang friends so early on must have helped. Thanks for sharing. Now that you are happily settled here with a wonderful wife and two adorable daughters, I think you are even more happy to be living here. Keep on blogging and all the best to you and family.

  8. Awesome post Duncan. I wish I had traveled abroad when I was younger. Not that I couldn't now I just wish I had lived somewhere else for awhile.

  9. Very interesting reportage.You are doing a wonderful job there!

  10. Great article honey! I am glad you love Malaysia. Hoping you will get a PR in 5 years time.

  11. I like the "everydy feels like a holiday" ....

  12. Hello Duncan.
    It was great to läsa.Tänk you will not so far from mig.Det sounds really nice with how you describe your life down there.
    Did you mom dad and siblings in England, or were you an only child?
    Where in England are you from?
    Thanks for an entertaining post with a lot of wonderful pictures from your youth.

  13. I didn't realise this blog was going to be about Roger Federer. I've probably said this before but I do wish I'd done something like that when I was younger. What experiences you've had. Fascinating.

  14. Hi Florianna, yes that conversation was very funny and still makes us laugh now!

    Odie, thanks so much, and it's been great finding you online too. Thanks for your friendship!

    Hi Leovi, it has been a great experience indeed and I've learned so much about myself and the world since leaving home at 19.

    Thanks Angel, it's all gone by so quickly as well!

    Hi ordinary malaysian, you are spot-on, being settled with my own family here is perfect. Those friends in my early days in Klang were my family at that time and I have brilliant memories with them :)

    Hi Randy, thanks for reading. It is eye-opening and educational to live abroad for a space of time. Who knows you may go somewhere tropical to retire!

    Hi Leia, thanks so much for coming over and reading the post!

    Fie, I will surely be aiming for PR in another 5 years!

    Hi Wong, I love that part too! The lovely hot weather on the vast majority of days makes it feel so holidayish!

    Lotta, thanks for stopping by and reading this post. I responded to your questions at your blog :)

    Hi Ros, yes, my life since 19 has been one fantastic experience after another and I couldn't possibly have wished for anything better! Thanks for coming along and reading this post!

  15. I love the post Duncan and the first comment above from your beloved Mum. A great interview some of which I can relate to as an expat. I wonder just what you were saying to the lady on the phone though. :)
    Life is an adventure.

  16. I recognize that to do this with 19 years must be very brave and like a lot of adventure.

  17. Hi Linda, I was trying to tell her that my wife was sleeping, but in the wrong language!

    Leovi, it was daunting at first but the adventure and education of it was amazing!

  18. Hi Restaurant Brugge, thanks for coming to visit my blog! Glad you enjoyed this post and hope you'll find some more interesting posts here :)

  19. I like mr.duncan write his expat experience in Malaysia because Malaysia is a good country and has a wide array of fruits.

  20. i think Mr.Duncan is very like malaysia and lived well in malaysia

  21. It is a very interesting and inspirational experience. I really enjoyed it and the phone call part is so funny.

  22. I'm so happy to read the post.

  23. I agreed with Duncan saying , adapt to a new place will make us settled down quickly.i should had learnt this before. mrs fam

  24. Thanks Teacher to share a great post for us. I can learn many new words from there and also can experience your great life!


Thank you for your thoughts, comments and opinions. I'll be responding soon! I will not be publishing anonymous comments so make sure you leave your name with your comment!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...