Melaka, Malaysia Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Melaka, Malaysia

Melaka, Malaysia 09/07/07

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Thailand - Pattaya, South Korea - Seoul.

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2. How long have you lived here?

11 months.

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3. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

12.5 hours from UK/Europe. You can fly direct to London or via Amsterdam or Dubai for best flight times.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Expat wife here with husband working in the oil industry.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Most expats live in condos. There are three to four buildings along the coast road in Klebang and Tanjung Kling. Also there are some houses on Tiara Golf Club and in the Klebang area.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

There are a few options for grocery shopping. There is a Tesco hypermarket, Jusco's department store and supermarket, and two branches of Giant supermarket. You can buy very good, fresh, cheap fruit and veg at the wet market at Melaka Sentral or at any of the night markets. The cost of groceries is cheaper than in KL and much cheaper than the UK.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Nothing you really need.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

The best food is cheap street food from hawker stalls and centers. Malaysian, Indian and Chinese food is great and very cheap. Try Roti Cani (roti bread dipped in dhal curry sauce) for breakfast or anytime. There are some western food outlets in Mahkota Parade and the new mall, like McDonald's, Burger King, KFC etc. There are good local restaurants all over town. But there is a lack of decent European restaurants, you have to go to KL for them.

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Daily Life:

1. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Lots of Indonesian and Fillipino maids and nannies/babysitters available and very cheap. Most families (expat and locals) have maids and many are live-in. The domestic helpers mostly do not have good English.

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2. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

No problem using ATM's, just the usual vigilance.

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3. What English-language religious services are available locally?

There are many religious services in town in many languages

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4. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Astro satelite TV is everywhere with lots of English channels, like BBC, HBO, Discovery, National Geographic, etc. English Language newspapers are The Star, The New Straits Times, and The Sun. There are no foreign newspapers available.

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5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

English is widely spoken. It makes us really lazy about learning the Malay language, but you can start to pick up Malay words as some are similar to English.

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6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

They would not be able to easily move around the pavements, as they are broken and missing in places. Toilets are a problem, as there are many Asian squat loos in public places, so disabled persons would have trouble.

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Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

Left. Malaysian drivers are not exactly known for their driving skills, but you soon learn to go with the flow.

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2. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Local taxis are cheap and safe. There are local buses, which are very cheap, but I have never had the cause to use one as taxis are more convenient. There are no trains.

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3. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Rent/buy a car when you get here.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Broadband from Streamyx is everywhere and is not expensive.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Bring an old cell phone with you or buy one when you get here. You just choose your phone provider (choice of 3) and insert the sim card. Easy.

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3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

I use Skype through the PC. You can buy prepaid phonecards here to use through your landline, which are a good value too.

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Pets:

1. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

None that I know of.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

There are not many opportunities to earn money on the local wages. Jobs for expats are mostly in the oil/gas industry at the refinery.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Dress code in public is really anything you like. Although it is a Muslim country, you see Chinese girls wearing very little and Malay women covered up. Women should dress modestly at Malay restaurants and other Muslim food places, i.e. covering up shoulders and arms. Work dress code is fairly relaxed and ties are not encouraged!

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Good, except in Sept/October when Sumatra, Indonesia, burns its forests and the smoke comes across the Malaysian Peninsula. Viability is reduced.

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2. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

No major concerns; but common sense is required. I have heard about motorcycle drive-by bag snatching in the center of town (where there are a lot of tourists around).

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3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Health care is good. There are numerous hospitals in the town. A friend of mine is having her baby in the Mahkota Medical Centre (the main private hospital). There are also better hospitals in KL and Singapore, not far away, for more specialist advice/procedures.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Wet and humid, wet and mild, dry. But mostly tropical sunshine and showers. The main monsoon season is from November to February, when it rains more than at other times. There are spectacular thunderstorms throughout the year and the loudest thunder I have ever heard. Lightning can wake you in the night it is so bright!

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

There is a problem with good schools for older children, although there are two expatriate schools (one in the center of town and one next to Ocean Palms Condo). The schools in Melaka for secondary education are not rated and most expats have their teenage children in schools in KL, but it's a long way to commute.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

I don't think they would be catered for here.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

There are lots of nursery and pre-schools, including two Montessori kindergartens that are good. Most expat children are in the minority and mostly the classes are made up of Chinese children. The school teachers speak English, Malay, and Chinese.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

The expat community here is small and fluctuates in size with work at the Petronas refinery. The biggest number of expats work at the refinery. I would say there are 50 families.

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2. Morale among expats:

Morale is good as it is so laid back living here.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Social life is quiet. Socializing revolves around eating. There are some bars in town, and Jonker Street on a Friday and Saturday night is nice. The roads are closed to traffic and everyone comes out to shop and wander.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

This is a good city for everyone.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

I haven't seen anything that stands out here for the gay community.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Malaysia is very tolerant and all races (Malay, Chinese and Indian) live quite harmoniously. There are lots of religions practiced and tolerated.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Melaka is a very interesting city with nearly 500 years of colonial history. The history of Malaysia relates directly with the history of Melaka. The Portuguese, Dutch, and then the British colonized the country and have all left their mark/influence. There are about 15 museums worth seeing in the town center mostly about maritime, Malay, and colonial history.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

There is locally produced Rosewood furniture at Malacca Woodwork, which attracts people from all over the country. The furniture and home decor items are made to order.

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9. Can you save money?

Yes. You can same a lot, as everything is cheap. Even if you ate out all the time, you would save money.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes. I love living here and hope to do so for much longer.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Food from overseas. There is a good range of British and European food in the supermarkets, like Weetabix, Marmite and HP Sauce!

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3. But don't forget your:

Sunscreen, hat, and umbrella. It rains a lot and it is useful to have a sun umbrella too.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

You have to get into the Malaysian laid back way of life and realize that things happen when they happen. Don't get stressed and chill out.

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