As I was composing a response to a recent comment here on this blog, I realized that (as usual), I have a little more to say on the topic:
Malaysia is an amazingly easy place to live. After spending five years in Munich, Germany, which one would might naturally assume to be more similar to the US than KL, Malaysia (it’s not); I am relishing the ease of my daily life here. We can pay all of our bills in the lobby of our condo, a branch of our bank is open 7 days a week from 10am-10pm, everyone speaks excellent English, we have the best cable TV outside of the US (I’m guessing), and I live right next door to my school so I never have to deal with a dreaded commute (I spent 2 hours on the bus every single day for 5 years in Munich).
It is still astonishing to me to see how much American culture has invaded Malaysia. When I turn on the TV I see Desperate Housewives, Lost, Grey’s Anatomy, the Office, the Amazing Race (and now the Amazing Race: Asia), CSI, the list goes on and on. And it’s all in English. No need to stress out about deciphering words or try to read lips. We even get quite a few of my favorite The Learning Channel / Food Network shows (here they are combined on the Travel and Living Channel) like Project Runway, the Naked Chef, While You Were Out and even a new one from the UK called Superhomes (I do wish we had What Not To Wear, though). There are so many travel shows on TV (mostly about the US, it seems) that I think I’ve learned more about my country while living here than I did growing up there! And of course, we have 3 different movie channels, the Discovery Channel, Animal Planet and National Geographic. I’m not even counting CNN and BBC (and Al Jazeera) because that’s not really TV (and by TV I mean a mind-numbing distraction).
If we’re not in the mood for some relaxing TV, we can find absolutely anything we need in the many many malls around the city (except for maybe clothes in North American sizes, but even those can often be found at the factory outlet stores). We even have more US stores here in KL than we had in Munich. A Gap just opened in our favorite mall! English books are plentiful and we even have 2 Borders stores (one of which claims to be the largest in Asia – it’s big, but I’m not sure it’s that big). And the magazines, oh how I love the magazines. Every shop has every magazine I could possibly want, most go for around US$5. I’m in reading heaven over here!
Of course, there’s the most important part: the food. Not only is there a local restaurant for any type of cuisine you could imagine (Indian, Thai, Japanese, Dim Sum, Mexican, Chinese, American) all within walking distance of our house, but just in case we’re extra homesick, we can go to Chili’s, TGI Fridays, Italiannies, or a variety of fast food restaurants (including some strange one’s that I think have become extinct in the US like the A&W restaurant). Since we moved here I think I’ve been out to eat more than the entire rest of my life. It’s just so easy and cheap to eat out, and there’s a Baskin Robbins on the way home…
But, that doesn’t mean we don’t grocery shop, and there’s another joy! We can get anything and everything we could ever want (for a price). Every grocery store has something a little different, but almost all of them have old favorites like Cracker Barrel cheese, Chips Ahoy, fluffy sliced bread, Mac and Cheese, Eggo waffels, frozen pizza, fruit by the foot, the list goes on and on. Every time I go to the grocery store I find something new from home. I wonder, though, what are the locals doing with all this processed American food?
Now, the reason I describe all of this is because it has been an amazingly easy year and a half so far. We literally feel like we’re on vacation all the time (the pool in our condo helps a lot with that), but perhaps it is all just a bit too easy, if you know what I mean. We moved abroad for the challenge. We love the little daily struggles you deal with in a foreign country, the small (and sometimes overwhelming) challenges it takes to get things done. It’s part of what makes life interesting to us. So this somewhat Americanized version of Malaysia (that we did not expect) has perhaps made our lives a little too comfortable. Now, I’m not complaining, I’m enjoying it while I can, because I know as soon as we move somewhere else it will all be over… There’s no way any other country on Earth can be this well set up for expats. Is there?
KL picture from: http://www.mundocity.com/fotos/kuala-lumpur.jpg
StarWorld picture from: http://www.dreamsatellite.com/index.files/star_world.jpg
Mall image from: http://www.travelplaces.co.uk/images/A1_grand_prix/malaysia-klcc-mall.jpg
Eggo image from: http://www.iceboxdiner.com/images/products/1312.jpg