In my short two years here in Malaysia, I have gotten a nice overview of Malay, Chinese and Indian culture. But, by no means have I delved deeply into the local culture – I usually feel more like I’m skimming the surface.
It’s a strange feeling – having lived in a place for just about 2 years and not feeling like you know much more about it than when you arrived. For me, this is very different than when I lived in Germany and Italy. In Europe, it seemed like you could not live in a city without transforming yourself and adapting to the local culture.
Here, I almost feel like I’m living in the US – I have all the conveniences of home, including a common language. I certainly have never felt the culture shock I felt in Germany. I know this is why some people refer to KL as an “expat paradise” but I’m not entirely sure that’s a good thing. On the one hand, this has been a truly wonderful experience – easy, relaxing, comfortable and fun. On the other hand, I find it a little bit sad.
When I left Munich, I truly felt like it was my home, for good and for bad, as homes usually are. Often times I actually find myself thinking that I will wake up, shivering, in Munich and this will all have been a wonderful vacation. I know Munich so well, the city, the people, the culture. It is actually the longest place I have ever lived as an adult. It took me years to feel like I fit into to the Munich life, but once I made it, everything clicked. It became my home.
I’m not sure I will ever have that same experience here in KL. It is just too easy to stay on the surface, spending my time doing the usual things, meeting the usual people, visiting the usual places. I would have to work harder to integrate myself into Malaysian culture than I would to just drift along on top… And I’m not sure I even know where to begin…
Image 1: http://www.fifteenkey.com/images/skipping%20rock.jpg