We spent a year calling Penang, Malaysia home. It was a fabulous year and we are always talking about the possibility of moving back.
If you are someone who are thinking about making the change, you might find it interesting to read some of the biggest reasons I loved living there (and a few reasons why I didn’t). If you’re thinking about making Malaysia your new home, then you’ll be interested in knowing the pros and cons of living in Malaysia, which I cover in this post.
Here we go! Here are my living in Malaysia pros and cons in general and some of my specific living in Penang – pros and cons too!
7 Reasons Why I Loved Living In Malaysia – The Pros!
1. The Delicious Food
Honestly, you cannot beat the food in Malaysia. It is sublime.
From the hawker centres to the surprisingly tasty shopping mall restaurants to top restuarants to roadside stalls, there is great food literally everywhere.
If you love Indian, Malay or Chinese food like me, it is absolutely heaven here. These cuisines are just great. We also ate many other delicious Asian cuisines here. Every meal was a treat.
The best part is that it’s very cheap to eat out. So cheap in fact, that it’s cheaper to eat out than to cook if you want to cook western food like we do at home.
We ate out every meal except breakfast. Most places are very fast too so this is very easy.
Not having to cook and do all the cleaning up associated with meals and eating is a huge win in itself, but add in some of the best food I will ever eat and the food is a huge PLUS in the column of reasons to live in Malaysia.
2. The weather
I love, love, love hot weather.
It’s always hot and humid in Malaysia.
After spending a lot of time there, I noticed the differences between how humid it is at different times and the amount of rain but it was never a big deal. It only ever rained enough to ruin plans once in the time we lived in Penang. Usually showers were short and often at night.
It was also a great change never having to think about the weather when getting dressed. Every morning in Melbourne, I ask Siri for the weather. No need in Malaysia! You can wear the same type of clothes every day and never need to check. If you’re thinking about retiring in Malaysia pros and cons then the weather is a definite plus (unless you like the cold!).
It also simplifies how many clothes you need.
A huge tick in this column for me too.
Malaysia is a very affordable and good value destination. For a modern country, it’s a great price and it’s well set up for tourists and expats.
It’s easy to get a quality home to rent for a great price. We hired a car during our time in Malaysia, also for a great price. Food is cheap, transport is cheap, utilities relatively cheap, childcare is cheap, a housekeeper is cheap. The list goes on!
We had a better quality of life in Malaysia for a fraction of the cost of our normal life in Australia.
4. Family Friendliness
Malaysia is very family friendly. Our kids were welcome basically everywhere and it’s really easy to be out and about with kids when many things are outdoors and restaurants are quick and easy.
The people are very welcoming and friendly towards kids too and I find my kids are much better behaved when people are smiling and nice to them than the scowls they can get in Australia if we dare to enter a restaurant with three kids.
Sometimes it felt too family friendly when an old woman would get out of her seat on a bus so I could have one with my toddler. But that’s how it is. People want to help and make sure you are comfortable.
I love it.
One of the big advantages of living in Malaysia is that English is widely used, making life for foreigners moving here a lot easier.
Not everyone speaks English in Malaysia but enough people speak enough of it for life to be easy on this front and to mean you can get away with being lazy when it comes to local languages. I’m ashamed to say it, but I never spoke a word of any language but English while we were there.
Signs are often in English and, even when I had to fill in official forms, I could fill in English ones in English. This made life nice and straightforward.
6. Great Healthcare
Malaysia is a medical tourism destination and it has some great healthcare options, all for a great price.
Whether the kids were sick and needed to see a doctor or we needed a dentist or when I got pregnant, it was easy and cheap to get quality care.
In fact, I spent most of my first half of pregnancy with my last child in Malaysia. Even with paying full price and a public healthcare system in Australia that I can access, my visits were cheaper in Malaysia.
7. The Simpler Lifestyle
One of the more unexpected benefits of living in Malaysia was that as an expat, I found I had what I’m always craving here in Australia – A Simpler Lifestyle.
All of the above helps with this – the fact that everything is affordable, there is great food everywhere, it’s family friendly and the weather is more or less always the same. We had so much more quality family time.
Plus, a big pro of being an expat is there are less societal expectations. It feels like you can be whoever you want to be more easily (while respecting local cultures of course).
This is my number one of the reasons to move to Malaysia.
3 Reasons I Didn’t Love Living In Malaysia – The Cons!
To be honest, this list took me awhile to write as I really did love living in Malaysia.
1. The Haze
One of the disadvantages of living in Malaysia is living with air pollution. Haze is the biggest problem we faced during our time in Malaysia. It’s an air pollution problem that comes from illegal fires on a huge scale in Indonesia in the dry season.
This can cause health problems and it’s recommended to stay inside when it is bad. On bad days, it was hard to even see anything outside our windows and you can feel the crap you are breathing in going inside.
How much of a problem it is depends on where you are and luck in some part. Some years, it barely a problem, others, it’s terrible. We were there on a bad year and there was a week when it was really bad.
We ended up checking into a hotel where everything was more closed off and we didn’t feel it as much as we did in our house. If it had lasted longer, we would have flown elsewhere for awhile given we had young kids and I was pregnant.
2. The Dogs
When the sun started setting, stray dogs would come out around where we lived in Batu Ferringhi. It was a bit scary with kids and we would would briskly past them, try to keep the kids calm and cross our fingers.
It wasn’t a huge deal and nothing like what I have seen in some other countries, but it wasn’t something I enjoyed either.
3. Things Not Always Working The Way You Expect
One of the problems of being away is definitely that you don’t know how things work in a way that you naturally know at home.
While this didn’t cause us any issues and things were always sorted easily, it was one of the only things I missed from home.
We really loved living in Malaysia. It’s a beautiful, easy place to set up and live a great life.
We came home because my oldest child was starting school and we had a school we loved in Melbourne that we wanted her to attend. Plus, once I was pregnant, I really just wanted to be somewhere really familiar even if didn’t really make sense. My husband would say he came home for the football as he really missed his AFL team.
Regardless, there are many reasons to love living in Malaysia and if you are thinking about giving it a go, I vote yes! Give it a go!!
Sharon is an Australian who has fallen in love with Malaysia! She explores Malaysia multiple times a year, often with her kids, and has previously lived in Penang.