Knowing nowhere is paradise, today I’d like to discuss three pet peeves I have with Malaysia. Obviously everything isn’t heaven on earth no matter where you live and an expat blog should include the good, the bad, the ugly and everything in between if you expect readers to get a real sense of daily living. Therefore, in the interest of good reporting (and because I have nobody else to complain to), I present my top three things that irritate me after the first month of expat living in Malaysia.
1) Paper products (or the lack thereof)
Yes, I know it’s Asia and I’m aware North Americans are ridiculously spoiled by consumer products priced so low that everyone can afford basic necessities of life But cmon, man. Achieving “fully developed status” won’t happen until they find a way to get towels and toilet tissues into bathrooms. In their defense, the nicer businesses and malls have installed hand dryers, although they’re relatively useless in the 95% humidity and half of them are inoperable anyway. Nothing bothers me more than needing to wash up after an awesome hawker meal,and finding soap, water and nothing to dry with. Equally frustrating is finding a stall (as opposed to a pit shitter like most of Thailand), doing your business and then discovering that the cost of paper goods apparently outweighs the need to give something to wipe your butt with. Even hotels and upscale malls refuse to splurge on what all Westerners consider basic necessities (Note to government: Upscale tourists from Hong Kong and Singapore think about things like this when choosing a destination). Anyway, for my two cents, this needs to change.
As any one of my Facebook followers can attest, it’s not often I praise the U.S. Government for anything. Allowing for one exception, however, I’d like to personally thank them for the multi trillion-dollar bailout of AIG, the world’s largest insurer. Deemed “too big to fail”, they bailed AIG out of bankruptcy back in 2008 and now it thrives all over the world as a result. Expressing personal thanks to the taxpayers, Diane and I conveniently reaped the benefits by obtaining medical insurance this week. Normally not needing insurance in a country with inexpensive healthcare, one of the “Stage 2” requirements of finalizing our MM2H visa is purchasing medical Insurance that covers hospitalization in Malaysia for a one year minimum. While this may seem easy enough, Malaysians follow rules to the letter and the immigration ministry is quite specific about what they need to see as proof. Since we lIve in Penang on a fixed income, we don’t have extra days to waste waiting for a company in Kuala Lumpur to issue a policy so we decided to shop around ourselves.
spotted on the way to the insurance office
Presented with several choices, I stumbled across Allianz, another big financial firm, who happens to have an office in downtown Georgetown. Familiar with the company name from my financial services background, we walked into the office and asked about obtaining insurance. Unfortunately, they said they can’t issue a policy for MM2H holders without seeing the conditional letter of approval that’s in Kuala Lumpur, a few hundred miles away. Although we can use a Malaysian company that Joy-Stay recommends for its applicants that need help, the process is so tedious it becomes impractical. Including back and forth emails about height, weight and medical conditions, a doctor’s appointment, a report from said doctor, more emails back and forth, a fee and an annual premium twice as high as bigger companies, we decided to try AIG. Additionally, we’re in the country on a 90 day visitor visa so we really need to get the MM2H process completed soon. Choosing to travel back to KL late next month, we also have to go for a quick medical exam that Joy-Stay sets up, travel back to our bank to set up the fixed deposit and then meet our agent at the ministry’s office of immigration in Putrajaya. Easily one of the most tedious visa processes on earth, we really just want to get it done and not think about it for ten years. That’s where the “too big to fail” mantra helped out.
Retired expats hate long weekends. Right when we felt like Penang Island was almost always our own personal space, Hari Raya arrived and the end of Ramadan brought thousands of visitors to our little resort town. While totally unnoticeable if we stay in our condo, walking around a town with limited sidewalks and bumper to bumper traffic in both directions proves challenging at times. Leaving to go anywhere by four-wheel vehicle is even worse. Unused to the throngs of young people flocking to all the beaches and crowding all the food stalls, we decided to spend the day in Georgetown since we had a potential meet-up scheduled for that evening anyway. Unfamiliar with the scope of traffic in resort areas, Diane and I never travelled on long weekends in either Calgary or San Francisco because her two-hour daily commute proved enough and I certainly didn’t want to sit in long stretches of traffic. During her nursing years, she picked up overtime shifts and I simply hung around the house. Disclaimer; the featured picture is not actually Malaysia but I used it to add emphasis: it us from somewhere in Southeast Asia
Becoming early retirees changed our attitude a bit and we figured there might be fewer people in Georgetown than Batu Ferringhi since there’s no beach to speak of in the UNESCO Heritage area. Experiencing our first crowded bus adventure quickly changed our attitude about leaving the condo for three days the next time a long weekend rolls around. Hopping on The 101 route sometime around the noon hour, the bus was full and barely had room for us to move, let alone be comfortable. While not as insane as buses in India, the pleasant and fast trips we’ve enjoyed came to an abrupt end as more people piled on until he finally stopped picking people up. Although the stench was not as bad as I remember my New York City subway commutes, the bus still whipped across the turns and we became sandwiched in for almost 40 minutes. Wondering where they were going and why most of the town was leaving, we passed Tesco and not one soul moved nor did anyone ring the bell at the major mall shopping areas or anywhere else for the next fifteen minutes as the bus passed all the places we expected people to exit. Finally half the bus emptied out somewhere between Komtar and the end of the line so we hopped off at the next stop.