Expats in Malaysia: What You Should Know

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There are quite a high number of expatriates in Malaysia, especially Western expats. Some of the factors that lure expatriates to Malaysia include the country’s stable economy and government, and the numerous job opportunities available here. Expatriates living in Malaysia also enjoy the benefits of a low cost of living. Education, healthcare, shopping and buying a home are affordable here. Due to the popularity of Malaysia among expats, here are some useful facts for our fellow expatriates out there who are new to Malaysia or are planning to move here.

Expat Population and Demographics in Malaysia

The number of professional working expatriates residing in Malaysia is about 90, 000. This number is based on the statistics provided by Malaysia’s Department of Immigration, which only covers the population of professional working expats. If you include expats living in Malaysia with other types of visas (such as the dependents), the overall population of expats in Malaysia would be closer to 200,000 individuals. Without a doubt, the flow of expats to Malaysia has increased the diversity of this nation’s multiracial inhabitants.

Expats in Malaysia come from all over the globe from Asian countries such as India, Japan and China to European and Western nations such as the UK, United States of America and France. The biggest population of expats here resides in the Greater KL area, which is rapidly transforming into a world-class city. Another state that is popular among expats is Penang where many expat retirees live under the Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) programme. Other cities that are home to smaller expat populations include Johor Bahru, Malacca, Kota Kinabalu and Kuching.

See Also: The Battle between Kota Kinabalu and Kuching

Expat Clubs, Associations and Communities

There are quite a number of expat clubs and associations in Malaysia. Most of them are based in Selangor with branches in Penang, Johor Bahru and other parts of Malaysia. The more social-oriented expat organizations include the Malaysian Australian New Zealand Association (MANZA), the Canadian Association of Malaysia and the Malaysian German Society. These associations mainly provide social network and support to expats. Many of them also organize charity events to give back to the local community.

The business-oriented expat associations include the American Malaysian Chamber of Commerce, the British Malaysian Chamber of Commerce and the Malaysian French Chamber of Commerce and Industry. These associations are excellent platforms to forge business networks.

There is also an online community available for Malaysian expats called Internations. Internations is a very useful social networking site that helps Malaysian expats connect and stay in touch with other resident expats. Present in over 390 expatriate cities worldwide, it has proven to be an essential tool for expats to exchange insider tips on Malaysian expat living.

Our parent company, The Expat Group (TEG), has a list of all the services and products offered for expats. This includes TEG’s new product,, a website that provides information all about Malaysia for internationally minded people from around the world. The website has a robust directory of local businesses and people, a diverse selection of interesting articles, and a variety of relevant news posts and events. The website also offers a highly informative e-newsletter. For information on upcoming community events, a subscription to the Expat Go E-Newsletter will come in handy. To subscribe, please click here.

Prior to rebranding, was An interesting feature of Expat Go’s website is the forum where you can obtain information about living in Malaysia from resident expats themselves. You can also seek advice from the locals who frequent this forum. The forum features a wide range of topics such as education, housing, life in Malaysia, and more.


Expat Media

In terms of publications available for expats in Malaysia, two magazines are very popular. They are the Expat Magazine and Expatriate Lifestyle. Published by The Expat Group (TEG), The Expat Magazine is a free monthly subscription magazine which caters especially to resident expats. Its highly informative and relevant content makes it one of the most widely read expat magazines among English-speaking expats. The Expat Group also produces a variety of other publications, each with a specific focus, such as the MM2H programme, travel, property in Malaysia and international education in Malaysia.

The Expatriate Lifestyle, on the other hand, is a lifestyle magazine which caters to expats and high-end international Malaysians. It is produced by Mongoose Publishing, the publisher of fashion magazines Esquire Malaysia and Elle Malaysia.

There are numerous websites on the internet that cater to Malaysian expats. Such as:

Websites like these act as information portals for expats who want to know more about Malaysia. They provide an abundant of information from guides on living and surviving in Malaysia, places to visit, to updates on the upcoming events and news in Malaysia.

There are no local radio channels that specifically target expats in Malaysia. However, there is a local radio channel, BFM89.9 that airs a show catering to expats. Named “Mat Salleh in Malaysia”, this show features expat experiences in Malaysia from the eyes of an English expat resident. To tune in to the show online, click here.

Our parent company, The Expat Group (TEG) produces several informative e-newsletters such as the Expat Go Malaysia E-newsletter (available on this website through subscription), the MM2H E-newsletter, The Expat Penang E-newsletter and more. These newsletters provide its readers with updates on recent news, upcoming events and other information relevant to resident expats in Malaysia.

There is also a health e-newsletter offered by This e-newsletter provides expats with updates on health news that are important for expats living abroad such as vaccination update, changes in health insurance, etc.

Expat Events

Expats in Malaysia are not deprived of the opportunity to mingle with other fellow expatriates. With various events organized by institutions and bodies that cater to the needs of resident expats, expats in Malaysia are given the chance to establish valuable relationships with fellow expatriates from their own country of origin despite being far from home. They are also able to strengthen their social ties with the diverse community of expats in Malaysia that come from various countries around the globe. There are also events held with the main aim of connecting expats to the local community. Such events are organized by KL Expat Malaysia.

The expat events organized are usually in the form of social get-to-gathers be it in a casual or formal venue with the main aim of bringing together the expat community.  The Expat Group, our parent company, is well-known for organizing expat events especially in Kuala Lumpur and Penang. There are two main events we organize every month; The Expat Mingle and The Expat Wine Dinner. This takes place in different venues every month and is a great opportunity for expats to mingle with one another over good food and drinks. For more information on the events organized by The Expat Group, please click here.

Expat Social Network Groups

Social media plays a big role in helping people to reach out to one another, share and seek information, to look for old friends and to see out new friends. Malaysia has a number of social media groups to ensure that expats (especially new ones) are kept informed on the latest happenings. These groups are also great for helping an expat settle down comfortably in their new country.


The Expat Group’s popular website, is a good source of information for expats, and the site’s Facebook page also helps in spreading information on the latest happenings to expats who follow the page. The Expat Group also has a Facebook Mingle Group which was set up to coordinate the monthly mingles that take place in a variety of places in KL. The Mingle group on Facebook is also a great way for expats to make friends online by posting messages on the wall.

Other than the ones mentioned above, there are other expat Facebook groups available for those living in KL, like the North Americans in Kuala Lumpur and KL Expat Malaysia. Those living in Melaka can join the Melaka Expats group on Facebook to mingle with expats living in Melaka. There’s also a group for Expats in Penang and Expats in Johor.

How Expats Rank Malaysia

For views on the expatriate experience in Malaysia, nothing is more reliable than asking for feedback from the resident expats themselves. Thus, here are how some of the resident expats in Malaysia rank the country in terms of its economy and their overall experience here. The rankings provided here are based on the HSBC Expat Explorer Survey 2013 which ranked Malaysia out of 37 countries. Feedback for the survey was collected from 7000 expats worldwide.

See Also: HSBC Expat Explorer Survey Ranks Malaysia among Best Countries to Work In

In terms of the country’s overall economy, the survey ranked Malaysia at no.14 out of the 37 countries which participated in the survey. In terms of household income, Malaysia came in 5th place whereas in terms of expat satisfaction with the local economy, Malaysia came in 11th place. However, when it came to disposable income, the country was ranked poorly at 27th place. Malaysia has its young and dynamic population and growing economy to thank for its satisfactory ranking in the HSBC expat survey. Nearly 8 in 10 of the expats say they are satisfied with the local company. As a result, few expats are planning to leave the country because of a negative perception of the country’s economy (only 15% compared to a global average of 25%). Besides that, more than half of the resident expats are of the perception that the country offers a high quality of life compared to a global average of 45%.

In terms of the expat experience in Malaysia, the country was ranked at no. 20 out of 37 countries. It was highly ranked at no.3 for sports, social life and local work culture. Over two fifths of the expats here are more likely to play sports following their relocation while 46% of them said they have a more active social life here when compared to a global average of 26%. However, Malaysia was ranked poorly when it came to expats enjoying local food, a healthy diet and feeling welcome at work. Expats were found to have a negative perception towards Malaysian food when it was ranked at no.35 in terms of a healthy diet and no.34 in terms of how much they enjoyed the food.

Expats Likes and Dislikes about Malaysia

Our latest survey conducted in 2010 among our expat magazine subscribers have revealed some interesting insights pertaining to the likes and dislikes of expats living in Malaysia. The people, weather and food emerged among the top ten things that expats liked most about Malaysia with “people” ranking the highest. The country’s rich cultural diversity and friendly citizens played a significant role in the results of the findings. The list of dislikes was much longer indicating the respondents’ high disagreement on what they disliked about Malaysia although a few points were mutually agreed on. For more information on this, please click here.

Expats Choices and Views of the Malaysian Property Market

How much is the minimum price for foreigners to purchase a home in Malaysia? Is property a good investment for expats in Malaysia? These are some of the important questions that you may have if you are considering to live in Malaysia. Our property survey conducted every two years among our expat magazine subscribers will be able to give you valuable insights on the Malaysian property market. Some of the highlights of our latest survey pointed out that quite a large number of expatriates in Malaysia prefer to buy their own property in Malaysia due to its comparatively lower prices when compared to more developed countries in the region such as Singapore and Hong Kong.  The results of the survey also revealed the resident expats preference for apartments and condos when compared to other types of homes. For more insights on this, please click here.

You might also be interested to see some of the beautiful expat homes in Malaysia here.

To keep informed with stories about Malaysia, register for our e-newsletter here.

Homepage highlight photo credit: Honey Tee, Flickr

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