Expat Voices: Survey of Likes and Dislikes (PART 1)

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Andy Davison summarises the results of our latest survey asking what expats like and dislike about living here and compares it with the last time we asked the same questions back in 2003.


In order to retain comparability with the last survey, we used the same methodology in assigning categories. In the following paragraphs, we will explain how we grouped the answers.

The chart on the next page gives a breakdown of the 353 expats who responded to the survey. The biggest difference is that we have more expat retirees living here with just over a quarter of the respondents being over the age of 60 and most are not working. However, this did not make much difference in terms of their likes or dislikes, except a number of them made references to the Malaysia My Second Home programme and less references to issues relating to business.

For the first time, we did the entire survey by e-mail so if you are wondering why you never saw it, then you either failed to give us your e-mail address or it went into your spam folder. If you would like to participate in future surveys and make yourself heard then, please send us your e-mail address. Just send an e-mail to [email protected], and we’ll have you entered into our database as long as you subscribe to The Expat.
As can be seen from the chart, the top ten was very similar to the ranking for the last survey which shows that Malaysia continues to maintain its attractive qualities. There were a few changes which I will go on to clarify. For “likes” about Malaysia, “people” continued to rank the highest. A number of expats referred positively to the rich cultural diversity, which is almost unique to Malaysia. The friendliness of most Malaysians and the widespread spoken English were other positive factors. Both longer term working expats and Malaysia My Second Homers often tell us they have many local friends. This is one thing which differentiates Malaysia from many other countries, particularly in Asia.

Weather continues to rank highly and although a few people find the humidity a bit unpleasant, there was widespread agreement that year round warmth and sunshine is a major plus. This is ironic because many global surveys penalise Malaysia because of the climate.

Anyone who doubts that should slip across the border into Singapore! The availability of so many holiday options was mentioned by a lot of respondents and came fifth on the list of likes.

Malaysia’s excellent central location makes it easy to visit many surrounding countries and a few respondents mentioned Air Asia’s contribution to low cost connectivity. The fact that Malaysia offers so many local holiday options was also frequently mentioned.

Quite a few people found the quality of life in Malaysia to be a very attractive factor. Expats generally enjoy the lifestyle here, particularly in KL and many referred to the “ease of living” in Malaysia. The country’s natural beauty and abundant wildlife were a factor for many expats who enjoyed living in a country with such a rich landscape. People specifically commented on the wonderful beaches on the east coast, the many beautiful islands, the jungles and rainforests, the underwater beauty, the rich variety of flora and fauna as well as the historic sites. A few people made specific reference to the natural beauty and eco systems of Sabah and Sarawak.

The infrastructure ranked eighth but was mentioned by quite a few people. In 2003, most of the comments which we classified as “infrastructure” were comments about the road system. This time many people just wrote “infrastructure” and there were more general comments, although there were still frequent references to the good road systems. Certainly Malaysia has done an impressive job of building highways across the country as well as in and around KL, which are superior to those available in many other Asian countries.


Shopping was mentioned by a number of expats and if more women had responded I think it’s safe to assume this would have received a higher score. Anyone who has been living here for the last twenty years could not have missed the explosion of shopping malls not to mention up-market boutiques. Kevin Livesey said: “General living conditions have improved tremendously these last 15 years with international food and beverage outlets and stores being first class”.

Property ranked 10th on the list replacing the “economy”. In 2003, many people mentioned the stable economy but this was hardly likely to get much mention this time, given the recent global upheaval. Comments regarding property covered a range of topics from the value for money to the spaciousness of apartments. I recall when I first came to Malaysia in the late 80s with a generous rental allowance and asked to see apartment of around 3000 square feet. The real estate agent said she wasn’t sure if there were any that size in KL! Now there are even apartment buildings where the units start at that size. There were of course more than ten different categories of things people liked about Malaysia. The Malaysia My Second Home programme was liked by many people who carried that visa. Others commented the private health care system and quality of international schools in Malaysia. A few liked the low taxes – zero for MM2Hers on foreign income! Anita Murray from South America enjoys “local kopi susu from a Chinese kopi shop” and “meandering around the kampongs”.

Perhaps Zoltan Kitka summed up the positive comments best by writing “overall, this is one of the best places in the world to live in. A good standard of living with beautiful scenery, great food and nice people.”

Next month we will look at the dislikes. The list was much longer, meaning there was less agreement on what people disliked although a few items were predictably high on the list. The top ten “dislikes” showed a bigger change from last time than the list of “likes”, but more on that next month.

Source: The Expat September 2010 Issue

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