Why These Three Expats Chose to Live in Penang

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Many expats choose to make Penang their home for a variety of reasons. Here, we give them the chance to talk about what brought them to this charming island and why they stay.

Dominique Thompson

Dominique and her husband Guy live in Penang on the MM2H programme along with Dominique’s youngest daughter, who attends Dalat School.You can catch up with Dominique at her newly opened business, Body Smart, opposite the Catholic Church in Pulau Tikus.You may have eaten one of Guy’s delicious artisan quiches, as he makes them for the best pastry shops in George Town!

I am French, but also very much associated with the Indian Ocean, as I grew up in the Comoros Islands and Madagascar, where my father was gynaecologist. For most of my adult life I have lived in Africa, most specifi cally Kenya, but I went to university in France and visit there regularly. So I really am an expat, but a world citizen and one that has good links with their native land.

Guy and I were living in India when we came to Penang for a holiday and liked it. We applied for the MM2H programme and found a good school for my daughter Sandrine.We’ve been here five years and seen quite a lot of change in Penang – there’s more traffic! There are also quite a lot of high-rise condos now; I hope they don’t build too many more as it might detract from the charm of the place. I am glad George Town is a Heritage Site as that protects it from over-development. I love the town houses; you catch the essence of Penang by walking up and down the streets of George Town.The “must-sees” of Penang include the Blue Mansion, Little India, and Penang Hill. If you like walking, the National Park is a must, and Monkey Beach is worth a visit.

One thing about Malaysia (and Asia, generally) that I like is that there is more respect for older people and, in Penang especially, there’s a lot of cultural tolerance. The multi-cultural aspect of Penang is one of the things that make it a great place to live and the varied foods on offer are delicious. I do enjoy the hawker stalls where I have lunch (near my business in Pulau Tikus) butI also enjoy eating Western food atVia Pre, That Little Wine Bar, and Cassis. I can’t eat too much as I have just opened a weight loss centre and I must set a good example!

When we first arrived, we bought a house in Batu Ferringhi, but now we rent an apartment in Tanjong Bunga; it’s easier and more convenient.We have such a wide social circle here with friends from Australia, Europe, and South Africa, but also Malaysians of all ethnic backgrounds. It makes for an interesting life.

Of course I miss certain things about France, such as the croissants and the baguettes as well as the art and the cultural events. And I miss the wide, open spaces of Africa, the magnificent coastlines, and the feeling of oneness with nature.

Mike Gibby

Mike and his wife live in Penang on the MM2H programme. Mike can often be found at the pedals of his bike – here he is visiting the Kek Lok Si Temple in Ayer Itam.


Originally from the UK, I lived and worked in Singapore for 30 years in a large international school, until retiring in 2011. Throughout those years, Malaysia was a favourite destination for escaping from Singapore for myself and my family, and also with student groups.

My wife and I have been in Penang one year so far, and we settled and adjusted very quickly.We’ve bought a condo apartment in Batu Ferringhi.We love the relaxed pace of life, the food, and the friendly welcome from both local and expat residents – we love the whole quality of life.

When I look at Malaysia as a whole, there may be locations that are more beautiful or more developed than Penang, but nowhere compares with the unique mix available here: sea, mountains, and forest, heritage buildings and the comforts of modern life. It’s a great place to enjoy the outdoors. There are many delights in Penang, and it’s impossible to limit them to just one sensory experience.You have to come here to enjoy them all.

While living here, my opinion of Malaysia has improved. I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the efficiency of electrical and telephone services such as Telekom and Tenaga.What I really enjoy in Penang is the feeling of being close to nature and the city at the same time. I enjoy the quality of lifestyle possible and the easy-going attitude of everyone. I am less keen on the Kamikaze motorcyclists who seem to think their lives are your responsibility.

If you want to experience Penang then you must catch the view from Muka Head lighthouse.You have to go for a bike ride with MetroBike Tours in order to really appreciate the heritage sites of George Town, and we love fi nding all the Ernest Zacharevic murals in George Town – it a great.

I miss very little of England apart from scenery, close friends, and family, but we’ve made a blend of local and expat friends here and look forward to being here a long time.

Alexandra Chaplygina

Alexandra Chaplygina lives in Penang but is a native of Russia.You can catch up with her walking around George Town, as she often guides people around the heritage zone. Here she is enjoying a cappuccino and a Pavlova cake in her favourite coffee shop, Harvey’s, at Gleneagles Hospital.

I followed my future husband to Penang. He was studying medicine in Russia when we met. I came here twice for a holiday before settling here last year. I was teaching Russian as a foreign language [in Russia] for some time and a few of my students were Malaysians; this is how I got to know about Malaysia’s existence and the life here. Before that, like majority of other Russians, I had no idea where Malaysia was. We know of Singapore and Thailand but we don’t know what’s in between!

Penang is a feast for the senses. I particularly love the mamak shops in George Town where a group of Chinese uncles are speaking Hokkien at one table, a Malay family with a lot of children are seated at the next, and some European-looking tourists at the third. Penang mixes everything and everyone.


I particularly love Penang for three things: I can have summer the whole year around (which is a bit of a treat after our Russian winters). I adore the buses. And best of all, Penang is so diverse: it has mountains for hiking, a sea to swim in, shopping malls for shopping, night clubs… and heritage, also.

Like everywhere, there are a few downsides to Penang. It’s a pity that there are not many possibilities for cycling here, despite the local offi cials trying to position Penang as one of pioneers developing “green” transport. Cyclists still have to cycle on the same lane as the motorcycles, and there is absolutely no chance to roller blade! My blades are still in the box I brought them to Penang in. I am not keen on the heavy air conditioning in public spaces. I understand you need it because the climate is so hot, but I can’t stand the idea that, in a tropical country, I feel frozen almost to death in the college, shopping mall, and bus.

The “must sees” of Penang are the Cheah Kong Si, Street of Harmony (Jalan Kapitan Keling), and the National Park at Teluk Bahang. If I need to treat my foreign friends to something local we usually go the Northam Beach coffee shop as they have a good variety of the local delicacies including Sarawak laksa.

I don’t have property here yet, but I hope my future husband and I will have some eventually. It is just hard to decide between a house with a nice lawn and an apartment with facilities.

I think I have more Malaysian friends now, but I keep in touch with my friends in Moscow. Sometimes I miss the snow, but I would only like to have it for two weeks rather than the fi ve-month Moscow experience! I also miss the long days of the northern summer: in Moscow, the sun sets about 11pm in the summer, so people stay longer outdoors. I also really miss my family. Maybe Moscow has more things to do than Penang, but I am very happy with Penang.


Source: Penang International February 2013 -March 2013

Read more:

What are your thoughts on this article? Let us know by commenting below.No registration needed.

"ExpatGo welcomes and encourages comments, input, and divergent opinions. However, we kindly request that you use suitable language in your comments, and refrain from any sort of personal attack, hate speech, or disparaging rhetoric. Comments not in line with this are subject to removal from the site. "


Click to comment

Most Popular

To Top