An Expat's Guide to Enjoying the Pleasures of Life Outside of Work

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Too many expats spend their whole time in Malaysia working, seeing more of the office than the tropical paradise on their doorsteps. Sarah Rees urges you not to miss out on the pleasures of life for the sake of work.

For those who work in Malaysia, life can be busy. Expats often hold responsible positions within large companies, and the pressure to perform and deliver in the professional forum, as well as entertain clients and service business partners, can mean that life in Malaysia becomes nothing more than a cycle of work-sleep-work.

This may be good for your CV and your bank account, but it is a lifestyle that you may come to regret in later years, when life takes you somewhere colder and more expensive and you think back longingly to the opportunities you missed by becoming a slave to the office.

It is not always easy to schedule some time for things that seem an indulgence when there is work to be done, but here are some easy ways to make the most of your time here in Malaysia, and to ensure that the work-life balance maintains a happy equilibrium. 

Friday Feeling

When that final day of the week comes around, there is a definite feeling of liberty in the air, so take advantage of the fact that many people leave early on a Friday and do the same yourself. Your clients and contacts will not be around, so force yourself out the office early. It will help if you make plans for your Friday evening, as this will serve as an incentive to start the weekend early.

Pick A Place

Make a list of all the places in Malaysia that you would like to see during your time here. This can be anything, from Redang island to the State Mosque in Shah Alam, and if you ask around you will find people can easily recommend places they consider “unmissable.” Stick this list somewhere you can see it, and aim to tick one off each month.

Join A club

There are many social clubs, sport organisations, and expat associations to get involved with in Malaysia, and you will find it easy to locate one that meets in your area on a day that suits you. This is a great way to meet some new people, and by committing to a weekly activity, you will find it easier to avoid those late nights at the office.


Go Out For Lunch

It is tempting to eat lunch at the desk, especially if you are rushing a project or nervous of the prospect of a traffic jam around your favourite restaurant. A word of advice: don’t do it! This precious hour in your day is a great opportunity to get to know your work colleagues and make the most of the Malaysian food scene. Aim to go out for lunch once a week and pick a different place each time – perhaps suggest to your colleagues that they “surprise you” or introduce you to their favourite establishment.

Say No

Learn to be a little less generous with your time. This doesn’t mean making life difficult for your employers and colleagues, but it does mean putting your foot down when work tries to creep into your personal time. All too often, employees will work overtime purely because they want to appear to be hard working, but if you are conscientious and reliable, there is no need to stay any longer than necessary. Do your work, and then get away – life is too short to work longer than you have to!

Try Something New

Think of something that you have always wanted to try but never had the time or the opportunity – this could be anything, from learning to speak a language, joining a football team, or mastering scuba diving. If you live in a large city like KL, you will easily find a place offering the activity you have in mind, and you will often find that the course fees – if there are any – will be far more affordable than what you would pay back home. It may seem like a lot of effort, but once you begin, you will find that the pleasure of learning something new is far outweighs the time it takes.

Family First

If you are here in Malaysia with your family, make them a priority in your life, and make sure that you make time to enjoy your new home with them too. Stick a picture of your family up in your office as a reminder to leave early enough to have dinner together, or to ensure that you don’t miss that school concert or sports event that means so much to them. Make Sunday evenings a weekly family dinner out, inviting your children to pick a place to go and thus preventing yourself slipping back into work mode before the week has even begun.

Take To The Skies


Malaysia is well-positioned for regional travel, and there are some wonderful, exotic destinations located a short flight from KL that you would be foolish not visit while you are so close. As if you needed any more incentive, flight prices are competitive in Southeast Asia, especially off-season, so take time to browse the online travel sites and book any good deal you can find. Once the commitment has been made and money changed hands, you will find it easier to plan around a short break from work.


Source: The Expat May 2013

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