Expat Interview: Benoit Sommerland

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Name: Benoit Sommerlad
Home Country: France
Job/Industry: F&B/Hospitality

What brought you to Malaysia?
I came here to complete my Master’s Degree in Hospitality Management almost four years ago. I was supposed to stay only a few months but it’s been “a little” longer than anticipated!

What do you like or dislike about the country?
Life is good here to be honest – there’s summer weather all year long, great getaway destinations nearby, cheaper cost of living, the “melting pot” of cultures. What I like the most here is also what I dislike the most – the kind of overall chaos, the flexible rules depending on who you are and how you want to go about it. This creates a quite funky and fun atmosphere to live with lots of opportunities and room for creativity, but it can get tiring sometimes.

Name three typical weekend activities you enjoy.
Well, weekends in the F&B industry are almost non-existent, but I try to take some time off from time to time. I usually catch up with friends, or take the time to read the art and design books I buy and never have the time to read usually! Exercise is also a good way to release stress.

What is your favourite holiday destination here? Why?
Definitely Perhentian Island. The fact that within three hours you can be in the middle of nowhere on a beautiful beach is just priceless. It’s the only place where my phone stops ringing constantly as there’s no network (or I can pretend there’s no network!), and is just a great spot to unwind.

Describe a memorable eating experience you have had here.
There are plenty! You can find so much amazing food here. If I had to choose, it would be the ‘kampung’ style, homemade nasi lemak for breakfast at The Dusun in Seremban. Eating that on the terrace of your bungalow, overlooking the jungle as the sun rises is just fantastic.

How long do you think you will live in Malaysia? Where will you go next?
That’s the big question mark right now! I have no plan of moving just yet, as KL is my home now.

Is Malaysia a good place to work and do business in? Why?
In terms of business, the growth here is still quite strong compared to Europe and the opportunities are quite big. Working here can sometimes be tricky because of the cultural differences, but you need to be adaptable. It’s challenging sometimes because you need to question yourself quite a lot, but you definitely learn a lot here and get a great exposure. Malaysia is a bit melting pot and you learn to work with people from all over the world in terms of professional and personal experience this is priceless.

What advice would you give to a newly arrived expat?
You need to arrive in Malaysia with an open mind and to learn how to let go sometimes. You’ll definitely have culture shocks but that’s the beauty of living in a different country. People here are friendly and if you show interest in the Malaysian culture they’re more than happy to explain to you, to show you around and to help you discover “their KL.”


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