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Hi There (January 2014): Living in the Real World – Asia

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Life has a way of taking you places you often did not plan to go. I expect there are very few expats currently living in Malaysia who could have predicted 10 years ago that they would be living here in 2014. If they did, then in all probability they had already settled here by then.

I had certainly expected to eventually return to the UK when I left England in 1969, and indeed I did return for a short period in 1980, but found it difficult to adapt to the lifestyle. My conversations with old friends became difficult when all my recent experiences had been in parts of the world which most of them had never visited and few had any interest in knowing about. For their part, conversations were filled with recent happenings in the UK. In those days, keeping up with news from home was very difficult, so one tended to lose touch with all but the most major of events.

Nowadays, the internet allows us to keep current with everything that is happening through e-mails and online news feeds. The only issue is whether you want to, and typically, as the years pass, there is a declining interest in keeping current with all the details of life back in your home country.

My father spent quite a bit of time on the road and was often away for weeks at a time when I was young. I think he was the person who was most influential in making me want to go out and see the world. He only ever lived overseas once and that was in Beirut in the late 40s when I was too small to appreciate the life we had, which by all accounts was very pleasant.

Later he worked for a civil engineering firm which mostly did overseas contracts, and as the Financial Director, he frequently visited their various projects which were mostly in Africa and the Middle East. For the most part, the expats working on these projects lived isolated, rather artificial lives with endless dinner and cocktail parties and frequent discussions about life’s hardships in their respective country of residence. He told me he was usually given a very warm welcome as they had few visitors and were starved for news from home.

Based on these experiences, he would often remind me as the years progressed that I should seriously think about returning to the “real world”, as he called it, rather than the artificial life of an expat. He was most concerned that it would be hard for me to settle down in the UK again and find a proper job. He was certainly correct about adjusting back to life in the UK.

When I first arrived at Hong Kong’s Kai Tak airport in early 1970 and took the car ferry across the harbour to the Mandarin hotel on the island, I had no idea I would still be in Asia more than 40 years later. Although most of that time has been spent living in Asian countries, I was fortunate enough to also work in South America, Africa, the US, and several European countries, which gave me a feel for life elsewhere in the world. I met many expats who had settled in the countries I visited and had fallen in love with them, but for me it has always been Asia where I was happiest. I consider myself fortunate to have witnessed the amazing transformation and many exceptional events which have taken place out here.

So for me, Asia has always been the “real world” and I cannot imagine ever regretting the various decisions which have caused me to spend most of my life here. The many expats who have chosen to settle in Malaysia and other Asian countries shows I am not alone in my views.

Let me close by wishing you all a very happy and prosperous 2014.

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Source: The Expat January 2014

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