A Chat with an American Expat in Malaysia

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Name: Acacia Hori
Home Country: USA
Industry/Job: Education
Other countries you have lived in: Botswana

What brought you to Malaysia and how long have you been here?
I am an English Teaching Assistant through the Fulbright Program. I arrived in Malaysia in January and have been living in Sri Aman, Sarawak since February.

What do you like and dislike about living here?
There are so many things that I love about living here. I’m surrounded by beauty every day, the people in my community are very warm and eager to share their cultures, the languages are relatively simple to learn and the food is fantastic. The thing that I cherish the most is time I’ve been able to spend in the longhouses around Sri Aman, harvesting rice and socializing with the elders. As far as what I dislike, I don’t think I’ll ever get used to the way people drive and park their cars here!

Describe a memorable eating experience you have had here.
I don’t know why, but whenever I travel, I find myself face-to-tonsil with some kind of insect. In Kuching, it happened to be a sago worm. My friends helped me pick out a plump one about the size of my thumb and instructed me to pinch the head so that it wouldn’t be able to bite me back. Into my mouth the wriggling yellowish body went, and then, chomp! I severed the head with my front teeth and quickly swallowed the body. The texture was soft and creamy, and there wasn’t really much of a taste. Honestly, it was a much more neutral experience than I had anticipated, but the wriggling sensation definitely made for an unforgettable experience.

Name three typical weekend activities that you enjoy
If we aren’t working with students, my roommate and I take road trips around Borneo. We are both from California and have a deep fondness for the open road. When we get to a new place, we soak in its unique history, cultures, and flavours. I also spend a lot of time completing photography challenges for a creative co-op online, and when I am not doing either (or both) of those things, you can sometimes find me hanging out in a cave, wishing I could be a bat.

What do you miss about your home country?
Three words: fresh corn tortillas. And, my university library.

What advice would you give to a newly arrived expat?
The people I’ve met here love to share. If you’re wondering about something, ask someone. If someone invites you to breakfast or dinner, go. If someone asks you to be a part of something and you are even marginally able to, do it. Remember those who have helped you and reciprocate.

As with all extended stays abroad, culture shock here can be jarring and aggravating at times. Be patient with others and with yourself. Culture shock doesn’t happen in isolation, and when you are having trouble adjusting to the way someone else does things, remember that they are probably also adjusting to you. At the risk of saying something obvious, I can’t stress enough how important it is to be kind and open. Prioritizing relationships over my personal agenda has gone a long way in helping me accomplish my goals and the goals of my local colleagues. It has also opened up a lot of doors that I wouldn’t have known about otherwise.


How long do you plan to stay in Malaysia? Where would you like to go next, and why?
I’ll be in Malaysia until the end of October, and after that, I intend to travel the world solo. My first stop will be Myanmar, where I am excited to witness all of the November festivals in the context of the changing times.

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