Why retire in Malaysia and what makes Malaysia so appealing
Ever wondered why you should consider a retirement home here in Malaysia? If you have spent time travelling in Malaysia, you will have learned about the many advantages of making Malaysia your second home. Of course, relocating to new country comes with many culture shocks and surprises. But the benefits always outweigh the drawbacks eventually, as many seasoned travelers have discovered. Leaving your homeland for an alien country is always difficult but once you have transitioned towards your life goal, your hard work and effort is surely worthwhile indeed. Having accumulated sufficient life savings, and planning to invest them to start a new home elsewhere is truly a life-changing decision. Choosing the right country to start anew is another factor to consider or contemplate with key factors such as living cost and business opportunities. Malaysia’s rapid-paced economic growth and development has resulted in investments in infrastructure and the continuous upgrading of facilities, as evident to anyone living here. Future expats should seriously consider applying for a ‘Malaysia My Second Home’ visa as those who are already living in Malaysia under the existing MM2H programme have experienced positive vibes and claimed rave reviews during their homestay.
Birds eye-view of the Kuala Lumpur city centre skyline depicts a buzzing business and trade atmosphere
Malaysian hospitality at its finest
Malaysians are generally simple, warm, friendly and welcoming to foreigners and tourists from other countries. Because the various races live in relative peace and harmony, co-existing with other people becomes second nature to Malaysians. Although Bahasa Malaysia is the official national language, English is commonly used as the universal language of communication in all daily routine, activities and transactions. This makes it rather easy to communicate and converse with most Malaysians as there is little need for active or direct translation. Malaysia’s rich heritage and diverse population is uniquely Malaysian in a multi-cultural society whereby all religions are respected and tolerated. It is a cultural melting pot like no other, very much like the rojak, laksa or nasi lemak Malaysians themselves consumed with delectable pride. The Malaysian hospitality is indeed truly Asia!
Affordable living on a budget
Living on a budget is not a problem at all in a developing country like Malaysia. With most of the luxury developments concentrated within the city centre, there are still pockets of suburban areas within the city limits which offer low-cost housing and cheap accommodation, including Airbnb and other homestays. Most expats generally prefer Malaysia as a homestay destination due to its general low-cost of living with a low population density within the suburbs. Compared to their country of origin, Malaysian homes provide better quality and standard of living to expatriates without breaking their budget. Since monetary transactions from abroad are tax-free, it makes living in Malaysia an even more attractive option.
The top two grouses faced by expats living in Malaysia concern the exorbitant motor vehicle and alcoholic beverage taxes. Unlike in their home country, buying cars in Malaysia is a pretty expensive affair due to excessive import duties. Under the MM2H scheme, foreign applicants are entitled to one personal vehicle with full waiver on all duties and taxes. Moreover, liquor and alcoholic drinks can cost a fortune if you happen to be a booze-head or a drinker. Fortunately, foreigners can still purchase affordable beer and cider at convenience stores, hypermarkets, restaurants, as well as lounges and pubs (particularly during happy hours). Prices for houses and apartments are reasonably affordable if you stay on the outskirts of KLCC. It is even possible to purchase a nice home (with a pool and jacuzzi) if you are willing to fork out a higher premium. Malaysia is also one of three nations in Asia (apart from Singapore and Hong Kong) to offer freehold properties for sale to foreign property buyers. The waiting period is just three months after entry visa is approved. Malaysian homeownership has never been quite so simple!
Economic and political stability
The epitome of Malaysia’s economic prowess and political stability is a result of the government’s cohesive and coherent federal policies that benefit all Malaysian citizens without prejudice or discrimination, without fear or favour. Ethical policies are encouraged whilst corrupt practices are abhorred. Nonetheless, after years of phenomenal growth and robust development, the national economy has reached saturation point with upcoming downturns and a looming recession ahead. The Asian financial crisis back in 1997 remains a constant reminder to many Malaysians who suffered as a result of labour retrenchments, housing foreclosures and business failures. This seems to imply that excessive market speculation on currency or property is to blame for most cases of economic collapse or downfall. The future economic outlook now is looking more promising than ever under the nation’s stewardship of Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib Tun Abdul Razak who introduced sweeping changes in terms of political reforms and economic agendas. Despite the current currency fluctuations experienced by Malaysia, the ringgit remains robust within the local financial system with active trading markets and multiple online transactions. The national political landscape seems hazy initially, but the economic environment is gradually changing and is transforming towards an increasingly affluent society with a much a higher gross income per capita as Vision 2020 comes to fruition.
World-class infrastructure and amenities
The public infrastructure in Malaysia is hailed by many as being among the best in the world. With world-class airports (i.e. KLIA/KLIA2), ultra-modern capital cities (i.e. Putrajaya, and the future upcoming Bandar Malaysia), as well as the much anticipated DFTZ (Digital Free Trade Zone) – an e-commerce digital logistics hub joint-venture business collaboration between MDEC (Malaysian Development & Economic Corporation) and Alibaba Group of China. Malaysia continues to forge and foster a strong commitment towards becoming a leading regional hub for ICT and digital e-commerce. The creation of the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) in Cyberjaya @ Sepang is in line with the government’s continual commitment to invest in the latest technologies and infrastructure. Malaysia is also committed to future smart cities, seamless public transportation networks (i.e. BRT, LRT, MRT, ERL, Komuter), as well as having the friendliest people in Asia let alone in Asean!
A heavenly gastronomic haven
Malaysia is truly blessed with a diverse cultural heritage and its unique melting pot of gastronomic delights comprising Malay, Chinese and Indian cuisines of mouth-watering proportions. The mind-boggling number of pubs, lounges, cafes, delis, restaurants, food courts and hawker stalls found throughout Malaysia are a sheer testament to Malaysians’ gargantuan appetite for good food and great beverages. The local F&B industry is certainly doing brisk business and the consumers are certainly spoilt for choice when it comes to variety and affordability. Depending on one’s budget, open-air food stalls are typically cheaper compared to posh air-conditioned restaurants with cozy ambience.
Most Malaysian delicacies and delights can be found at weekend bazaars and night markets, as well as at street hawkers along busy pedestrian sidewalks. The occasional standalone rojak stalls, cendol carts and hot-pot vans can also be spotted around commercial and residential areas. These days, food trucks are the norm or standard as they typically converge around people-centric hotspots such as malls, hotels, shop-houses, business offices, street corners, theme parks, and event areas. But if you prefer hassle-free fast food, there is always KFC, McD, or PizzaHut to begin with. Whatever your taste or preference, Malaysian food is guaranteed to satisfy even the most demanding or discerning of palettes. And if you fancy more exotic dishes, there are always steak houses, grill stations and Asian barbecue. Safe to say, travelers will never go hungry as food from all over the world can be readily found in Malaysia. To our fellow expats, bon appetit!
The ultimate shopper’s paradise
With a plethora of retail malls strewn all over the country especially within major cities and other metropolitan areas, tourists are definitely spoilt for choice with regards to shopping. Many popular shopping malls are conveniently located in the famed Golden Triangle of Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC) which serves as an ideal shopping hub for most shopaholics. So whether you are hunting for some souvenirs or eyeing your fave designer labels, Malaysia’s malls have it all and more! Among the top Malaysian malls are Mid Valley Megamall, Pavilion KL, Sunway Pyramid, Sunway Velocity, IOI City Mall, MyTOWN and One Utama.
Bargain hunting for cheap merchandise is a breeze with an assortment of roadside bazaars and night markets which are a common sight around the country. There are also duty-free shops in Langkawi, Subang and KLIA/KLIA2 which offer selected items minus hefty import taxes. Home furnishing stores such as IKEA, MUJI, DAISO, MiniSo, and Mr. DIY carry a wide range of household appliances and accessories for homemakers and DIY enthusiasts alike. Modern hypermarkets such as Aeon, Tesco, Mydin, Giant and JayaGrocer offer rebates and discounts for season shoppers and bulk items. They are a godsend for expatriates since they carry a myriad selection of imported goods from overseas.
Nature’s splendour and scenic beauty
The beauty of being one of the lowest populated countries in Asia is having plenty of untouched countryside where you may explore the virgin jungles, trek the hill sites and tropical islands, or simply relax and unwind on the beach. The wealth or abundance of flora and fauna in Malaysia is truly unique and one of a kind. With easy accessibility via river boats and off-road vehicles to deep inland settlements, Malaysian roads are generally a joy and pleasure to drive on due to its excellent construction using only high-grade bitumen. One can get to almost any point, place or destination in Malaysia through the vast network of expressways, highways, flyovers and access/trunk roads. There are also a substantial number of premier hotels offering premium services at one of the cheapest rates within Asia.
Malaysia also has four UNESCO-designated world heritage sites, namely Lenggong Valley (Kedah), Gunung Mulu National Park (Sarawak) and Kinabalu Park (Sabah), as well as the cities of George Town (Penang) and Malacca (Melaka). Kinabalu Park is a bird watcher’s paradise, whilst Mount Kinabalu is the tallest mountain peak in Malaysia. Other acclaimed ‘nature attractions’ include Cameron Highlands (tea plantations), Taman Negara (The National Park), Batu Caves (largest Hindu temple & Lord Murugan statue), Genting Highlands (casino theme park), Sunway Lagoon (water theme park), Legoland Malaysia (interactive theme park), Forest City (smart city island), and Berjaya Times Square (largest indoor theme park).
Sunny weather all year round
Who does not like the sun? I bet many expatriates would trade-in their business attires for beach boxers. As a tropical nation situated directly on the equatorial line, the sun shines almost all year round with occasional rain and thunderstorm and intermittent dry spells. Although basking in the sun is good for skin health, but too much sun can cause excessive UV radiation exposure leading to sunburn. Hence, always wear regular sunscreen protection, put on your favourite pair of sunglasses and adorn a top-hat shade whenever you venture outdoors. For the heat conscious, there are always air-conditioned shopping malls and bazaar sidewalks with covered walkways for temporary relief from the scorching hot sun. Malaysia is also famed for its idyllic islands, stunning beaches, and pristine rainforests. The beautiful beaches along the coastal regions such as Langkawi, Pangkor, Tioman, Desaru, Sipadan and Perhentian offer a host of exciting leisure facilities and waterfront activities including jet skis, regatta, kayaking, canoeing, chalets (homestays), water parks, buggy rides, jungle treks, and rock climbing.
Entertainment and buzzing night life
The entertainment scene and night life in Malaysia is quite a spectacle especially the ‘watering holes’ (pubs, cafes, lounges and discotheques) around major cities specifically in Kuala Lumpur’s Golden Triangle. Aside from sampling scrumptious fusion cuisines and drinking free-flow beer, you can also catch the latest film releases at the many modern movie theatres and cineplexes (i.e. cinemas within shopping mall complexes). Online access via free Wi-Fi hotspots are a breeze with high-speed broadband internet connections activated throughout the country. For those who love drama and theatre, there is the Istana Budaya situated along Jalan Ampang, and also the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra based in Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre (KLCC) which boasts world-renowned musicians and international artists who perform during key festivals or festivities. And if you fancy settling for the night in the comfort of your home then you could simply tune in to TM’s HyppTV internet movies portal, or watch Astro’s satellite network which offers multiple television channels of unlimited fun and entertainment.
Public safety and optimal healthcare
The Malaysian crime rate index is generally lower than most developed nations in the West. The Royal Malaysian Police (PDRM) is always ready to serve the public in eradicating crime and upholding peace and order. Police patrols and beat stations are setup and distributed all over the city to safeguard tourists from potential muggings and prospective snatch thefts. Security guards stationed within gated and guarded residences are constantly on stand-by to protect the safety of their residents. Public healthcare services are also top-notch with comprehensive medical insurance coverage. Efficient delivery coupled with first-class medical facilities ensures patients receive the best treatments possible at the most affordable rates. Health services are on-time and medical facilities are available on-demand in all major cities with well-stocked and fully-equipped hospitals, and clinics run by highly trained and qualified staff. Medical costs are also significantly lower than in many other western countries. Malaysia also has some of the best doctors in Asia, with most medical practitioners having graduated from Ivy League universities in United States and the United Kingdom.
Strategic location and travel convenience
Malaysia’s strategic location in the South-East Asian region serves as an ideal transportation hub to connect with other Asean countries in the vicinity such as Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and the Philippines. With the proliferation of budget air travel throughout this region, cross-border business transactions suddenly seem more profitable. Regional air travel has also gotten more affordable over the years. Malaysia’s foray into the budget airlines business witnessed the entry of major airline players into the local air industry such as AirAsia, Fireflyz and Malindo Air. Intense competition between airlines have brought down the airfare so much that it is no longer an excuse to say that air travel is costly. Now everyone can fly, literally! Malaysia’s airlines offer some of the cheapest fares to all four corners of the globe. For budding entrepreneurs and seasoned businesspersons, the only logical and sensible way to travel is to fly. Malaysia’s tropical climate and warm weather all year round is what attracts many expatriates to make Malaysia their home base. Since these expats come from cold countries, they would certainly feel at home in our country. Hence, Malaysia’s second home initiative continues to grow and flourish. Ultimately, retiring in Malaysia seems not so far-fetched and impractical after all. – HFM