Malaysians, this is what it Actually feels like to live away from Home

Every time I return home (as in, where I was born and raised), a truckload of people say that I am not just lucky, but privileged, and more often than not, there is one person who would conveniently pass me a remark that I am ‘one of those people’ who are living it up overseas while people back home are only capable of making ends meet.

Before someone else repeats that statement, this is what I have to say:


In a completely new environment, you start from scratch.

The idea of being in a foreign country is initially very exciting, but that statement might not be the same when reality finally sets in.

New place, new friends, new job, new laws, new policies, new traffic rules, new food, new EVERYTHING. With new social norms, you have to interact differently; people don’t understand your Manglish, you can’t end sentences with ‘Lah’ and what you think could pass as an innocent joke could end up being a dreadful insult to someone else. 

It takes awhile for you to adapt in a completely new environment and more often than not, you learn through making minor (and major) mistakes before feeling like you finally belong, somewhat.

Wherever you are in the world, we all have the same struggles.

Just like you, I have bills to pay, exams to study for, a career to build and money to earn for necessities and unpredictable rainy days.

I also have a house chores, dirty clothes to pick off the floor, laundry to wash/dry/iron (because mom is an 11-hour flight away), a car to regularly service (no male family member you could conveniently ask), meals to prep for lunch the next day (read previous point about absence of mom), and make sure that I wake myself up every morning to be on time for work.

Your daily responsibilities does not magically go away when you live in a different country.

Move aside Muesli and Eggs Benedict, give me my Roti Bakar and Milo Ais!

I dare you to disagree on this. I dare you.

There is only YOU to help YOURSELF in a foreign country.

In almost all aspects, in times of need, you are it.

You are your first person to go to, your own handyman, your lifesaver; everything is you. It is difficult at times but on the bright side, you acquire independence faster because the absence of your next-of-kin leaves you not much of a choice but do to everything on your own.

The feeling of being Homesick is REAL.

It’s hard to believe, but it gets harder with every goodbye.

There are mostly good days, but on the occasional bad days, you just wish to curl up amidst the familiarity of home. The amount of milestones you miss out at home while ‘living the life overseas’ can be quite depressing, just so you know.

The fact that we have better salary is both true AND false!

I admit that wages for certain career paths are definitely more than substantial, but just because our foreign currency has a conversion rate that is stronger than the Ringgit, it doesn’t mean that we can spend on everything and anything just because ‘it is cheaper once you convert la’. Period.

Don’t get me started on the amount of taxes we have to pay.

Being overseas makes you have more appreciation for where you come from.

Politics aside, it’s the little things that makes you realise just how much your country has to offer. It’s always a pleasure of mine to answer the questions that people ask; to elaborate on the good and also straighten out the bad ones that might have been construed by the media, especially in recent times.

And lastly,

There is nothing quite like Home.

People from different racial and cultural backgrounds. The use of multi-languages in a single sentence. Existence of actual late-night entertainment if you’re bored/hungry. Accessible beaches and dive spots. Mountains and rainforests or whatever that’s left of it, if you get my drift. The mamak; Oh, the mamak. The putu mayam uncle that honks his horn as he passes the neighbourhood. RM5.00 Chap fan…

As much as you are adamant about the perception you have for people who live overseas, there are times when the grass is not necessarily greener on the other side.

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27 Comments

  1. Every single word in your post echoes my sentiments when I left home to pursue my career abroad. The initial phase of the move was exciting but boy was I surprised by all the challenges that were to come. In fact, I find myself struggling more now. It’s funny how it is that I questioned myself on multiple occasions on how conflicted I felt. And friends and relatives were always in the impression that I’m living THE LIFE.

    The tax and cost of living struggle is real.
    The roti bakar, nasi lemak, chap fan, “Aneh, roti telur satu” at 3am is real.
    Flipping through your contact list on your off days realising there’s no one you can call out for yum cha is real.
    Guess what? We’re the immigrants now.

    As time passes by, there’s no denying that there’s nothing quite like tanah air.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I totally agree with you. I went to India for a while and even then I started to feel homesick, craving nasi lemak and all. I mean, yeah, it is of course an amazing experience, but I was also excited to come back home just as I was excited to go for the trip.

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  3. I lived abroad for over a decade and now have return back to KL for business opportunities (Sorry this is going to be a negative post). Coming from the other spectrum, I can say that I am super grateful for the life abroad. The first few years abroad was challenging, building new friendships along with business relations, but once I’m assimilated my way of life, I find myself eating muesli for breakfast even though I’ve moved back to KL. Coming back made me realise how much my values has changed. When starting my life back here, got hit with issues that was never a problem while overseas, which lead me to think how unprotected things are, almost like a cowboy town!

    If not for my friends, life back here is miserable, the future is bleak. Find myself working twice as hard for less.

    Didn’t know how good I had it while abroad. All I can say is I cannot wait to get back abroad, only this time its harder to do so while the ringgit is so weak.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Definitely take your point into consideration 🙂 i guess I should have mentioned that I equally enjoy my time being in a different country, although it comes with its struggles at times. I am grateful for where I am at the moment, this is probably just a message to make people realise how we still relate to home in so many ways, and we don’t forget our roots as how some might assume we do. Great comment!

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    2. got hit with issues that was never a problem while overseas, which lead me to think how unprotected things are, almost like a cowboy town!…….can you elaborate on this a bit please. I think i know what you’re talking about.

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  4. People leave Maia for different reasons. If u’re middle class, its true u will go further in Maia. Sometimes we have to look beyond that and consider pol culture, educatiional opportunities, civility of the place, even things like beauty of the outdoors. moving abroad is a very individual decision. Msia is still a very nice place for many many folks.

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      1. yes i am.
        the fact that many of us do well abroad, this is a credit to the msian govt, their english public educ system and efforts at building a mulit-racial country. this is a reference
        to the govt of the 70’s/early 80s.

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  5. think outside the box my friends. yes it takes a lot of sacrifices and challenges initially, but it’s worth it in the long run. take it from me who has lived in ozzieland for nearly 3 decades. our kids, and now their own abc kids are enjoying a far better life than their friends back in malaysia. if you work hard and have a clear purpose in life and focus on it, you will succeed in whatever you do. don’t think only about food (we can get all types of oriental things here), think about the education, health, housing, environment, transportation and cultural diversity and you will appreciate these more.

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  6. Being away, I have learned humility, and realized that many regular people in KL are just really spoiled and pampered. Where I am now, most people work 2 jobs to make ends meet, have hardly extra income to spend on movies, dinners out, travel or for shopping. Whatever they make goes back to their families and their culture. Life is hard but you know what makes it better? The PEOPLE. They seem happier, are nicer, friendlier, more caring, more civil, they help each other out and they SMILE. They give off positive vibes and are just nicer to each other naturally. Maybe it’s a blessing in disguise that everyone where I am is just focusing on work and family; they have less time to sit around in the office to gossip about others or make fitnahs about someone that they hardly know.

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  7. It’s all about the reason for which you left. We’ve just been back from 6 weeks back home and after 4 years away in Europe, we’ve certainly seen how bad things have become back home, no regrets; despite the above points, home unfortunately has no relevance to us because we’ve seen how bad things really are. And how the future for us is now away from “home”.

    The points you mention above are mainly adaptation challenges that are typically faced the 1st 2 years or so. Having said that though; we’ve seen how Malaysians themselves are probably not the best “Candidates” for migration. For example, in 2015 – a record number (10) of Malaysians from Cyberjaya transferred (internally) to our data center (in EU). In January, I found out that half of them had gone home – gf at home, can’t stand the food/weather, most of which are covered above.

    As for not having people to depend on, I guess it all depends on upbringing; even back home; I never had people I could depend on and was always forced to be independent since I was young (I started cooking when i was 11).

    As mentioned; it’s all about the reason for which you’re leaving. It’s easy to overcome challenges when you have a bigger picture in your mind. Especially if it’s “trivial” issues (as compared to the bigger picture) for which workarounds could be found. For example, we cook most of the food we miss the most – in some cases, we cook even better than the food back home in Malaysia.

    So; in summary, it’s all about the bigger picture…

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