There are many expats who live in Penang and all over Malaysia, but there are also a great number of these people who, to me, live a disconnected life here. I was having lunch the other day with a fellow expat, who I don't often see, as he is taking a very active part in the life of Penang and the rest of Southeast Asia. We had a discussion about expat life here and how some expats view themselves. We were both in complete agreement that some expats are just existing here, instead of living.
When I got home I began to think more about our discussion and became a little upset with a few things expats do or do not do. One situation which really upset me was an article I recently read on an expat blog or forum. Malaysia has just had an election where the ruling party of over 50 years was narrowly reelected. As in any close election there were some very deep feelings and emotions. As an expat I do not feel that I, or any other expat. has any business in getting involved in Malaysian politics. In this article the author was commenting about the election results, and more or less saying the outcome was a good thing - not for Malaysian, but for him. He was worried that if another party had taken over he might be economically effected. In other words he was more interested in HIS well being than the average Malaysian citizen!
These same people are the expats who belong to all kinds of groups compromised of only expats and discuss how to better their lives here, rather than how to join in celebrating the various cultures here. These are the same people who have 1 or 2 token "local" friends here to show off to their friends back home. These are the same people who are too "snooty' to eat in local coffee shops, food courts or hawker stands, preferring only dining where they have a tablecloth, flowers and silverware and they don't have to get their fingers dirty. These people are the same ones who spend their time going to the liquor store, Starbucks or Coffee Bean and then back home to sit on their balconies to get trashed. Why are they here?
These people are an embarrassment to the majority of expats who live here. I have a friend who love Penang and is very active. She does exercise classes and runs in marathons, not just with her fellow expats but with everyone. She also spends a great deal of here time volunteering for the elderly and handicapped of Penang. I know of another person who works hard to share the art and culture of Penang with the worlds. There are many people who have immersed themselves in the local culture so well that they sometimes forget they are expats. These are the people who are the true face of the expat community here.
Penang also has a lot to offer in the areas of the arts, music and entertainment. There are many recreational and sports acitivities to lure those interested. One thing that many expats don't know about is the very active and varied night life in Penang. Soon I will be posting a Guest Post by the author of Pick of Penang, a real expert on Penang night life.
If you are really interested in coming to Penang to live please take an active part in your new community and enjoy the food, the people, the culture and your new life. Don't become a transplanted garden gnome.