About 6 years ago I arrived in Penang to start a new adventure of an American expat living in Malaysia. The country, the climate, the food, the customs and culture, and the food was all quite new to me. Everyone told me that I would get homesick immediately. I really didn't get homesick, but I did miss some of the things I could buy back home.There was not the variety of consumer products I was used to back home, but I sort of got used to that, ordering what I really wanted from Amazon, having friends or relatives send items or buying them when I went home to visit. Some things I just had to accept, like having no screens on the windows to keep the bugs out and silly little things like electric can openers and oven broilers.
I did miss many of the foods I like from back home, like real Italian food, Mexican, Tex-Mex and Greek food. The chains here that sell it are really bad. I grew up eating Italian food and found nothing here that has come close. Western food, as they call it here in Malaysia, is atrocious. If someone wants to make their own Italian or Mexican food they almost have to take out a bank loan to buy the ingredients, if they can be found at all. I found it impossible to find real Italian sausage, sweet or hot, as no one has ever heard of it. What most people call sausage here is actually cheaply made and is actually not so tasty hot dogs. Also most restaurants don't serve pork and you can't make decent Italian sausage with chicken!
I really enjoyed the variety of Asian food, however. I very much like spicy food and hot peppers, which thankfully I had no trouble finding. Even though the local food was great, I at times could not get used to having rice at every meal. It seems that when you go out to a local place for dinner you start off with a plate of rice, which is about 85% of your meal. Because of all of the rice I ate I packed on the pounds. I found it very difficult finding vegetable dishes without them being drowned in oil. Salads are only found in higher end restaurants or you have to make them yourselves.
The above are some of my pet peeves about living here, but they are not really that important. The one aspect of living here that I could not overcome was the weather. I have chronic bronchitis and asthma and I have found it difficult to breathe here. I thought I would get used to the heat and humidity after a while, but in the past couple of years the weather seems to have gotten hotter and more humid. I found that there were many days that I had no energy because of the heat and humidity. When I went to the gym I had a hard time exercising as the gym was often stuffy and there was no air circulation. The locals were wearing jackets and I was dying in the heat. I tried losing weight, but did not have the lung power to carry on much intense cardio.
I do love the people here in Penang though and have made many good friends. I mostly socialized with the local population, with most of my friends being Chinese or Indian and Malay. I can honestly say that I really didn't care to hang around other expats, except for a few close European friends. I found that a number of the expats did not look too kindly on Americans. I expected that when I moved here I might get some rude and prejudicial behavior from the local Malaysians, but I never got any from them. I got it from some European expats! When I do leave Malaysia it will be the people I will miss the most. The local people were always kind and supportive and treated me like family. They did not see me any differently than anyone else living in their neighborhood. For that I am grateful and extremely happy.
This will be probably my next to last post before I abandon this blog, as I will be moving from Penang soon. I want to thank all of my readers for their support and kind comments. I tried to publish interesting information that I thought would be informative or at least entertaining. I enjoyed reading all of your comments, even the one from an expat telling me to go back to America, because he did not agree with my views on another blog that I write. That comment I did not publish because of the language!
I guess that living in a tropical climate is not for everyone, even though it sounds like paradise. I feel that if you are looking for paradise, you will never find, as it is human nature to complain about something. If my health had been so that I would not be effected by the weather I would be happy to remain. I will continue to recommend Malaysia, as a retirement choice, even as the costs of applying for the MM2H and the cost of buying a home here skyrockets. There are other personal aspects about living here that bothers me, but are best not mentioned here. As I have said before the best part of Malaysia is its people and your life will be enriched by knowing and interacting with them.
My final post will most likely describe my moving from Malaysia and the not so delightful experiences of selling my home and getting my finances returned. Stay tuned.