Before the big move to the US, family members, friends, and colleagues warned me about how homesick I was going to be in a couple of months. Most of them stemming from personal experiences of having to study or live abroad for a number of years.
The year is almost up, and I’m not feeling it one little bit.
As I recently published a list of what I missed about Malaysia, specifically Kuala Lumpur, I thought it would be apt to follow up with a list of what I didn’t miss.
I do not hate the country by any means. I’ve merely realized that the grass is a little greener here from where I’m standing.
Traffic and road rage
Driving in Malaysia is a feat on it’s own. You’d be battling bottleneck traffic jams at all times, motorcyclists zooming past, busses and trucks swerving into your lane, and the sheer volume of vehicles on the road.
From queue-jumping to driving on the shoulder to tailgating… Malaysia has it all. The stress of driving is amplified if you’re a lone female driver as it is automatically assumed that you are unable to drive nor defend yourself.
I have had a few harrowing experiences where a driver would speed up just to cut into my lane. One unfortunate event saw the driver swerve and hit the front left bumper of my car as he was trying to cut me off. He hit the brakes, got out of his car and tried to blame me for hitting him instead. He then got back into his car and tailed me for 20 minutes.
I drove straight to the police station and spent an hour filing a report and waiting for someone to escort me home because I feared for my safety.
It was a completely different experience driving in Tennessee. Almost everyone on the road are courteous, and there seems to be a sense of mutual respect between drivers.
Always having my guard up
Malaysia is generally safe and peaceful, coming in 16th on 2019’s Global Peace Index. While terribly violent crimes are somewhat low, petty crimes including snatch theft and pickpocketing are relatively high.
I was always taught to be aware of my surroundings, never venture out walking alone at any time, and to have a key or pen in my hand while I’m walking to my car.
There was always a sense of danger and the awareness that people aren’t always prepared to help unless they absolutely have to. So, I was a little surprised at the level of trust and general kindness people have for each other where I live now.
My fiancé and I were at a store late one night. As I was browsing the produce section, I didn’t realize he had disappeared and was trying to sneak up on me from the other aisle to scare me. I assumed he looked very suspicious as an older man came up to me and offered to walk me to my car after I was done shopping because he thinks someone is following me.
The older man gestured to the other aisle and I saw my fiancé peeping out from the corner. I explained that it was my fiancé trying to scare me and he looked relieved that it was just a couple joking around.
Things like this rarely happen in Malaysia.
Everyone talks about how warm and sunny Malaysia is. Being a tropical country, it is summer all year round with bouts of thunderstorms but it gets old after awhile.
I much prefer the different seasons. I love fall and winter but by the time I’m over with the cold, summer is just around the corner. I love having the option of wearing seasonal clothes and watching the trees change color.
Censorship has always been an issue in Malaysia, but has gained notoriety over the recent years. While citizens have freedom of speech, it is under the watchful eye of the government and anyone can be persecuted for disseminating hate speech or misleading information.
They’ve recently up the ante for films by completely banning the live-action Beauty and The Beast and heavily censoring Bohemian Rhapsody as it contained “LGBT friendly scenes”.
This is a touchy topic that deserves a piece of its own. I’m just appreciative of the fact that I can now freely consume any kind of media without having to jump through hoops.
I definitely do not miss the volume of people in Malaysia. The humidity was already something to deal with but adding a crowd of people into the mix makes it almost unbearable.
There was no way to shop in peace or dine at a restaurant on the weekends. You would constantly bump into people and would have to wait in long lines for a table, even it if was at a mediocre restaurant.
I was taken aback when we went to the local shopping mall here. I had to ask my fiancé a few times if he was sure it was still open for business.
These points have a lot to do with preferences and personal experiences. I was just fortunate enough to travel and eventually find a home away from home. It does not mean Malaysia is any less beautiful and I would still encourage anyone to visit it at least once in their lifetime.