New Straits Times


IT'S ALL HERE: Friendly people, good food, low cost of living and lots of activities make expatriates call it home

KUALA LUMPUR: A SURVEY by International Living, a monthly newsletter covering topics including retiring overseas and living abroad, has ranked Malaysia in its top three retirement  countries for this year.

Ranked closely behind Panama and Ecuador, the newsletter compiled 22 nations and interviewed expats on several areas, such as real estate, cost of living, integration, health, climate and special benefits, before making an assessment.

The list which was posted on its website last month saw respondents who lived abroad posting their feedback on living and integrating in a foreign country.

According to expat Keith Hockton, Malaysia is his new home.

"It has everything. Its weather is a tropical 82o Fahrenheit all year round and its beaches, islands and jungles are pristine.

"It has some of the region's best street food, great restaurants, bars, shopping malls and movie theatres, which are all affordable," said the 35-year-old, who lives with his wife Lisa in Penang.

Hockton said he enjoyed his rented sea-view apartment that was equipped with a swimming pool and gymnasium, kept a sailboat, ate out almost every night and yet his total monthly budget did not surpass US$1,719 (RM5,200).

On integration, Hockton said Malaysia was an easy place to make friends as English was widely spoken. Lots of expats lived here and there were numerous organisations that could get you settled, he said.

"For example, the International Women's Association has more than 500 members who organise activities, such as jungle walks and sewing lessons on a daily, weekly and monthly basis."

He said his friends, John and Lorna Taylor, also swore by Malaysia as Asia's most desirable destination.

"They have decided to never return to their hometown in New York, and are currently enjoying their retirement by taking tennis lessons."

Go Communications Sdn Bhd commercial director Bill Cooper said Malaysia should have topped the list.

"This country has everything I need. The people are lovely and food just wonderful," he said when contacted by the New Sunday Times yesterday.

Cooper, the former sales director at The Expat Group (TEG Malaysia), said he never looked back to his home country after stepping foot in Malaysia almost five years ago.

"I would absolutely consider living here for the rest of my life."

Expat Paula Gallegos echoed Cooper and said she was not surprised that Malaysia was in the top three.

"The apartments here are cheaper than in my country, Mexico, and I enjoy the fact that Malaysia caters to all nationalities.

"It even has different food sections in supermarkets so that I can shop for Mexican food," said the 27-year-old student currently pursuing a postgraduate degree in World Literature at Universiti Putra Malaysia.

Gallegos, who followed her American husband to Malaysia after he secured a job here, said her experience here was more comfortable after getting to know the locals.

Countries that did not make it into the top 10 are Portugal, Nicaragua, Ireland, France, the Philippines, New Zealand, Italy, Brazil, Chile, Honduras, Belize and the Dominican Republic.