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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Chinatown in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

A British expat in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia describes her experiences settling into life there. Navigating the urban jungle and dealing with her husband's medical emergency were a real test, but her friends and neighbors were a big help.

What is the name of the city or town that you are reporting on?

Kuala Lumpur

Did you receive any cross-cultural training for your move abroad? If yes, was it before or after the move?


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If they speak another language in your new country, do you speak the language? If yes, did you learn the language before you moved or while abroad? If no, are you planning to learn the language?


Were you worried or concerned about culture shock before you moved abroad?


How significant was the culture shock you experienced when you moved abroad?

It was fine to start with when everything was all exciting, but when the reality sank in, it was quite stressful to start with.

Expats often talk about going through the "stages of culture shock." Examples include the honeymoon phase, the irritation-to-anger stage, the rejection of the culture stage, and the cultural adjustment phase. Do you feel like you went through these or any other stages as you settled into the new culture?

I definitely went through all of these phases. I am in the latter one now.

What, if any, were some of the changes you noticed in yourself that might have been caused by culture shock? These might include things such as anger, depression, anxiety, increased eating or drinking, frustration, homesickness, etc.

As a family we have all felt very lonely and homesick. Things are getting much better now. We have been here 3 months and we are starting to find our feet and discover where everything is without getting monumentally lost in this urban jungle.

What are some things you appreciate most about the new culture?

The opportunity to travel, to earn more money and give my children different opportunities.

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

Missing friends. Trying to drive around this city, which is such a congested nightmare on complicated roads.

Do you have any advice or thoughts about culture shock you would like to share?

Most definitely. I had a seriously nasty scare at the weekend as my husband injured himself and went into a similar state as having a stroke. I had no idea what was the matter with him. I was totally unprepared, did not have an emergency number, did not know which hospital to take him too. Luckily my friends and neighbours came to my rescue and sorted out an ambulance for me. We had to wait a really long time for any medical help to come and it was incredibly scary. My advice to everyone, make sure you know which is the best hospital, what their numbers are, have a list of emergency contacts for people to ring on your behalf and keep money in savings in case you need to pay for medical help.

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