Expats living in KL breathe the same air, share the same landscape that we KL -ites live in. For them, life carries on as they absorb the flavours of KL , some even opting for the MM2H ( Malaysia My Second Home ) programme . KL has approximately 180,000 expats living and working in the city.
I've lost count of the times I've enjoyed their friendship coupled with spiritedness and generosity. On Sunday, 1 November, my family and I were at the ABWM fair ( Assoc of British Women in Malaysia). Like before, we felt their fervour and commitment at the wonderful fair in Nikko Hotel, KL. There's more fairs to follow as the other expat communities - Japanese, American, Swiss- Austrian shift into higher gear in readiness to celebrate Christmas with their hearts full of goodness. All proceeds go to Malaysian charities.
The ABWM fair is one fine example of how an organisation, made up of expats can unite among themselves to help the poor, the orphaned, the disabled, the homeless etc to improve lives by their well meaning voluntary work. The ABWM team of members visit various charities to learn what they are doing and to assess their needs with a view to distributing funds raised . They welcome unwanted clothes, books, toys which are sent to charities or resold for funds for the charities. It is ABWM's way of saying thank you to their host country. The early Christmas fair was well -organised and the convivial mood was just right.
When I visited the National Museum last year the MVM ( Museum Volunteers Malaysia) guides comprising expats,and locals were doing a fine job of guiding the tourists around the Museum. History was at their fingertips and it came alive in their talks. Boy, did I learn more of my own country!
I have had the good fortune to have made some lasting friendships among expats. There's Wanphen ( Thailand), Margaret andGraham ( Australia), Janneke and Eduard ( Holland),Cynthia and Geoff (UK), Seif and Shemila ( Canada), Shawne Kaeser ( USA), Miranda (NZ), Rose Marie ( Greece).Their sojourns in KL have enriched my life . Our paths crossed in our voluntary work . And the ties that bind us still remain strong.
My friend, Janneke and her dear husband, Eduard from the Netherlands have spent more than 5 years in KL. 'No place is perfect but we love KL. Luckily KL loves us too!' When we're on holiday back home, we miss Malaysia.' Yes, I miss her too, my sensible, forthright, and kind friend. She's a familiar songstress in the local arts scene hitting the right pitch with her lovely alto voice. In the Netherlands, she worked with disabled children and so it is not surprising how she utilizes her skills to care for the friends she has made at Selangor Cheshire Home for the disabled. Do not be surprised to see her stepping out in a cheong sam, baju kebaya or a saree. She loves the diverse cultures we possess . That includes loving the satay, roti canai and polishing up the dhall on the stainless steel plates at the Indian shops !
How do I swim ? - Janneke teaches friends at her home in Kl.
For any one of us, relocation can be a upheaval in itself. But I've realized that once settled into a new life, the expats are up and running and eager to taste and enjoy the local life as much as they can. I have heard comments like 'KL is so cosmopolitan and the people make us feel so much at home here ' and ' It's easy to communicate as English is widely spoken here.'
The expats add so much colour to our lives - they touch many hearts without us knowing about their committed work , bridging cultures and improving the lives of the underpriviledged. They are friends in our midst. In their free time, they tap into their diverse skills and good networking to give back to the Malaysians the benefits they enjoy while abroad.
For them, there comes a time to uproot and move on - to a new destination or homeward bound. Let's connect with them and be their friend too.
'Selamat datang, kawan! (in Malay,'Welcome my friend!' ) May your stay in Malaysia be full of wonderful memories.