Say hello to: Vittorio Furlan

This affable expat is learning how to eat with his right hand, looking for trail running buddies and discovering the magic of the words 'go makan'.

by / Published: 10 Oct 2017

Say hello to: Vittorio Furlan
Photo: Vittorio Furlan

Nationality: Italian Australian
Occupation: Advisory Director
In Malaysia since: April 2017

What brought you to Malaysia?

It’s a country I have desired to go to since my first visit in 2010 as its relatively relaxed attitude, equatorial climate and growing economy make it an exciting place to be.

After an attempt a few years back, the planets finally aligned when Ernst & Young decided to grow the data & analytics advisory business in Malaysia and ASEAN, and I was in the right place at the right time!

How did you prepare for the move?

If mad rush can count as preparation, school arrangements and where to live were the first decisions to make. Besides getting advice from fellow expats, LinkedIn and the business school network also helped with the initial contacts.  The final, important bit was bidding farewell to our friends in Australia.

What did you know about Malaysia before you came?

I knew about the traffic and amazing food, but realise now I knew little about it otherwise. Another piece of history – as a young child, I was told the fictional stories of Sandokan, a gallant pirate created by Italian writer Emilio Salgari. Sandokan defended Borneo from attempts by the Dutch and British to colonise the island, eventually defeating all his opponents amid plenty of adventure. A few Malaysian colleagues in Australia helped build on this story with some real facts!

Tell us something you now know about Malaysia that you didn’t before.

The number of public holidays there are, as well as annual leave days.  I’m quite sure that during my first two months here there were more short weeks than normal ones – and just to be clear, I’m not complaining!

Encountered any interesting cultural customs here?

Food and eating together is of great importance, and a ‘quick bite at the desk’ is not really a concept that exists. Talking about what to have for dinner while at lunch is quite recurrent.

In general, there is lots of buzz and a slower pace, where relationships come before business. The custom of using the right hand to eat and pass objects isn’t really problematic – unless you are a lefty like me.

Is there anywhere you really want to visit?

We have already been around KL in the last two months. Fraser’s Hill is like Little England, Putrajaya is the Canberra of Malaysia, Port Dickson is great for a relaxing family weekend and Genting Highlands – a casino on top of a mountain?! Now we plan to cover the rest, including the East Coast, and outside Malaysia; Indonesia, Myanmar and Laos to start with.

What activities would you like to do here?

My family takes up most of my time, hence ferrying the children around becomes an excuse to socialise with people. Personally, I like to trail run – what better place than Malaysia? – and practise self-defence martial arts.

Finding a gym was done in no time, and now I am looking for some running buddies. Let’s face it though; going for a pint is what I have really done the most!

Learnt any useful Malaysian words?

“Go makan.” It’s a good way to generate consensus at the end of a late-morning meeting.