What brought you to Malaysia?
I was offered an amazing opportunity to be one of the founding teachers and leaders of the brand new GEMS International School in Tropicana Metropark, Subang Jaya.
So after ensuring I could make the move while still supporting my youngest children at university, I accepted the position and moved to Malaysia a few years earlier than intended.
How did you prepare for the move?
A lot of energy went into ensuring that my children were financially and emotionally prepared for mum and dad to pack up and move another 6,000km further east.
Then came the packing up and the inaugural trip to Malaysia in April to find a new home. This was exciting yet daunting as none of our children would be joining us this time, so we did not need the usual five-bedroom villa.
Tell us something you now know about Malaysia that you didn’t before.
Import taxes are hugely expensive. Buy locally.
Have you encountered any strange cultural customs here?
Getting a haircut as a European expatriate has always been a challenge for me. Stylists are usually trained to work with local hair types, and European hair can be especially difficult to manage. I found a salon and they asked me if I wanted my hair washed, to which I answered yes.
Expecting to be shown a wash basin and chair, I experienced the most luxurious hair wash and head massage whilst still sitting in the stylist's chair!
Any tips for fellow expats to Asia?
The Malaysian climate is much fresher and cleaner than the Middle East. You can open your windows and breathe clean, sand-free, fresh air. Every day. You are able to sit outdoors without fear of standing up with a tell-tale sandy patch on your bottom.
The payback is the humidity. Learn to embrace it and enjoy the health benefits of a year-round sauna.
What do you think is important for your fellow expats to bring from home?
For women, my advice would be to buy your shoes in Europe or the USA and bring them with you. European and American shapes and sizes are difficult to find and Asian shoes are manufactured for the Asian female: petite. Your feet will swell with the humidity, so buy for comfort and not style.
For men (and women) who follow the English Premier League, my advice is to be prepared for some late night weekend beers if your thing is to watch the live matches during the season.
Learnt any useful Malaysian words?
The first word I learnt was ‘keluar’ when trying to navigate my way out of an underground carpark. Working with teenagers, I usually get to learn a few ‘less socially appropriate' words pretty early on.
However, there has been a significant lack of progress in this area at my current school. Malaysian students must clearly have immaculate social etiquette...