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Fings ain’t what they used to be, except in Malaysia Print E-mail
Saturday, 24 January 2009 19:26

Fings ain’t what they used to be, except in Malaysia
By Tom Shields
The collapse of sterling against the euro has made life less pleasant for the British who have sought solace on the Spanish costas, in the Dordogne, in Tuscany and other havens.

THE COLLAPSE of sterling against the euro has made life less pleasant for the British who have sought solace on the Spanish costas, in the Dordogne, in Tuscany and other havens.

The Malaysian government is wooing such retiree refugees. The pastures on offer in this southeast Asian country do not come much greener, mainly courtesy of the tropical weather.

In addition to climatic concerns, Malaysia ticks many boxes for Brits on the run for sun. There are the economics: a house, car, and a live-in maid are within the budgetary reach of even a moderate pension.
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Malaysia retains a stamp of Britishness from the days of empire which makes it a comfort zone, not least in terms of language. There are myriad tongues spoken but the Brit need not delve too deeply linguistically, since most people speak English.

Malaysia actively attracts the immigrants through the MM2H programme. This stands for Malaysia My Second Home which might be it bit of a mouthful but still sounds better than Silver Hair, which was what the package of incentives used to be called.

The MM2H deal includes easy visa arrangements and no tax on income from outside Malaya, inheritances, car purchases or capital gains.

At the insistence of the Malaysian government and entirely on your behalf, dear readers, I am over here having a look at how the system works.

The British fixation with property may have taken a bit of a beating but relocation, relocation, relocation is alive and well in Malaysia. Dian, a 20-something scion of one of Malaysia's wealthiest families now earning her own crust selling dream houses, can offer me a boutique, niche, family-centric, luxury mansion with access to gym and detox centre at her Clearwater project in Kuala Lumpur. Or the property princess can sign me up for a boutique, niche, eco-focused lakeside condo, with shuttle-boat access to the adjacent shopping mall.

In this near-equatorial land, Britishness abounds. You can shop at Tesco and Debenhams. Newspapers and TV have wall-to-wall coverage of English Premier League football.

Those who believe Britain has gone to hell on a handcart may be impressed. A Kuala Lumpur judge last week ordered a bunch of yobs to get haircuts. As your plane touches down at KL (as us old Malaysia hands call the capital) there is a matter-of-fact announcement that drug-trafficking carries a mandatory death penalty.

Other aspects of life which may appeal to those who believe fings ain't what they used to be: You can smoke in the pub. Malaysia has a monarchy. Some consolation for those of a republican bent is that a new monarch is appointed every five years, when Malaysia's nine sultans vote on which of them is to be Yang di-Pertuan Agong, or king for short.

Another thing. The Malaysians are a reserved kind of people and when you meet one it's a word of hello or a limp handshake at most. None of that kissing and hugging stuff you have to do with the Spaniards, French, and Italians.

A helping hand through such cultural sensitivities is available from the Expat Group, a business set up by Andy Davison, who was a high heid yin with American Express in Asia, before becoming a super guide and something of a guru to those who come to live in his beloved adopted land of Malaysia.

The Expat Group will, of course, be delighted for the usual fee to help with visas, cars, property, hiring a maid, getting the removal men in - everything, especially where to go for lunch.

It has to be said that emigration to Malaysia is justified for the food alone. I could go on forever about the diversity and quality. Suffice to say that over here, I have become Tommy Five Breakfasts.

In the buffet paradises of the fine hotels I have been forced to inhabit, a three-hour shift is required to get the full flavour. There is the Malay nasi lemak, a rice dish with various garnishings including cucumber, dried anchovies, boiled egg, and a piquant sauce which combine to produce a killer version of kedgeree.

There is the Indian roti or paratha with dhal. There is the Chinese dim sum. There is Japanese sushi and seafood. There is your British bacon and eggs, although in this Muslim country the bacon may be beef.

There is the American pancakes and maple syrup, French toast, hash (potatoes not cannabis) browns. There is the continental version, cold meats and cheeses.

Sorry, that's at least six breakfasts and does not include Malaysia's greatest glory, its fruit.

The durian fruit which smells of old socks but tastes delicious. Your more mundane guava, mango, pineapple and melon have their work cut out competing with the likes of the manggis and the dragon fruit.

The manggis is like a giant conker which splits to reveal a succulent white flesh. The dragon fruit originated in Vietnam and, my Malaysian guide says, gave the Viets the strength to get through that wee conflict with the Americans. It also imparts virility, a kind of natural Viagra.

Which brings us to medical matters concerning pensioners. Even if you are not Bupa-ed up, you might still be able to afford treatment. As an example, the proponents of the MM2H package say a knee replacement at £3300 is a third of the price of a similar operation in the UK.

And, how about those final expenses? No need to get your corpse expensively shipped back to the UK for a routine funeral service. There is that wonderful tradition over in Borneo where the head is shrunk and put in a tree trunk in the rain forest as a memorial to the deceased.

So much more interesting, don't you think, than putting the ashes in an urn on the mantelpiece?

In the final analysis, it is the politeness and friendliness, not to mention the comeliness, of the Malaysian people which makes the country attractive. It is not a commodity but it is a great asset.

Finally, finally, there is the question of the distance Malaysia is from Britain. "Yes, it can be a disadvantage living so far away from your family," an expat lady told me. "Yes, it can be an advantage living so far away from her family," her husband said.

 

Source: Sunday Herald



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