now changed to such an extent that foreigners are now visiting Malaysia
as health tourists. And while the expatriate rubber planters of earlier
years suffered feelings of isolation, as news and contact with home was
often seriously delayed, the internet allows residents in Malaysia – eight
hours ahead of GMT – to trade their stocks and shares and to read the UK
morning papers before they drop on doormats back home. And, via email,
correspondence with friends and family is instantaneous.
also offers English language newspapers, English radio and satellite TV
with over 30 English-language channels. Seasoned expatriates – mostly
from other parts of Southeast Asia or Middle East– moving to Malaysia for
the first time, tend to continue their gregarious lifestyle without any
culture shock and immediately fit into an existing group, often meeting
old friends from earlier years. New expatriates, coming to Malaysia on
retirement, sometimes do suffer from culture shock and can take some time
to settle in. These feelings are quickly banished when they join ‘the club’
– finding there kindred spirits and a relaxed, friendly lifestyle. Both
the two large expatriate centres, of Kuala Lumpur (KL) and Penang, have
a wide variety of clubs, and even smaller town have one or two.
of expatriates live and work in Malaysia. Several thousand more have settled
in this tropical paradise under the ‘Malaysia: My Second Home’ scheme
(MM2H). Most are completely retired while a few have received special dispensation
to work part-time in specialised IT fields. There are also a few “Social
Visit Pass” holders under the MM2H who maintain some form of part-time
employment overseas – most commonly company directorships of non-Malaysian
companies, owners of offshore companies and writers. Since the implementation
of the MM2H scheme there has been a noticeable increase in club membership.
Most clubs here have affiliations with other clubs around the world and
so club members in the UK who are thinking of retiring here should check
there are several groupings of expatriates based on where they previously
lived or worked. I belong to two lunch groups made up of ex-Hong Kong
expats. An advantage of this sort of grouping is that it not only acts
as a broad-based social group but also allows for the transfer of relevant
information and forms a safety net of friends who can often help and give
advice in times of trouble as well as welcoming and mentoring new arrivals.
Most retirees here plan to stay indefinitely, just returning to their country
of origin on ‘home leave’ once in a while to see friends and family.
wonder how retirees can fill their day, especially if the normal work of
running a home has been reduced by having domestic help. The answer
is that in Malaysia it feels as though there are never enough hours in
the day for all the activities available. Due to the constant warm weather
sport forms an important part of the social scene here for the entire year.
Most clubs have sporting facilities and squash, (for the younger retirees)
and racquetball, badminton and tennis (for the not so young) are
played in many of the clubs with exceptionally sociable interclub matches
arranged for all levels of player. Sailing and golf are also popular and
both KL and Penang are endowed with many reasonably priced golf courses
which can be used mid-week by non-members. Scuba diving is excellent on
both the east coast and on the islands off East Malaysia, home of several
of the world’s top dive sites.
is another popular exercise as are morning exercises in the parks where
Tai Chi and other exercise routines are followed in the cool of the early
morning. Not surprisingly there are many HASH runs all over Malaysia as
the original HASH was held at the Spotted Dog or – to use its more formal
name – The Royal Selangor Club in KL.
Malaysia is another popular pastime since the country offers a great variety
of attractions at the hill stations and coastal resorts. For travel further
a field budget airlines give easy access to the rest of Asia and Australia.
Singapore and Thailand are both an easy drive away and it is simple to
take one’s car to either. At the border crossing for Thailand it is necessary
to buy third party insurance (50 pence for each day to be spent in Thailand).
Singapore border drivers buy a smart card for £2 and a small daily
charge for driving a Malaysian registered car in Singapore is deducted
from the card when you leave. For more adventurous drivers there is
a 4 x 4 off road club that arranges expeditions throughout the region as
well as jungle expeditions within Malaysia. There is also a thriving vintage
car club which arranges rallies in both Malaysia and Singapore. For the
less energetic there are a variety of cooler options and organisations
such as the International Woman’s Association which has groups for archery,
bridge and – on through the alphabet – to yoga.
simple daily routines here take on an added charm, from breakfasting on
fresh tropical fruits on a balcony overlooking the sea, to dawn walks up
Penang Hill or through the Botanical Gardens. Even a rich aromatic
local coffee in front of the computer while checking your emails and reading
the world news has an especial charm. After breakfast, a round of golf
followed by lunch at the club with friends, or a sail, then – after an
afternoon nap – it’s down to the Eastern and Oriental (E&O) Hotel for
drinks on the seafront terrace, overlooking the Channel between Penang
and mainland Malaysia, followed by an international buffet dinner in Sarkies.
The hotel –
named after the brothers who originally built it in 1885 – retains much
of its old world charm, having been renovated to the high standards for
which it was justly famous when previously patronised by W. Somerset Maugham
on his Malaysian travels. To give you an idea of the cost of living here,
the golf, with lunch, then drinks and dinner will set you back less than
£25 pounds per person.
has an exceptionally low cost of living and a tax regime that is most welcoming
to foreigners. Everyone should be tax resident somewhere and where
better than a tax friendly country? Put simply, for a foreigner no tax
is charged on any income derived outside of Malaysia. Interest on any number
of fixed deposits of RM100,000 (£14,300) or less, held in a Malaysian
registered bank is also tax free. The current rate for a fixed deposit
of 12 months is 3.7 per cent, and in certain banks the interest can be
paid monthly. There is no inheritance tax and no capital gains tax on assets
other than property. Capital gains tax on the sale of property in Malaysia,
owned for less than five years is charged at 30 per cent, but drops to
less than five per cent if the property is held for more than five years.
no VAT, but there is a Government Sales Tax (GST) of five per cent on hotel
and restaurant bills and on professional bills such as lawyers’ bills.
One could, for example, become a Malaysian taxpayer if income is obtained
from rental earnings in Malaysia or from royalties on published works in
Malaysia. However, there are many allowances which greatly reduce such
imported for personal use when retiring to Malaysia are exempt from tax.
(These items should not include daggers, drugs, firearms or alcohol.)
If recorded videos, VCDs or DVDs are imported they will be checked for
content and there is a checking charge of RM30 (£4.30) per item.
Once the retiree has been out of the UK for the prescribed period, then
offshore investments become free of UK tax and are not taxed by the Malaysian
tax authority. Several retirees have calculated that their living expenses
within Malaysia are far less then their tax savings making it, in effect,
cost free to live here. Property prices are low: a three-bedroomed apartment
in a condominium in Penang is available from £36,000. Utility charges
are low and with temperatures never dropping below 22oC at night, there
is no need for central heating. Air-conditioning is normally considered
essential, at least for the bedrooms. Even if air-conditioning is used
regularly, the total electricity bill should not exceed £600 per
annum and many families only use half that amount.
no piped natural gas, but a large cylinder of LP gas is less than £2.20
including delivery, usually within four hours but often within 30 minutes.
Telephone land lines cost £3.90 per month and local calls are the
equivalent of four pence a minute. The cheapest international calls are
via call cards and a £4.30 card enables just under four hours of
call time to the UK. Water and sewage combined charges average less than
£3 a month. Postal charges are also well below those in the UK as
a first class stamp costs less than five pence and an airmail post card
to anywhere in the world costs seven pence.
help is readily available and while it is not necessary to have a maid
if living in a condominium, it certainly makes life more pleasant. Maids
are available for £1.50 an hour and, for many couples, hiring a maid
for just a few hours a day to do the washing, ironing and cleaning is sufficient.
live-in Indonesian maid can be hired for about £75 per month compared
to £110 for an English-speaking maid from the Philippines. They
can be obtained through an agency, but the best method is to take over
a maid from a friend who is leaving, or to hire one on the recommendation
of a friend. Most larger properties have an additional maid’s sleeping
quarter. Public transport is much cheaper than in the UK (a 6-km bus
ride costs about 10 pence). Cars, however, are significantly more expensive
to buy than in the UK, especially imported models with a large engine capacity,
while locally-assembled cars are about 10-15 per cent higher. (Foreigners
coming in on the MM2H scheme are entitled to buy or import one car, tax
and duty free, making it considerably cheaper than in the UK.)
Running costs are very cheap; petrol is less than 20 pence per litre. Road
tax for a two litre car is £57 and £18 for a one litre car.
Third party insurance for all cars without a no-claims bonus is £14
per annum. A no-claims bonus can be transferred from a UK insurer.
Imported cigarettes cost less than £1 a packet – local brands even
less – while premium imported spirits are about £12 a bottle. Locally
bottled gin, vodka, rum, brandy and whisky are available for less than
£4 per bottle. They serve the purpose but for most expatriates the
whisky is noticeably inferior to their usual proprietary brands.
available from £3 per bottle upwards – a long way upwards, alas –
as the percentage duty increases with the value of the wine. Beer in
the supermarkets fluctuates according to the current special offer and,
when bought by the case, varies between 45-75 pence per small can. Incoming
international passengers are allowed to bring in a litre of duty free spirits
and the island of Langkawi, just a ferry ride away, is totally duty free.
Eating out is one of the great joys of Malaysia, a social activity that
takes place 24 hours a day, seven days a week and seems to involve the
entire population. Costs range from less than a £1 per person for
a casual – but delicious – snack at one of the hawker stalls, to £5
for a delightful dinner in a small restaurant or club. A sumptuous buffet
– wine and beer included – in a premier hotel such as the Eastern and Oriental
on the harbour front in Penang, will set you back less than £10 per
person. Food of every variety and flavour is available in Penang, a true
melting pot of culinary styles.
for food and general household products is cheap although the range of
products is probably less than you’re used to. The
local markets are good value, especially for vegetables which are offered
for sale only hours after being picked. There is an abundant choice of
fresh fruit, both local and imported and in the wet markets the fish and
poultry are killed and prepared to order. The price of most basic ingredients
is controlled by the government, so inflation remains low.
club - An additional expense in Malaysia is club membership. As mentioned
earlier, the majority of expatriates who retire to Malaysia join at least
one club as membership forms a pleasant part of the social fabric of retired
life. Waiting lists for temporary membership are quite short, normally
until your cheque has cleared and full membership can be often obtained
within three or four months.
is blessed with many golf clubs and around both KL and Penang there are
at least half a dozen to which non-members can easily drive and use during
the week. Green fees are in the £10-20 range, inclusive of buggy.
Caddies cost £3 upwards.
money in Malaysia really does go a lot further
purchase - There are several points to consider when purchasing a property
in Malaysia. It is generally accepted that immigrants are happiest if they
settle in an area that offers the safety net of an expatriate community
and this narrows down the choice considerably.
There are two
large expatriate communities in Malaysia, one in the capital, Kuala Lumpur,
referred to colloquially as KL, and the other is in Penang. While the expatriate
community in KL is considerably larger than the community in Penang, most
expats in KL are on a work permit, while the majority of those in Penang
are retirees under the ‘Malaysian My Second Home’ scheme.
It seems logical,
for a retiree who is not working, to retire to a non-capital city, where
the prices are less, the traffic congestion lower, and the pace of life
more in tune with retirement. Even within Penang there are areas which
are more suitable than others for an expatriate to live.
the most popular location to either buy or rent is the north coastal belt
between the beach at Batu Ferringhi and the Eastern and Oriental hotel
in George Town. However, the most common advice to retirees, given
by those who have lived here for several years, is not to buy at first,
but to rent, and then only to buy when they are absolutely happy about
the chosen area. An otherwise idyllic location can quickly lose its charm
when the sound of nearby celebrations wakes the retiree before 6 a.m. every
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