What does it mean being a third culture kid?

UPDATE – September 15th, 2018

To date I have had WordPress host this blog, but recently I have decided to host it elsewhere as I have more control and more options. Now my main site will be http://tropicalexpat.com/. I was able to transfer only some of the previous content over to the new site, but this original site will remain.

January 2012

This blog hopes to cover what it is like living in Penang, and to give some useful information for those living here, or considering doing so, including activities and trips one can easily make – either locally, within Malaysia, or abroad. I am writing it because there were many things I wanted to know about Penang and Malaysia, and couldn’t find on the web.  But, of course, I can’t help but add posts on other topics, sometimes.

The blog also helps clear out my brain of things I think, so I can move on and think of other things.  A kind of catharsis.

Another effect is that I am usually on the lookout for something to write about, so it makes me more observant, and perhaps more likely go out and do things.

For the first 100 blogs I tried  to write a new blog every three days – e.g 3rd, 6th, 9th etc. of the month. As of 24/07/2012,  the 206th day of the year, and I started this blog on January 27th, I should have written about 60 blogs, and so I did, in fact, achieve my goal. Quite a few of my blogs were not about Malaysia, but, without actually counting, perhaps 60 were Malaysia related.

Now in early January 2013 I have just written the 200th blog. There still seem to be plenty of topics to write about. And I will be updating some of the blogs I have already written.

The statistics of who views these blogs show that the majority are English, Japanese, Spanish and German speakers – or at least people who live in the countries where these are the local languages.  Although I will mostly write in English, on occasion I will try to write in those other languages – but readers will have to forgive my mistakes.

On this blog’s busiest day, 0.0000035% of the world’s population read it.

living in MalaysiaIt’s fun to see what expats in different countries are up to, as well.

Blog Expat: living abroad


  1. Great blog! Thanks for writing this. I’m a Malaysian living in San Francisco for the last 22 years. Considering retiring to Penang if the mean temperature does not go up with global warming.. Btw – I don’t get to use the word ‘expat’ to describe myself…immigrant more like ! I guess it depends on who is doing the moving.

    1. Thank you. As long as you are familiar with the present day Penang you will be able to make that decision. I was first here almost 40 years ago, and it was so different to now.

  2. Hello, wonderful blog you have here. Stumbled upon it when I was searching for the habanero mexican restaurant in queensbay. Its interesting to see another’s point of view of penang since I am myself a native of the state. Keep up the good work!

  3. Hello,
    I am from Romania, Europe and have been living in Penang since last year, with my wife (Malaysian)! For some time I have tried to get into contact with other expats on the Island, and make some English speaking friends… Keep up the good work on your blog.
    my contact email is: adrian_tiger2006@yahoo.com or Adrian Tolan on facebook.

  4. Hi Ian,
    Thank you for this rich blog to help expats and tourists to get the best of Penang !
    I would like to share a small and exclusively dedicated to women hotel (for solo female travelers or expats who want to explore the city before settling in like me ^^) in the center of George Town (near the Komtar) : http://www.sogor.my
    They have the first Photography Cafe in Malaysia as well, just downstairs the hotel which launch local photographs and allow them to expose their art.
    It was a wonderful experience for me and could be useful for others.
    Cheers !

  5. I’d love to meet up with you & swap plants & info. I’m renting a rural house in Balik Pulau & have been very successful with sweet basil, pandan, Ceylon spinach, cassava & papaya. My problem is clay soil which was steamrollered when they built the house. Also growing jackfruit, cempedak, custard apple, okra, pumpkin, ambarella, jambu, ginger, lemongrass & passionfruit. The trees were already growing when I moved in. Some durian trees overhang my fence & drop some, but I have a local farmer who sells me plenty at bargain prices. Please email me.

  6. Dear Editor

    My name is Joe Pinzone and I’m casting an international travel show about expats moving abroad. We’d love to film in Malaysia and wanted to know if you could help us find expats who have moved there within the last 15 months or have been there for 3-4 years, but recently moved into a new home. The show documents their move to a new country and will place the country in fabulous light. The contributors on the show would also receive monetary compensation if they are filmed. If you’d like more information, please give me a call at 212-231-7716 or skype me at joefromnyc. You can also email me at joepinzone@leopardusa.com. Looking forward to hearing from you.

    Joe Pinzone
    Casting Producer
    P: 212-231-7716
    Skype: Joefromnyc

  7. Hi, great blog! do you know how big the european community in Penang actually is? I’m really facing difficulties finding any statistical figures online.
    It would be great if you could get back at me at jkolbe(at)students.uni-mainz.de
    thanks in advance,

    1. Thanks, Dipti. If you would like to join me for a cup of coffee while you’re in Penang, let me know. (I want to go to Georgia sometime, so would like to hear more.) Have a great trip! Ian

      1. Thanks a ton! We’ll be staying at lebun noordin street so let’s see how the schedule goes and if there’s time would love to catch up. And I’m a self confessed Georgia tourism promoter so ask questions anytime 🙂

      2. Great. We’ll see that that goes then. As for Georgia – when I travel I don’t like booking in advance or making detailed plans, so I try to travel outside of main tourist seasons and school holidays. For Georgia I was thinking of either spring or autumn. Would that work, there?

      3. Yeah summer is the main season and places are booked. We went during the Easter week- it’s a bit cold and rainy but manageable and we didn’t worry about booking in advance except for the first couple of days. Stayed at skadaveli (check tripadvisor) in Tbilisi and then the owner recommended a home stay in gergeti.

  8. Hi Ian,
    Love the blog. I lived in Penang for 6 years before re-locating the USA. Miss Malaysia and the region in general. Hope to retire back in Penang come 2018. Your blog is of great interest.

  9. Hello Ian, very rich blog! My commendations! I devoured most of the posts over a sleepless Jan night.

    I am a California resident, considering a MM2H move to Penang in summer/fall 2016. I’ll visit end March/early April. Any chance I can meet with you over coffee then?
    I am at sk94539@yahoo.com and will provide more details if you’ll reach me.

    1. Shankar, I would love to know if you ever moved to Penang, and how do you like it. I live in California and I am considering moving to Penang in a year. Thanks.

  10. How can I contact you direction with a query regarding a Channel 4 documentary series we are producing in the UK? Thanks, Mary.

  11. Hi and thanks so much for your blog which has been a great resource since we’ve moved to Penang a few months ago, particularly the posts about gardening. Can you recommend a place to buy good soil? Thanks

    1. Hi Vanessa. Thanks for your comment. I am afraid I have never actually got around to buying soil in bulk. I have just bought soil in small bags from Tesco – when it was one third the current price, and used it with compost to make my own soil. I still occasionally buy it from Tesco, when it is on special, but mostly we just recycle old soil and add it to compost to rejuvenate it. This works well, so little in the kitchen goes to waste.

  12. Finally a *current* blog about living in Malaysia! So far, every other one I’ve seen always starts with “It just wasn’t for me…” or “Back home and settling in…” or “This is my last post…” which is quite depressing when you’re thinking about moving there! Seeing all the negatives before learning about the place is definitely not the best way to start. I look forward to reading about Penang!

    1. Thanks for your comment. I have written hundreds of blogs about Penang and Malaysia over the past few years. So I don’t write so much now as there’s no point repeating myself. If someone else has written something, I don’t see the point in repeating what they said, either. There are a great many food blogs, for instance, so I generally don’t bother with this topic.

      I don’t find many negatives here. As in much of the rest of the world, living costs are rising. And traffic is getting worse. For the latter, however, there are comprehensive plans for much better roads and public transport infrastructure in Penang.

      Otherwise, Penang is continually improving. There is always something going on if you want to attend or get involved. For example, today is Wesak Day and there is a big parade.

      The usual advice is to come and rent for a while. If you like it and want to stay, then you can consider purchasing a car and property.

      Good luck.

  13. Helllo,

    I am in Penang now….Nice place to be.

    Informative blog you have.

    Would like to share information mostly on Reiki.


    from Vancouver

  14. Hi,

    I’m going to Penang soon and I’m wondering how known is the permaculture in this area.
    I’d like to be useful during my stay in Penang and extend my knowledge of permaculture. Volunteering would be a good option for me.

    Thanks for your time.

    1. Hi Laurene. I don’t know too much about this. Sorry. In Balik Pulau there are some organic farms, but I don’t know if they use permaculture principles. In Pulau Tikus there is a man who grows vegetables to sell on his suburban plot, perhaps by aquaponics, but I haven’t yet visited.

  15. Hello! What a fabulous blog you have. I’m wondering if you might be interested in allowing me to include some of your blog content in an e-book I’m writing that provides expats with a guide to moving to and living in Malaysia. It would be attributed to you and would include a link to this blog. I’m an Australian expat living in Penang myself so am keen to share my knowledge, and others, with other expats. Would love to hear from you if you’re keen. Thanks.

    1. Hi Kate. Basically I write this blog to help people, providing information they otherwise wouldn’t find. So I am happy for you to do as you suggest and use some of my content.

  16. Hello,

    I have been to Penang several times and am thinking of retiring there. I have also been a reader of your blog since last year. I have a few friends in Penang but they seem to think that Penang has a bit too much petty crime and they seldom venture out at night. Is that true? I would like to have your thoughts on the crime situation. Also what about the level of health care? I know there are Gleneagles and Canosa hospitals. But is the level of healthcare comparable to say that in Singapore and Hong Kong?


    1. Hi Colin,

      I suppose there is crime anywhere, but I haven’t been affected by it in the eight years I have been living here. There may be a greater risk if you go to the SoHo nightclub area at night – but I am not interested in clubbing. Bag snatching by the pillion passenger on a motorcycle – mainly of women’s handbags, seems prevelent, and otherwise pickpocketing. If you stay aware I think there is little risk, but of course, sometimes one’s awareness slips, and if you are very unlucky it could then happen. I know of only one friend whose bag was snatched while filling up the car at a petrol station, and another friend who was pickpocketed on a bus he was using because his car was being serviced. Generally, though, Malaysiana are very honest. So I wouldn’t count crime as a reason for not living here.

      As for health care, I believe you can get a level similar to that of developed countries, as many of the doctors are trained in such countries. I don’t have so much experience as I am very healthy. On this front too, I don’t see any particular concerns.

      The main complaints are the appalling driving – but I think the driving is improving – and taxi drivers. If you drive you don’t have to put up with the latter – but we’ve only really had a problem with a taxi driver.once. And if you like you can use Uber instead of taxis.

      Walking is a pretty hazardous activity, though. Sometimes to cross a road you’re better off getting the car and driving across. Slowly this situation is improving, too.

      Anyway, that’s the way I see things.

      1. Thanks so much for your helpful advice.

        I thought Singaporean drivers are bad until I saw how Malaysians drive. I was nearly run over by Mad Max in Penang when he shot the red light and the pedestrian light was green.

        So I surmise, on the whole, you have made the correct choice in retiring in Penang?

  17. Hi there! Love checking in on your garden through your blog over the last few months. Would love to get in touch, as I’m starting a community garden in Georgetown. I am based in Tg. Bungah, though, and would love to visit your garden if you do that sort of thing. 🙂

    Contact me through pharm.plot@gmail.com or 012 401 9713 🙂

    1. Thanks for your kind words. I have no say in politics here. The only vote I have is with my feet – which I have used plenty of times in other countries before. But I still like it here in Penang, and I still have more freedom than almost any place I know. As with other expats, we have our ideas of where to move to if the above changes, but for now I think I just keep quiet.

  18. Hey there. Came across your blog about Reiki and was wondering if you still have the contact details of the person/place you went to for your attunement. Please do send me an email. Would much appreciate it.


  19. Hi,

    I will be including your new blog posts in My-Penang.com, as I want to include the expat community on my website. Let me know if you disagree, and I will remove your posts.

    Hope to see you blog more frequently on Penang!

    1. Hi Jack. Thanks for informing me. That’s absolutely fine. I am waiting to see if the new government keeps its promise and repeals the fake news legislation. I feel it’s risky posting about Malaysia while this legislation exists. That’s why I have not been posting lately.

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