The Grass Is Greener In Malaysia: 3 Expat Families On Why They Love Our Country
Globalisation, the process by which the world becomes increasingly interconnected, has never been more absolute. It’s only natural that we've seen a spike in overseas job postings. Specialists in their own sectors, the following expatriates are thoroughly enjoying life in Kuala Lumpur: meet the Roelens, the Kimuras and the Bekdaches, all of whom love Malaysia just as much as you and I!
“Options for dining are extensively varied — much more so than in Belgium, where I was born," points out Tom.
Tom & Sara Roelens
General manager of Four Seasons Hotel and Residences Kuala Lumpur & hotel consultant
Malaysia has been their home for 1 year
“Fantastic! Diverse! Cheap!” enthuses Sara when asked to describe Malaysia’s gustatory scene.
“Don’t say cheap,” interjects Tom, his blue eyes twinkling mischievously. “Say ‘great value." The Roelens, who have spent the past 13 years living and working on remote or private islands such as the Maldives and Lana’i, love the high energy of our capital city plus the weather—tropical thunderstorms and all.
“I quite enjoy the predictable 4pm rain showers on certain months, because I know it’s almost time to go home,” says Sara, only half-jokingly.
“We have travelled to many local cities but love Kuala Lumpur the most," says Takashi. "It’s convenient, comfortable, and during the holiday seasons, the city is empty.”
Takashi, Yuko & Himawali Kimura
Executive chef of Cilantro and his family
Malaysia has been their home for 20 years
No longer their second home but their first, Malaysia was Takashi and Yuko Kimura’s next big adventure after a three-year stint in Senegal. Takashi had accepted an offer from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to become chef de cuisine of the Japanese embassy in KL. Today, he helms Cilantro, one of the city’s eminent restaurants. Hima, Takashi and Yuko’s second child, was born in Malaysia, amid the confluence of cultures, and like her parents, she loves her spices—which are plentiful here. When asked about their favourite Malaysian dish and where to get it, all three chime, “Banana leaf rice,” followed by “Devi’s Corner,” simultaneously.
Read this restaurant review: Chef Takashi Kimura's minimalist yet elegant dishes at Cilantro
“Nothing seems to be problematic! People here are genuinely friendly—they are warm, accommodating and will go out of their way to help," says Mida.
Malek & Mida Bekdache
Managing director of L’Oréal Malaysia and trade advisor at the French Trade Commission
Malaysia has been their home for 3 years
France’s victory in the 2018 FIFA World Cup was celebrated with much brouhaha at the Bekdaches’. In fact, memories of ‘the Hexagon,’ as some call France, pepper their household, from paintings of sailboats to cookbooks in French. Nevertheless, Mida and Malek Bekdache never cease to immerse themselves in Malaysia’s multiculturalism. “It’s all around you—in the people, the languages, the food, and the fashion!” says Mida.
Throwback to: The 60th Malaysia-France Gala
“This makes it very exciting for me as I get to understand the diversity of Malaysian consumers and the dynamic cosmetics industry,” adds Malek. “After all, L’Oréal creates products for people from all walks of life.”
Photography: Chris Jung
Art Direction: Allan Casal
Styling: Syahlia Sari
Makeup Artist: Team from L'Oréal
Hairstylist: Kay Tuan from Centro Hair Salon