Dealing with other expat challenges

So, you’re an Other Expat and considering moving to Malaysia for work. Here are a few things you should know.

First, you need to understand that whatever country you go to, you’ll have your share of challenges that you need to overcome. Secondly, everyone has their own unique challenges and experiences. Just ask the Black professionals we talked to. And thirdly, we deal with each of these experiences and challenges in our own ways.

There might be several similarities because we may be trying to reach the same goal. However, our methods might differ considerably.

Our goal on Other Expats is to create a platform where you can share your experiences and challenges, and how you’re dealing with them. And others can learn from them. We can take something from these experiences to make better decisions now or in the future.

We asked a few other expats about what their biggest Other Expat challenges are in Malaysia, and how they deal with them. This is what they said.

Faithful Anere, Rally—Powered by Students

“In general, communication and housing (cheap and clean place), but the challenge ends as soon as you find a place.

House owners used to discriminate against letting their houses to Africans, but the situation seems to have changed positively this year.

Yes, there are houses everywhere but the ones close to work are not cheap. The ones that are cheap are not comfortable. The idea is to keep searching until you find one.”



Samar Almontser, author of When I Danced in my Mind

“Salary and long term living issues are not stable. But everything else I say leads back to challenges with engaging in the community and not being able to scale up much in organisations.

There’s also the lack of equality and trust, engaging and communicating.

Small victories happen in the workplace that helps Malaysians to understand the foreign perspective instead of avoiding it because they don’t understand.

I also act dumb many times, because it helps to avoid conflict.

People expect u to react recklessly to childish and petty situations. I act like it never happened. It saves you mental energy to focus on more important issues in your life.”



Ahlam Adam, Writer

“Well, there’s always micro-aggressions. And there’s being black and a woman. But I haven’t had crazy challenges so far.

It’s about taking advantage of what you can and moving on. I used to be sensitive about it all but I’ve learned that if someone says something offensive, I’ll school them quickly and be blunt.

I don’t bother with small stuff because it takes time for people to change. Life is beautiful. Enjoy it when you can and work things in your favour.

Being black is challenging but the more you focus on what’s going wrong, you will not be able to move forward. So, make your own lemonade and chill.”


Kristen Noelle, LITTNomads

“My biggest challenge living in Malaysia is a lack of connection with fellow African American expats. For most of my life, I’ve been surrounded by really talented, really vibrant, and really loving people who look like and can relate to me culturally.

I knew that I’d miss that moving across the world, and it does get difficult—I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel the void.

However, I’ve helped develop a community of travelers of color based in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and since it’s only a quick flight away, often some of those friends come down and we get a chance to hang out while they’re here.

I’ve fortunately had friends from home visit as well. It gives me life to reconnect with my people, even if it’s every few weeks.”



Chukwudi Barrah, Other Expats

“Getting a job as a black guy is crazy hard. Of course, there’s the racism—both deliberate and otherwise. Recently, a colleague asked me when next I’ll be visiting my home country and if I miss all the animals there, like I’m from a zoo. Stuff happens⁠.

You can only change people’s perception of you and where you’re from a tiny bit at a time–what we’re doing with Other Expats. And we’ve talked about getting a job as an Other Expat in Malaysia before. Ensuring that you’re the best at what you do helps improve your chances of getting and keeping a job.”


What are some of the challenges that you encounter as a ‘person of color’ professional in Malaysia? How do you deal with these expat challenges? Let us know in the comments below. And if you enjoyed this article, don’t forget to share this page with your friends and colleagues.

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