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Safety concerns about living in Malaysia for 1 year

New York
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Safety concerns about living in Malaysia for 1 year

Hello,

I am posting on behalf of a friend.

My friend applied for a Fulbright Scholarship (the Teaching Assistantship one). She was very excited when she found out that she got into this very prestigious program, but overwhelmed because she had applied for Korea, but got Malaysia (a place that she hasn't researched).

She has a very short time to make the decision on whether to accept or not, and is torn about her decision mostly because of safety concerns. She heard about the terrorist activities in the east of the country, and the statement on the US travel site "Violent crime against travelers and expatriates is relatively rare" is quite vague, and not reassuring. She is also afraid of standing out and attracting unwanted attention - she is tall and blond.

Because Malaysia is a new participant in this program, not very many details have been worked out. She would be placed in Jahor, Terenngannu, or Pajang. She would be living in a residential school in a remote town/village and teaching English for 20 hours a week for a year. There would not be any sort of overseeing body that she'd report to nearby (Fulbright has a center in Kuala Lumpur).

Does anyone have any information regarding safety issues in those three states? First hand knowledge, especially from long term stays, would be especially helpful.

What are the living conditions in remote towns in that region of the country? Are there parts in those areas that are very difficult to access and travel to and from?

I appreciate any information you may have!

Kuala Lumpur...
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1. Re: Safety concerns about living in Malaysia for 1 year

Welcome to Malaysia forum. I am a local living in Malaysia for my whole life in KL.

The part about the travel warning is b***s@@t to me. The kidnapping in the east coast was in Sabah and that was ancient history.

Your friend would be base in Johor, Terenganu and Pahang. All the 3 state in in the Peninsula Malaysia and Johor is at the south.

The crime rate in Johor Baru (the capital for Johor state) is a bit high and mostly its petty crime like snacth theif. Blame the rich Singaporean who frequent this city and the locals there find it easy target as well as easy money.

As a outstanding blonde and attractive, she WILL attract attention from man...all man in this world are attracted to beautiful female!

Tell her to practise the normal safety precaution she take back in her home town. No wandering into dark alley, dont flash your $$$ around, dont walk around in ultra minis into "red light district", etc.

If she is posted to the rural areas, she would be much safer. Small village are called Kampung in local language. The majority of the people are Malays, kind, honest, easy to talk to, friendly and polite. However, they have not seen a blonde before except on TV, so yeah...she will attact attention but harmless. Most rural folks have highest regards to teachers and doctors...its considered a noble profession.

Tell your friend to just dress modestly, t shirt and bermudas would do just find in leisure time, long pants or skirt with matching blouse for teaching. She will be very tempted to put on a singlet and short pants...the weather can be hot at times but do that indoor.

When she arrive in the posting area, tell her to visit the Penghulu / Ketua Kampung (Village Head), introduce herself and pay her respect. Be hunble, be polite and smile. Thats all.

Just to share some personal stuff, my sister was posted as a doctor to a rural area in Sabah in the early 90's. She dont spend much money there....most of the time, the kampung folks would have some fruits picked from their backyard and give to her. Some kenduri (party) to attend and when its festive time, she had curries, rendang, lemang, etc delivered to her door step. All these because she is the doctor in the kampung and as mentioned...its a noble profession and the folks there have the highest respect to her.

Kuala Lumpur...
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2. Re: Safety concerns about living in Malaysia for 1 year

Since your friend is coming to Malaysia not for travel as tourist but for a working stint, the best sources of information IMHO is not this forum but: (a) your US Embassy (they happen to have one in Kuala Lumpur you know, http://malaysia.usembassy.gov/ ), (b) Tourism Malaysia Office (they have that too at NY, since you're from NY, at 120 East, 56th Street, NY www.tourismmalaysiany.com/contactus.html ) and (c) a good travel book on Malaysia from the local library or bookstore).

That said, let me response to some of the points you raised:

1. "She heard about the terrorist activities in the east of the country" - MK4872 has answered this and I agree. But why not check with US Embassy at Malaysia per link I give, to allay any further fear?

2. "Because Malaysia is a new participant in this program" - The Fulbright scheme is a form of US aid to developing countries below a certain level of income. The scheme was discontinued for Malaysia in early 1990s I think since by that time the income in Malaysia had exceedeed the stipulated level. The revived Fulbright scheme beginning 2011 is a special request by Malaysian Prime Minister when he met US President Obama September 2010 to improve the teaching of English in Malaysia - see thestar.com.my/news/story.asp… )

3. "She is also afraid of standing out and attracting unwanted attention - she is tall and blond" - Malaysia (or at least parts of it) at various times in history has seen settlements of Indians, Chinese, Thais, Portuguese, Dutch and English, not counting immigrants from Indonesia, Burma, etc. And now the country has no less than 24 million tourist arrivals each year, among the 10 highest in the world, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tourism ). So the country has seen it all, including tall attractive blond. If she attracts attention, she does so not because she's a tall, blond foreigner but because she's an attractive, sexy gal - there's a big difference between the two.

4. "She would be placed in Jahor, Terenngannu, or Pajang. She would be living in a residential school in a remote town/village and teaching English for 20 hours a week for a year" - Actually Johor, Terengganu or Pahang, as corrected by MK4872. I'm pretty sure the residential school is one of the MARA Junior Colleges here …wikipedia.org/wiki/MARA_Junior_Science_Coll… . If that, none of them is in remote location and all as well equipped as the best anywhere. And thousands of their graduates each year continue to universities in the US, England, Australia and New Zealand - hence one of the reasons for the special need for English teachers from an English-speaking country (as opposed to English teachers from Malaysia, plenty of them around).

Kuala Lumpur...
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3. Re: Safety concerns about living in Malaysia for 1 year

If your friend is really going to teach in a MARA college, then its safe. Your friend will enjoy it.

Singapore, Singapore
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4. Re: Safety concerns about living in Malaysia for 1 year

yea blame the 'rich' singapore for your problems. well, the americans are even richer. yea so expect more problems.

Poor people can't afford to travel n am sure u do not wan't them in your beautiful country begging for food.

Kuala Lumpur...
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5. Re: Safety concerns about living in Malaysia for 1 year

Pls dont take this as an offence. Its no secret that the Singaporean are the target and they are getting rob and mugged in Johor. Not that they deserve it but the influx from S'pore over weekends and holidays is just tempting cos its RM2.4 to SGD1 now. The lazy bums (not referring to all Johorean) in Johor are just waiting to jump on Singaporean every chance they have.

Its easy money to these people. But i do find Singaporean tend to be more careless (when they come over to M'sia) ...again not their fault but because S'pore is such a secure place, getting rob and snatching of bags are almost nil there.

I love S'pore, i go there for short holidays whenever i can affrod it cos the place is clean, you can walk down the street at night and dont have to fear you would get rob, the public transport is excellent but the currency is a bit too high.

No offence intended!

Petaling Jaya...
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6. Re: Safety concerns about living in Malaysia for 1 year

Frankly there are is NO terrorist activity at all in either Johor, Pahang or Terengganu. This is the least of your worries.

There is more terrorist activity across the border in Southern Thailand but it doesn't stop millions of tourists visiting Thailand every year.

For a developing country, Peninsular Malaysia is relatively well developed with metalled roads going everywhere and good infrastructure. Don't worry your friend wouldn't have to ride a buffalo or go an a boat to get to remote villages if this is your worry.

Singapore, Singapore
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7. Re: Safety concerns about living in Malaysia for 1 year

I spend half my time in Singapore and the other half in Malaysia. Whereas Singapore is comfy and safe, it's getting a bit crowded, busy and expensive. Malaysia, on the other hand, is exciting, yes, a little more gritty, but affordable and a lot of outdoors fun.

Generally, I'd say Malaysia is safe. That said, Johor tends to be plagued by some crime, mostly petty crime yes, but crime nonetheless. We find it not as safe as we'd like because our frame of reference is Singapore. But if your friend is from New York, then she won't be bothered much.

It makes sense not to be too complacent, though, as there are some nothing-to-lose type people in Johor, some say it's mostly the illegal immigrants, that snatch, rob and burgle, giving law-abiding Johorians a bad name.

For instance, when walking on the sidewalk, best not walk too close to the edge of the road. Don't dangle your purse and don't wear any fancy jewelry. Don't show too much skin. Don't smoke or drink in public. And don't wander too far off the beaten track alone. I'm sure all these things apply in New York too.

Anyway, so long as you use common sense, you'll be good.

8. Re: Safety concerns about living in Malaysia for 1 year

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