Country Presentation

Malaysia Map - courtesy of NationsOnline.orgMalaysia is a country in Southeast Asia consisting of thirteen states and three Federal Territories. Its capital city is Kuala Lumpur, while Putrajaya is the seat of the federal government.

The country is separated by the South China Sea into two regions, Peninsular Malaysia and East Malaysia (also known as Malaysian Borneo). Malaysia borders Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, and Brunei. It is near the equator and has a tropical climate.

Malaysia is a great country for expatriation as the standard of living are reasonable, the population is welcoming, and it is strategically located in terms of regional business and travel.


Full name: Federation of Malaysia
Population: 28.3 million (census, 2010)
Capital: Kuala Lumpur

Government: Federal constitutional elective monarchy. The King (Yang di-Pertuan Agong) is elected to a five-year term among the nine hereditary Sultans of the Malay states; the other four states, which have titular Governors, do not participate in the selection. The government is closely modelled on the Westminster parliamentary system.
King of Malaysia: Abdul Halim (since 2012)
Head of government: Najib Tun Razak (since 2009)

Internet domain: .my
International dialling code: +60
Monetary unit: 1 ringgit = 100 sen
Area: 329,847 sq km (127,355 sq miles)
Life expectancy: 72 years (men), 77 years (women)

Languages: Malay, English, Chinese dialects, Tamil
Major religions: Islam, Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, Christianity, Sikhism


14th century - Conversion of Malays to Islam begins.
1826 - British settlements of Malacca, Penang and Singapore combine to form the Colony of Straits Settlements, from where the British extend their influence by establishing protectorates over the Malay sultanates of the peninsula.
1895 - Four Malay states combine to form the Federated Malay States.
1942-45 - Japanese occupation.
1948 - British-ruled Malayan territories unified under Federation of Malaya.
1948-60 - State of emergency to counter local communist insurgency.
1957 - Federation of Malaya becomes independent from Britain with Tunku Abdul Rahman as prime minister.
1963 - British colonies of Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore agreed with Federation of Malaya to form the Federation of Malaysia.
1965 - Singapore withdraws from Malaysia, which is reduced to 13 states; communist insurgency begins in Sarawak.
1969 - Malays stage anti-Chinese riots in the context of increasing frustration over the economic success of the ethnic Chinese.
1970 - Tun Abdul Razak becomes prime minister following Abdul Rahman's resignation; forms National Front (BN) coalition.
1971 - Government introduces minimum quotas for Malays in business, education and the civil service.1977 - Kelantan chief minister expelled from Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), triggering unrest, a national emergency and the expulsion of PAS from the BN coalition.
1978-89 - Vietnamese refugees benefit from unrestricted asylum.
1981 - Mahathir Mohamad becomes prime minister.
1989 - Local communist insurgents sign peace accord with government.
1990 - Sarawak communist insurgents sign peace accord with government.
1993 - Sultans lose legal immunity.
1997 - Asian financial crisis spells end of decade of impressive economic growth.
1998 - Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad sacks his deputy and presumed successor, Anwar Ibrahim, on charges of sexual misconduct, against the background of differences between the two men over economic policy; Ibrahim arrested.
2001 March - Dozens arrested during Malaysia's worst ethnic clashes in decades between Malays and ethnic Indians.
2001 April - Demonstrations against the Internal Security Act following the detention without trial of supporters of Anwar Ibrahim.
2001 September - Malaysia, Singapore resolve long-standing disputes, ranging from water supplies to air space. They also agree to build a new bridge and tunnel.
2003 October - Abdullah Ahmad Badawi takes over as prime minister as Mahathir Mohamad steps down after 22 years in office.
2004 March - Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi wins landslide general election victory.
2004 September - Former deputy PM Anwar Ibrahim freed after court overturns his sodomy conviction.
2004 December - Scores of people in Malaysia are killed in the Asian tsunami disaster. Malaysia delays planned deportations of many thousands of illegal immigrants, most of them from Indonesia.
2006 April - Malaysia shelves the construction of a controversial bridge to Singapore.
2006 December - 60,000 displaced by flooding in the south.
2007 January - Some 70,000 evacuated as second wave of floods hits south of country.
2007 February - Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei Darussalam sign deal to protect 200,000 square kilometres of rainforest on the island of Borneo.
2007 May - Anwar Ibrahim's Parti Keadilan Rakyat loses a bitterly contested by-election to the government. The result is seen as a blow to his efforts to revive his political career.
2008 March - Elections. Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's National Front coalition suffers its worst election result in decades. It loses its two thirds parliamentary majority and control of five state assemblies.
2008 July - Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim is arrested over allegations of sodomy, in a move that exacerbates political tensions.
2008 October - The government unveils a raft of measures to prop up the stock market and attract more foreign investment in expectation of slower growth in 2009.
2009 March - The government unveils a $16bn economic stimulus plan as it seeks to stave off a deep recession.
2009 April - Mr Badawi steps down as prime minister and is replaced by his deputy, Najib Abdul Razak.
2010 January - A court decision allows non-Muslims to use the word Allah to refer to God.
2011 July - Police use tear gas and water cannon to disperse tens of thousands of people taking part in the Bersih calling for electoral reform.
2011 August - Prime Minister Najib Razak announces setting-up of parliamentary committee to study electoral reform.
2012 January - High Court acquits opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim of charge of sodomy.
2013 March - Malaysian troops attack Filipino insurgents who were demanding the cessation of part of Sabah state to the defunct Sultanate of Sulu.
2013 May - Ruling National Front coalition retains power in national elections.

Major Cities

Kuala Lumpur: Malaysia's capital, metropolis of 4 million inhabitants
Johor Bahru: The capital of the state of Johor, proximity with Singapore.
Ipoh: The capital of the state of Perak, located between Kuala Lumpur and Penang.
Kuching: The capital of the state of Sarawak on Borneo Island
Miri: The oil and timber town of sarawak.
Kota Kinabalu: The capital of Sabah state on Borneo Island
Malacca: The capital of the state of Malacca, is also the oldest port in Malaysia
Penang: Penang is an island, whose main cities are Butterworth and Bukit Mertajam
Langkawi: A favourite tourist stop, located in the State of Kedah


Agriculture employs 13% of the workforce and contributes to 9.7% of GDP.
The industry employs 36% of the workforce and contributes to 44.6% of GDP.
Services employs 51% of the workforce and contribute to 45.7% of GDP.

Malaysia has developed over recent years one of the strongest economies in the region with GDP growing an average 6.5 per cent annually from 1957 to 2005. Its economic growth depends largely on its exports of electronic equipment, petroleum and liquefied natural gas, chemicals, palm oil, wood and wood products, rubber, textiles.

Main indices

GDP: U.S. $ 307 billion
GDP / capita: U.S. $ 10,304
GNI per capita: US $7,760 (World Bank, 2010)
Annual growth: 4.5%
Inflation rate: 1.9%
Unemployment rate: 3.2%
Imports of goods and services: U.S. $ 197.2 billion
Exports of goods and services: U.S. $ 239.8 billion

(Estimates 2012)


Malaysia is a very easy country to live in as an expatriate. Still, here are a few guidelines to facilitate your move and make the most of your expatriation.

Entry / Living

Your passport shall be valid for at least six months when entering the country. If not, you will be turned away and returned to your starting point.


Estimates of monthly average budget needed to cover your expenses:

For a single person: 6,000 RM (approx. US$ 1.850)
For a couple: 10,000 RM (approx. US$ 3,100).
For a couple with two children 16,000 RM (approx. US$ 5,000) - off fees in an international school

RCP prepared a neat wiki page on the subject : Expat Salaries in Malaysia



The power in Malaysia is set at 230V/50Hz and uses the British-style plugs (3 square pins in a large fused plug). The electrical system is normally very reliable.

For devices that can operate at 230V, plug adapters can be purchased almost anywhere for RM5 and up. For devices that require 120V, the best place to find adapters and transformers is along Jalan Pasar, in the Cheras district of Kuala Lumpur. The gritty, no-nonsense shops in this area carry a wide range of electrical equipment and have knowledgeable staff.


Malaysia offers a wide variety of products.
Hypermarkets, Supermarkets and local markets are well supplied, and there are a large selection of local and imported products.
Imported products can be very expensive, especially alcohol and other haram products.



To move effectively in Malaysia, you need a car. Car prices can be expensive but fuel is cheap. Driving is on the left, and you should be cautious with Motorcyclists. They can be a traffic hazard due to unsafe driving practices. As an example, it is common practice for them to weave through traffic and not to stop at traffic lights and pedestrian crossings. 

As an expat, you are allowed to drive with your national or international driving license for up to three months.
After these six months, you should transfer your driving license to a Malaysian one.



Employment / Work

Finding work in Malaysia as an expatriate can be difficult.

The ideal situation is when you get transferred to KL by your company. Failing that, you will have to find a company that is, (1) ready to  pay you at least the minimum expat salary of RM5,000/ month; and (2) apply for a work visa on your behalf - the company should handle the paperwork and expenses. 

Recently, the government announced that expatriates with salaries of more than RM8,000/ month would receive automatic approval for their employment pass.

Your local chamber of commerce in Malaysia may be a great place to get more information on working in Malaysia and getting insider info on who to contact if you're looking for a job or business contacts.

Tax system

Malaysia is a reasonably tax friendly jurisdiction.

The rate of income tax depends on the resident status of the individual which is determined by the duration of his stay in the country. A resident individual is taxed on his chargeable income at graduated rates from 2% to 26% - after the deduction of tax relief - while a non resident is taxed at the highest 26% rate from the first Ringgit.

The regular rate of corporate income tax is 25% for 2010.

Malaysia does not have annual wealth taxes, estate duties, gift taxes, or accumulated earnings tax.

Capital gains tax are only levied in very limited circumstances. 


Malaysia offer a good range of local and international schools, especially in places like Kuala Lumpur or Penang. Cost may vary, some options are very expensive, even compared to what you may be used to back home, while others can be reasonnable. You can also arrange for home-schooling should you not find your match.

Local System

1) National schools
Medium of instruction : Malay (except for Mathematics and Science subjects)

2) Vernacular schools
Consist of Chinese and Tamil schools. Chinese schools uses Mandarin as the medium of instruction and Tamil as the medium of instruction for Tamil schools.

3) Mission schools
Mission schools, or what is left of mission schools, were set up by Christian missionaries. Previous medium of instruction was English.  In the past, the churches' board of directors for the school would oversaw the way the school would be run.  However, with the government's effort to streamline all schools, some mission schools have become full national schools while some mission schools still retain a small amount of autonomy over certain matters.

Example: Methodist Boys' School, Kuala Lumpur, a former full fledged mission school.  Every Wednesday, after school assembly, Christian students would have a short prayer in the school chapel while students of other faith would gather and said their prayers in allocated classes before school starts.  

4) Sekolah Agama

Former madrasahs where Arabic is taught as part of the school syllabus.

International Schools

International schools were originally founded to serve the expatriate populations. They usually define themselves by their curriculum, and most recommendable ones boast international accreditation. A school can only be accredited when it has been approved by a non-government agency reviewing schools in a region or type of curriculum.

List of international schools in Malaysia

Malaysian Kindergartens are mostly privately-run, and admit children between the ages of 3 to 6 years old. 


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