So you’ve decided to move to Malaysia! Once you’ve completed your happy-dance, you’re going to need to prepare for the move by asking some strange questions, like: Can I get replacement kiteboard fins there? (Fat chance!) Rubbing alcohol? (Yes, but it’s called something different). Deodorant? (You’re in luck… if you like to smell like a teenage boy). Or my dog’s favorite treats: petrified bull dongs? (You’re on your own there, buddy).
While KL and Penang have lots of shiny malls where you’ll be able to find most of the comforts you’ve grown used to at home, there are probably a few of your favorite things you can’t get here. This is especially important for items that Malaysia won’t allow into the country via mail. Like that anti-wrinkle cream you love so much – Customs will confiscate it. (Hmm, is this why Malaysian government officials have such supple skin?)
Here’s a super helpful tip: before your house-hunting trip out here, make a list of your must-haves and hit up the stores to see if they carry them. Here are some basic categories to help get you started:
– Your special facial cleanser
– Your fave cosmetics (Sephora is here, so you’re probably covered)
– Your favorite shampoo and conditioner (unless “Bawang Ladies Hair” is the brand you rock)
– Styling goop
– Your particular brand of contact lenses (I found out – after our move – that mine aren’t carried in Malaysia. Damn it!)
– That brand of dental floss, toothpaste or whiteners that you love so much
– Insect repellant wipes (you can thank me later for this)
– Antiperspirant/deodorant. (You’d think that for such a hot country, the selection wouldn’t be so abysmal, but it is)
– Pet-related items
– Special comfort foods, obscure ingredients or weird spices
– Specialty sports equipment parts/accessories
– Large water glasses (It’s hot here and you’ll probably be guzzling water. I hit up 14 shops in search of glasses that would hold more than one gulp worth, but no luck. Desperate and perpetually dehydrated, I seriously started eyeing vases as potential candidates.)
“Oh that’s okay, I’ll just have Amazon or my friend mail me my favorite shampoo, Calcium pills and lip gloss,” you say. Well, have fun beating your head against a wall at Customs when you try to go and pick up your package! After a 1-2 hour long wait, you will be informed that you may have to pay a tax of up to 50% of the cost of the item, and if those items happen to be cosmetics, skincare, hair care or supplements, they will be confiscated. Yep, that’s right – as I found out the hard way, the Malaysian government doesn’t allow these items shipped into the country. Apparently the promise of shinier, frizz-free hair is a threat to national security. But you can bring the items with you in your suitcase, so stock up before you move.
My checklist sent me on a fun scavenger hunt all over Penang: pet shops, spice markets, the pharmacy, grocery stores. I found most of our “necessities” (smoked Spanish paprika is essential for survival, right?!) but had to buy some of our favorite things in bulk from the US and stuff them into our surfboard bags when we moved. Like: my husband’s beloved Blistex lip ointment, without which his lips would shrivel up and fall off his face (or so he tells me); *real* vanilla extract; white popcorn (fellow popcorn aficionados will understand the culinary atrocity of yellow kernels); and Fancy Feast Gravy Lovers canned cat food for exceedingly spoiled house cats who are convinced they will wither and die without gravy.
If you’re preparing for your move now and weren’t able to check the stores in Malaysia for some of your must-have items, post a message here and I’ll let you know if I’ve seen it here, or will try to find it for you. I hope your move is smooth and you settle in quickly!