Here’s how you make an entire Penang post office burst out laughing: go up to the counter to buy boxes by loudly proclaiming, “Saya mahu beli dua katak!” For those who’s Malaysian Bahasa is even more rudimentary than mine, this translates to “I want to buy two frogs!” (Note: the word for “box” – kotak – is awfully similar to the word for “frog” – katak.)
Luckily, a tiny, tooth-impaired Chinese lady standing in line next to me gave me this helpful language lesson in between raucous giggles and gasps for air. With my Californian confidence, questionable language skills and “I must experience EVERYTHING” personality, being an expat in Malaysia pretty entertaining (probably equally so for the locals). There aren’t a lot of online resources to help expats learn the lay of the land in Malaysia, and if you’re like me, you’ll have lots of questions. Like: why does the dentist want to sand-blast your teeth; how to drive several blocks without dying; which way to face on a squat toilet and where in the hell is the toilet paper; or where you can buy both an eel and a bra in one glorious shopping experience? Since I tend to stumble/bungle upon helpful, strange, fun and unique new finds each day, I figured I’d share them to make life a little easier for other expats.
And yes, the photo below is how I envisioned expat life in Penang would be. Much to my disappointment, I do not have a monkey on my head 24/7, but I can tell you where to find friendly ones who are more than happy to rest their testicles on your shoulder. Let’s face it, if you’re going to try to buy frogs at the post office, it’s best to do it with style and panache by wear wearing a monkey as a hat. Right?