Huge Malaysian Community in the UK
Leaving your home and moving to the other side of the world can be a scary prospect - many international students worry about fitting in and finding friends, or about feeling lonely in their new home. However, as our resident Malaysian editor, Kristina Khoo discovered when she arrived in the UK, you may be in for a surprise...
Many Malaysian students have felt doubtful about choosing such a faraway study destination. I for one was apprehensive about my decision to pursue my degree in London. First of all, most of my friends were studying closer to Malaysia, which meant I was travelling to London all on my own with no friends or family support. Even the thought of flying for 17 hours (including transit) was enough to put me off! On top of all this, the constant nagging feeling about whether I'd be able to acclimatise to the famous British weather, perform well in university, make friends, find a part time job and a whole long list of other things, made the decision seem a lot more intimidating.
However, I was pleasantly surprised when I realised that the Malaysian community in the UK is huge. A survey by the International Organization for Migration reveals that in 2007, approximately 180,000 Malaysians live, work, or study in the UK. The highest population of Malaysians in the UK is in London at 48,000 followed by Manchester, Birmingham, Sheffield and Leeds.
To cater to such a large community of Malaysians, Malaysian restaurants can be found in nearly every town particularly in bigger areas like central London. This is reflective of Malaysians' love for good food!
A great way to 'find' other Malaysian comrades is a visit to any Malaysian restaurant. I can assure you that you will find other Malaysians there. Being new to London, I went to Kiasu, a Malaysian/ Singaporean restaurant in Bayswater. As soon as I stepped through the door, I was greeted with the familiar accent and for a while, it felt like I have just been transported back home! I sat down, ordered my food and casually turned to the next table and struck up a conversation. It was definitely the best meal I've had and 10 pounds well spent. Not only did I have a massive meal, I made new friends as well! What better way to bond with other Malaysians over delicious food?
Of course there are a few tips on how you could make new Malaysian friends.
• Do not be shy!
We are quieter compared to our western counterparts. But if we are trying to make friends, we should try come out of our shell! Besides, no Malaysians will give you the cold shoulder because most of them would be just as pleased as you to stumble upon another Malaysian in a foreign country. It helps that Malaysians are a friendly bunch of people!
• Join clubs / associations
There will be a Malaysian club on campus. If not, there are a lot of Malaysian groups or associations. If you still can't find any, take part in any social groups be it a dance class or even a football team. Many foreigners would love to make your acquaintance, as they will be interested to learn more about your country and culture. Make sure you know Malaysia well!
The UK is always buzzing with great events and festivals. Look out for the Malaysian Week where you will be enticed with Malaysian music, fashion, dance, arts, crafts and food. Get out there and be sure to get involved!
Apart from all these, you can also connect with other Malaysians online.
A forum for Malaysians living, studying, working and travelling in the UK
• The UK Expat Malaysians Meetup Group
Meet other local Expat Malaysians! This meet-up is for Malaysians and their friends to network, exchange ideas, and discuss about anything Malaysian. The group organizes get together such as the monthly Dim Sum meet-ups.
• Malaysians in the UK on Facebook
• Malaysian restaurants in London
• The Malaysian Students Department for the UK & Eire
News for Malaysians and there is also the famous Malaysia Hall that offers cheap accommodation and authentic Malaysian canteen food.
Living away from home can be quite lonely, but fear not. There are so many of us out there, I'd be surprised if you don't bump into any of us!