Parenting as an Expat in Malaysia
Uprooting your family is not easy, here are a few things to learn.
Moving out of one’s home country can be an exciting life opportunity and also full of anxieties The places one would see, the cultures to be explored and so many new kinds of people one will meet. How does one bring up children in a culture or city one doesn’t know much of? And how easy or difficult is this transformation for you as parents?
When we moved from India to Malaysia with our three little boys, we weren’t exactly prepared for the life here. Every time I learnt a new cultural or lifestyle point, I began to make a strong mental note, so that I can pass it on to other parents who move to the country whether they are from my home country or elsewhere. This helped one bond instantly with other parents because of the willingness to learn, and for being understanding to those who did not know as much.
Here are some notes that I made in the past one year:
1. Expat groups
The power of social media can be truly felt when one moves countries.
- As a beginning join Facebook groups that are exclusively for Expats. This would even show your existing Facebook friends in that city and it becomes easier to then reach out to them.
- Get active on the group and find out local Facebook or WhatsApp expat groups in the locality where you would be living. Start by asking questions on schools and activities for kids to take part in. This immediately opens up avenues to talk to other expat parents who have been living there since some time and have a helping nature.
- Almost all countries have their own closed groups on Facebook, WhatsApp or Telegram. This may be city-specific or locality-specific. For example, there can be ‘American Expat Group in Thailand’ or ‘American Expat Group in Bangkok’ or ‘American Expat Group in Sumkhumvit’ (an area in Bangkok). Joining these groups can also ease your move to the new country as you can ask questions as simple as where to buy a certain type or cheese/bread/spice/medicine that are common in your country and you may find it hard to get in the new country. People of your own country can identify with your struggles, which may come across as strange to others. Through these groups one feels more at home in the new country and gradually starts learning one’s way around.
2. Parent community
Nothing is stronger than the bond of mothers in an International community. If you find it difficult to get acquainted with other moms, look for play areas where younger kids can go. Get started by introducing yourself. Talking to other moms will tell you more about organized groups for parents and you can become a member of these groups (some of which may be paid). They often meet up weekly at play areas in their locality. Your kids will also start getting acquainted with kids of other cultures and feel less intimidated with their accent and appearance, and vice-versa. For older children, enroll them in their hobbies and reach out to parents of other children in the group.
3. Explore the city
While we are living in our home country, we often don’t get to explore it fully. Showing your kids around the city eases them to it and makes places more familiar. Involve them in as many errands as you can, like shopping grocery, picking up parcels from the security or main gate, exploring the wet market, etc. Even visits to religious places of worship can help the children stay in touch with their roots. Do as many “local” things as you can. Go on a food trail, or a history trail, a hop-on-hop-off tour of the city, or a trek.
4. Pick up a hobby
More often than not along the journey of parenthood the hobbies of our children become our priority and parents start moving away from their own passions and interest. Whether is it an existing hobby or a new one, get started on it through organized groups. This is a great way to meet like-minded people, who would eventually become part of your friend-circle.
5. Stay in touch with your culture
When we don’t live in our home country, certain aspects of it start becoming hazy to our children, especially if the culture is not upheld at home. Now is the time to go overboard with it! From celebrating all festivals at home (like Halloween, Ramadan, Deepavali, Christmas, Eid, etc) to celebrating national occasions like Independence Day, and close relative’s birthday (celebrate with them virtually), tell the importance of your culture to your children and make them feel proud of their roots.
6. Educate yourself about the country’s traditions and history
When we make an effort to get to know a country or a city by reading up on their festivals, important political milestones, events, we start becoming more at home. The sooner we begin to learn about the country, the faster we understand and appreciate.
7. Listen to your kids closely
If the move to a new country is hard for you, imagine what a child may be feeling. Many times our children are trying to tell us certain things which may make no sense to us (given our own limitations), but when we start looking at situations from their lens and tell them they have our unconditional love and support, no matter what, our children will start confiding more often and parents become part of their evolution.
This article was contributed by our partner Little Mister Trouble and has been published with permission.