Jacques Duquesne – An Expat’s Life in Malaysia’s Kuala Lumpur

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An expatriate specialist and founder of the Expatypus.com website; meet Jacques Duquesne, as he speaks to Holiday Home Times in an exclusive interview about his journey from France to Asia where he has been staying since 2004, and life in Kuala Lumpur, the city which he now loves to call his home.

The interview…

Please tell us something about your background – personal and professional.
I am from the Northern region of France. Unlike many expatriates, my parents never really moved. I grew up, studied and graduated in the same region I was born. Then I came to Malaysia and have been living here since. I love my wife and kid, running, basketball, and helping fellow expats settle in the SEA region.

Tell us something about your website, expatypus.com. When did you start it?
Expatypus was launched mid 2010 around the idea that connecting cultures should be easy and enjoyable. It is not really a ‘blog’, nor a ‘forum’, an ‘information centre’ or a ‘wiki’. At its core, Expatypus is a community of like-minded expatriates and world citizens who share their experiences, stories and knowledge.

When did you decide to settle in Kuala Lumpur? What went through your mind while taking this decision?
At the end of my business studies, I decided to take a few months to explore Asia and work in the region. After considering the usual top of minds for a French (Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand) I decided to go for Malaysia because most people speak good English, and is a little more rustic than Singapore. The multi-cultural specificity of the country also intrigued me. After six happy months, I decided to extend my stay a wee bit longer…

You have stayed in other touristy places of Asia. How would you rate Kuala Lumpur as a tourist destination? How would you compare it with other tourist destination in Malaysia?
I’ve always thought that Singapore is the place to earn money, Thailand is the place to spend it, and Malaysia is the place to live. The same goes for tourism. It is a great entry point for those who wish to discover Asia. After a few days though, I recommend visiting Penang, Malacca or the Sabah states to get a better feel of the diversity that characterize the Malaysian culture.

How is the nightlife of Kuala Lumpur? Where do you ideally hangout during the weekends?
The KL nightlife is re-inventing itself so often that it’s difficult to pick one or two ideal hangouts. I personally like Palate Palette and the No Black Tie. Both have been around for quite some time and offer some great entertainment.

What about restaurants? Are there any good restaurants/ pubs you can recommend?
The best way to discover Malaysian food is to try it on the street. Malaysians are very proud of their food, and deservedly so. The food courts at the Pavilion shopping center is one of the best in town. If you wish to go to a more refined atmosphere, you should try Madam Kwan’s restaurants.

Do you see a lot of expats settling in Kuala Lumpur? What is their average age group?
Expats come and go. The unofficial number is around 100,000. They are from all age group.

What are the other places besides Kuala Lumpur, according to you are best suited for expats to settle?
Beside KL, expats mainly come to work and live in Penang, Malacca and Johor Bahru. If you wish to retire in Malaysia, then I’d recommend Kuching or Malacca as both places are well connected, and offer a more laid-back environment.

Is Kuala Lumpur more of a retirement destination or you get to see young working expats settling here?
Thanks to its relatively cheap standards of living, nice weather and excellent food, Malaysia is a great destination for both working-type expats and retirees. KL itself is more of a working city, but many retirees live on the outskirts of the Malaysian capital.

What is the current real estate activity in Kuala Lumpur?Are there good developments/ developers in the area?
The Real Estate scene has been bubbling for the past few years and the KL landscape has changed leaps and bounds since I first landed here. The high-end property market is worrying some, but prices have yet to go down significantly. Furthermore, expats can’t buy properties under 1 Million Ringgits. Unless an expat plans on staying in Malaysia for seven years or more, I’d recommend renting.

How is the banking system of Malaysia? Can you term it as expat-friendly? For an expat how difficult or easy is it to open an account here?
It is relatively easy to open a bank account. Credit Cards are a lot harder to get the authorization for. You usually have to put down a collateral before a bank grant you access to their credit facilities.

What about the law-and-order situation of Kuala Lumpur?
Many Malaysians feel the country is less safe than it used to be. It may be so, but I still fell safer in KL than I did in France. However, the dealing with the police force in KL is a lengthy and time consuming process.

For an expat wanting to retire in Kuala Lumpur, what are the basic things he should look out for?
He should look into the Malaysia My Second Home program.  It is promoted by the Government of Malaysia to allow foreigners to live in the country on a long-stay visa of up to 10 years. The best source of info on the program is My2Home, a forum where MM2H applicants share tips and experience and which has been around for many years now.

Can you briefly tell our readers the rules of expats wanting settle in Kuala Lumpur? Any tips for expats wanting to settle in Malaysia in general and Kuala Lumpur in particular?
Take a few weeks to visit Malaysia before confirming your move. You can’t replace experiencing the country first hand. Also, do come with a job already secured. Unless you have an engineering degree in oil & gas, finding a job as an expat in Malaysia is very difficult. Finally, do not try to re-create here what you enjoyed back home. Mingle with the locals and experience new things.

Also can you please tell us about the rules of expat property ownership in Malaysia?
Foreigners can only buy properties that are over 1 Million Ringgit (approx. 300,000 USD). Both freehold and leasehold (99 years) properties are available. Stamp duty usually represent three per cent of the purchase price, and agent fees are handled by the seller/ landlord.