Why or why would you not return to Malaysia?

Certain gripes/praises surfaced over and over again in comments, and I have categorized them here. Note too how individual preferences and viewpoints differ: for example, one person may view the current job market as unpromising and offering poor compensation, while another sees it as a opportunity to create new markets.


“I have high, and perhaps quite idealistic, hopes for my country, and I believe that the only way I will be able to create any change about my country is by physically being there.”

“I still do want to go back to Malaysia at some point in time after being abroad for while so I can help develop the film/music industries and support the much under-supported arts.”

“Although I do agree with many complaints that are common with malaysian students, I strongly believe that things will only change if we return to the country and change it ourselves. So long as immigration out of the country continues, these opinions will not be heard.”

“Malaysia is my place,  “tanah tumpah darahku”…Even though things back home looks bad, political and financial situation is shameful and embarassing however I foresee a future in this country…I want to go home and serve the people of Malaysia.I see Malaysia as a country that has great potential however we are not utilize/using them to the full capacity.”

“Let’s face it, every country has its good side and bad side. America has its fair share of problems too. I think instead of complaining about how bad things are in Malaysia, we should acknowledge and give due credits for what’s good, and make contributions to improve what’s bad. I think it will make a great deal of difference if oversea Malaysians can have some faith in our own country and come back to make that difference.”

Working Opportunities

“I plan to migrate in order to obtain better opportunities and experiences from an academic and a career perspective. However, I do have a desire to come back to Malaysia. Possibly after my 40s.”

“I have already put in my application for Permanent Residency in Australia, just waiting for the results which would take about two years given the recent change in rules by the Australian government. The main purpose for staying here is because of my career. I am a registered psychologist. The opportunity for me to advance in my career in Malaysia is very difficult. However, I do have the desire to return home to put my services to good use and also raise awareness on mental health once I have established credibility for myself. Although I really dislike what’s been done to our country, I believe that that should make no difference in benefiting my fellow Malaysians.”

“I am currently working in the US, as a physician. With the horror stories I have heard about the lack of opportunities for those who are not Muslims and the outright discrimination (unfortunately sad but true), I have a very low desire to come back home to work (although I would very much like to, since all of my family resides in Malaysia and although I would like to contribute and serve my fellow Malaysians). All I want is for my efforts to be paid off justly and for me, to be given a fair opportunity. A place where I am given my fair chance of being the best doctor I can be.”

“I’m inclined to migrate due to job opportunity prospects. I’m interested in a more ‘blue-skies thinking’ field of research, for which there is little or no funding for in Malaysia, and consequently no research groups back home. I would probably have to do something else altogether if I came back to Malaysia.”

“I’m doing Journalism, and it’s just a much safer and open environment in Australia to practise this profession. Malaysian politics sicken me and unfortunately I do not have the stomach to persevere through such hypocrisy, nor the noble spirit to risk persecution for telling the public what they deserve to know. To say the grass is greener in Australia would be naive, but at least journalists here don’t have the ISA, OSA, PPPA, Sedition Act and other outdated, draconian laws hanging over their heads.”

“The honest, brutal truth is that Malaysia is no place to build a career. Racism (even though officially discouraged), racial inequality, inept government, ludicrous government policies, lackadaisical attitude of most Malays towards work and improvement (and who can blame them, when everything is handed to them on a platter?) make for a dismal working environment.”

“It depends on the job opportunities by the time I graduate and am ready to work, 2017. Would love to be home but if I don’t get work that satisfies my needs, then sorry lah. As it looks now, the wildlife vet scene is not particularly great. Work in conservation would also be great, if there’s anything left to conserve by then.”

Malaysia is Home

Recurring theme: food.

“It’s where I feel most comfortable and it’s a place where I can relate to the most.”

“I love Malaysia . Nothing can replace the food , the pollution , the smells , the political drama and the people (however unmannered they may seem compared to westerners cos that’s who I am too !) .

The Malaysian pace [is chill], it’s a very easily contented middle class lifestyle I suppose .”

“I am Malaysian. Almost all of my family is back home in Malaysia. My ancestral home is in Malaysia. I’ve been brought up in Malaysia as a Malaysian. I’ve been invested in by many Malaysian people and organizations. I want to see improvements in our country. I think Malaysia as a nation has great potential and can be wonderful place. 

Malaysia also has very nice food.”

“There are some nice things about living abroad but then you’ll keep miss little things in life like nasi lemak and teh tarik. Above all I love the chaos that is KL; the disorder, the unpredictability and the rawness of the people – Australia doesn’t offer much in terms of excitement for a young executive like myself. I can’t call any other city other than KL as my home.”


1. My immediate and extended families are in Malaysia. However, there’s a chance my parents might migrate after they retire so I’ll likely consider where they’re moving to.

2. My friends. Some are all over the world, but most are in/going back to Malaysia. It’s not easy to click with foreign friends at all, due to the cultural differences.

3. Deep down every Malaysian, there’s a desire to change the country for the better.

4. I’m still missing the food, the mamaks, the fact that you can go out at 7pm and still find shops open, and the big malls.”

“This is wayyyy too cheesy, but its true. home is where the heart is. On a non cheesy factor – its hard to get a graduate job in UK as its very competitive, the money i may make may not be able to cover all my expenses of moving and starting a new life, plus, i really just cant be bothered to start new and make friends all over again.”

“Yes.Probably my current torso and mind have so far reached a homeostasis with the Malaysian environment and ways of living.Old habits die hard.Your hometown or negaraku is still the most powerful force  calling  you be rooted here, despite of the adverse govt policy.”

Service Bonds

“Migrating no. Working abroad for a couple of years, yes. I’m afraid I do fall under the “I want to gain experience before returning” category. However, that shall not be the case, since it tends to be problematic for sponsored students to actually have the choice to be called back in the first place. The local Malaysian institutions outside of JPA/ Mara- under which  I apply to (non JPA/ MARA) have always been quite strict with the fact that they want their scholars back, which makes getting around the system quite a tough one, albeit the minority some who quite blatantly choose to ignore these calls. I think migrating scholars are very and extremely irresponsible. I think migrating non-scholars just want a return for their big investments, though not entirely responsible, but somewhat justified.”

“I’m a JPA scholar, and they require me to report back to Malaysia to work, not necessarily for them, but within the country. However, once I have served my bond, I may consider working overseas if I were given the opportunity, but it is unlikely that I would completely uproot and migrate to another country.”

“As long as the government is making it COMPULSORY for us to work in hospitals for 3 years – NO. I do not see why overseas grads are forced to work wherever the gov places you, and when our education was funded by our own parents anyway. The government’s attitudes towards non-Malays is abominable and unfair – and the worst part is they fail to recognise the obvious, denied its existence AND declined to even look into the problem. If they don’t act quick, there will be an exponential increase in brain drain.”

Moral Duty

“The overseas-educated young people like me has a moral responsibility to go back to Malaysia to build up our own country. If educated people like me choose to take the easier path and migrate, Malaysia will only become worse, devoid of talent from people it helped developed. I feel I have a role to play to bring Malaysia to where it should be rightfully, as a developed nation.”

“I will see if Malaysia needs drastic saving.”

“I love my country. Being in a developed nation stifles me. I feel I have a lot more to offer back in Malaysia as it is still in a ‘developing’ stage.”


“From an emotional point of view, I don’t feel like I fit in Malaysia: As a Chinese, I will never be fully accepted by the majority. As a Chinese who does not speak Chinese, I am also not accepted by my own community. Apart from that, life at home for me is a little too comfortable (summer vacation attitude) and I do feel I strive harder when I’m overseas.

“I was never given credit or appreciation for my efforts (academic or otherwise) here, and was deprived of opportunities for further studies under numerous Government provided scholarships. I do not expect things to be different in the working world and so I choose to be in an environment where meritocracy, not quota systems drawn across racial lines, are practiced.”

“I believe that fairness is game and being a malaysian that scored 9A’s for SPM with no offers of scholarship from the government when I applied makes me feel that I should not allow my future generations to go through the quota system that I had experienced and sadly, failed to admire. Sadly, although I love Malaysia with all my heart, the grass seems to be greener outside. I’m under financial assistance by [a US university] and funded research right now. None of it ever made possible by the country I love. For me, its not just about the financial aid, its about equality in mankind and that makes all the difference.”

Quality of Life

“I’d definitely like to return to Malaysia. However, as Khairy Jamaluddin pointed out a few days ago, return-ees (for lack of a better word) face “structural problems” when we’re back. We’re over-qualified, too smart, etc. and there are many limitations imposed, especially in academic institutions. In essence, the “desire” and “plans” to return may or may not be realised.”

“[Reasons I would migrate are] Political problems. Too much crimes. Syariah Law. Mentality. Inter-cultural marriages are hard. Discrimination. Lack of freedom of speech and expression. Low pay.”

“I have not been in Malaysia for 9 years now. It is a place that I grew up in and have instilled all the values in me. However, it is not a place that I call home anymore. The reason for my migration is that I now feel most comfortable in Aus where I have spent my last 2 years at. It has taught me how to appreciate life and I do admire the lifestyle that this country offers- fresh food, safe environment, good public transportation.”

“Education system in Malaysia is a huge fail – our reading, writing and comprehension skills are below what they were 20 years ago. Too much racial and religious polarization and segregation.What police? We have police?”

“Foreign spouse, need money to support family, a more conducive environment for personal growth, highly specialized work.”

“I only love the food. I have incredible wanderlust though, and I was brought up traveling so that might not help. I only plan to visit Malaysia, for the food.”

“The standard of living is low, and idiot ministers perpetually insist otherwise and choose to compare us with less developed countries. Countries that were once on par with us in terms of development twenty years ago are now far ahead of us in every aspect. Even the pride of the nation – badminton – is no longer where it once was. The country is not doing anything to build patriotism – the people who are skilled to make a difference are leaving for a better life elsewhere and are gaining much success and wealth overseas. The government continues to be arrogant in threatening to blacklist Malaysians who give up their citizenship but this has worked against them – we’ve called their bluff. The only thing Malaysia has going for it is the food, which I continue to miss. However, with sundry shops going on strike, where the hell are the mamaks going to get their flour?”

“Having lived in Scotland for a year, and being exposed to the ways of living in an advanced country, gives me the opportunity to choose to work there in the future if I ever will leave my country. It could be due to career opportunities, better quality of life, and fairer system of meritocracy.”

Personal Reasons

“Not that I don’t love Malaysia, I just see the world as one big country. Different parts of this big country may not be where I come from but I would still like to discover new cultures, experience new weathers, to try different ways of living…even if only for awhile.”

“The primary reason is in Malaysia, I can be prosecuted for my sexuality.
 I have come to like the way of life where I am at. To return to Malaysia might mean rebuilding my life again.
 I feel that I may be more bounded to my parents if I were to move back to Malaysia.”

“I love Malaysia but I’ve always wanted to live somewhere else, somewhere cold, with seasons.
Just some place completely different from what I’ve known all my life. 

Also, career-wise, I think it would be more satisfying to work in a hospital in a more developed country – perhaps because I’ve become very spoilt and can’t imagine working without all the resources of a tertiary care hospital. It’s not the machines or the drugs,  it’s the ready access to online journals, full support from paramedical staff (medical social workers, physiotherapists, respiratory therapists). I guess I’ve become used to being a good cogwheel and it terrifies me to think of being the linchpin.”

“I would prefer to live in a more liberal place as I am a non-practicing Muslim.”

“I’d get arrested if I did come back – I won’t be able to do anything that I do now! no burlesque no fetish no girlfriends no circus no whatever. le bummer. also malaysia won’t acknowledge me as local, they make SUCH A BIG DEAL over me being “lain lain”. fuck it.”

“Don’t really like the lifestyle in NZ. too quiet, everything closes early, no mamaks, nothing else u can do after 5 pm apart from boozing, and winter’s depressing.”

“As much as I’m sickened by what’s happening to this beloved country of mine, I still feel Malaysia is home for me. I’ve worked & studied in the US for a total of more than 6 years and still strongly feel Malaysia is where I belong.

The difficult decision is whether I want to impose my opinions on my children. Do they feel the same way I do about Malaysia? Are they less attached to this country since the segregation of schools are at levels unimaginable during my schooling years here?”

“I honestly feel no connection with Malaysia anymore and don’t feel like it has anything left to offer me to progress as the person I want to be.”

“The main reason I don’t want to come back – I am gay.  So many smart and brilliant gay Malaysian stay away from home because of this too.  The only reason I would like to come back is family (to spend time with parents when I can).  So it will be short term to stay in Malaysia.  When my parents are gone, I will find another way to be out of Malaysia because I don’t think they will appreciate me in Malaysia.  The main thing they will see is the GAY me, not me who, might make a different, happens to be gay.”

Political Uncertainty

“Disappointed with the political situation of Malaysia. Too much emphasis put on ethnicity in decision making for future planning. Statutory discrimination against other races favouring only one ethnic. Will consider going back when situation improves (next life maybe but fingers crossed).”

“Concern and unhappiness over government’s racially divisive policies and political situation (corruption, croynism etc)”

“I am trying my best to contribute to my beloved country in the form of my knowledge, tax and so on. But if the country is going to fail people like me in sense of public safety, corrupted government servants and system, political chaos, low salary (with price of goods getting higher) then i might just have to leave.”

“Malaysia has problem: corruption, inefficient public sector and GLCs, politicizing of every single issue, childish exchange of words in parliament, occasional outburst of racist remarks by certain ministers, lack of meritocracy. 
And the mother of all problems is that the majority (not all) of the Malaysians are either too afraid or too ignorant and uneducated to make any change.”

“Would love to be back because it is a beautiful country, great food, its natural spaces are amazing and under-explored.
Would not be back because of stupid politics.”

“Political backwardness in its policies, the elite social system that rewards based on family, social and ethnic standing. The social culture that is shaped by these policies, praising and kow-towing people in power, the uneven distribution of wealth and civil rights as a result (which is natural for a developing nation in its infancy) but should not be rife in its development after 50 years.
Its just tiring to have to deal with the above when I do not have to deal with given a choice.”

“If I have a choice I won’t want to migrate, but I fear the future. If nothing has been done to improvise our policies, rid the nation of corruption, reduce radical Islamisation and train the badly-behaving monkeys in our Parliament, then I’ll pack my bags and leave.”

Family Ties

“Why: Family.
Why Not: Mosquitos.”

“Well many people whom I’ve met kept telling me to migrate over to Australia and never come back. I find that rather disturbing because what’s so wrong with Malaysia? 

My family is here, my friends, my memories. I was brought up here. Chasing wealth is number two for me and family has always been number one. I just don’t get why I’m being pressured to leave the country when I can actually contribute back to Malaysia and make things better.”

“Love my family back in Malaysia.”


“I don’t see myself as a patriot but I believe I’m born a Malaysian for a reason. To be honest my inspiration and motivation come from God. I believe God loves Malaysia and there is hope for better, all it needs is one person (and another, another…) to make a stand, to shine light into darkness.  Yes its imperfect, yes the politics don’t make sense, but I think we ought to love despite. This is true love.  To change Malaysia is to love Malaysia. I don’t fully agree with the shallow minded who leave the country just for the greener grass elsewhere. One main reason that draws me back is the change that is happening in Malaysia. Some say its unstable politics, but it may well be the start of a better Malaysia. Lastly, Malaysia is home. Home is where the heart is.”

“Family is back home. 
I am a citizen of Malaysia, I should therefore honor Malaysia.
 God is leading me back to Malaysia.”


8 Responses to Reasons

  1. III says:

    You missed out one. We’ve all heard of the mistreated, discriminated against second class non-malay/muslim, but it’s high time to present the other side of the coin. I’ll write it down and pray you see it fit to be added to the list of reasons you compiled here. You’re probably going to have to rewrite everything, though.

    Mistreatment by the supposedly mistreated minority races. The private sector for engineers appears to be, for the most part, run by a minority ethnic group. If you can’t speak their tongue, you’re screwed. If you’re malay, you’re screwed – it’s time to exact revenge for being treated as second class citizens, they seem to be thinking.

    In Malaysia, if you cannot speak a particular language (not Malay, not English), and have merely average PR skills, you’re doomed. It isn’t much better in MNCs, or so I’m told. I have no intention of returning until I think I am in a position to undo our country’s hideous multiple school stream system. Malay engineers need to learn Chinese not because of the rise of China but to survive in their own country, methinks. It really is funny if it weren’t so sad.

    By the way I am officially Malay but otherwise half chinese, if that matters.

  2. guest says:

    Thank you III, I agree as I’m a non-maly muslim, who basically gets treated like a foreigner in my own land,as my fellow malay-muslims dont accept me, and so will no one else. Please give me your opinion on my situation on what I should do. Go back to Malaysia or not?
    Also, the author of this, how old are you????, you seem quite young 😛

    • III says:

      My thinking is to return if I feel I can make a difference. If I had to state my opinion on your situation, I’d suggest you apply the same thinking.

      But then again, how are we to know if we can make a difference, or if in truth we are just too lazy/couldn’t be bothered to try etc? Am I just running away from the problem, hoping others will fix the situation for me to return to a better Malaysia? This I feel is a major problem. I admit I have no concrete answers to this.

      At the moment I am trying to convince my chinese friends that the multiple school stream system is an evil that must be undone – without success. I’m not making any effort trying to convince malays that the affirmative action policy (which, I believe, must be undone if the non-malays are to even consider the abolishment of the multiple school system) is also evil, however. Two reasons for this: 1.) In theory, I believe the concept isn’t evil, it isn’t morally wrong (or even if it is, not as much as having multiple school streams), and 2.) It will eventually undo itself anyway. The same cannot be said of vernacular schools, as long as racial pride exists.

      I don’t want to return to what I think might one day become a Province of China.

  3. dev says:

    I prefer to go back home soon…..Malaysia is 100% better compare to other countries…Most of us say that Malaysia is Racist,the government and people is racist,yes i do agree but my question is does the overseas land don’t have any racial discrimination?In my point of view ,there is racial discrimination in overseas,For Instance New Zealand local people discriminate others from overseas by mentioning this is my country and your foreigner…this people getting drunk ,pissing and peeing in the street,when we ask them they say that its their country,the police man failure to do duty,when we ask that particular person why,the say its our country n go to sleep….even new zealand have their own quota system as treaty of waitangi for their land and fishing villages….its protect maori rights….there might be some disadvantages in our country but still we are well respected in malaysia as human,but its not here in new zealand anymore compared to last 2 -3 yrs ago…

  4. Malaysian at heart says:

    I am a Malaysian and recently moved to Australia (July 2012). The reason for me to move to Australia is because I have my PR and was fortunate enough to land a job even before I migrated. It would be an opportunity to gain foreign experience. However, I am a Malaysian no matter what, or how hard I try not to. Eventually, I will still return to Malaysia some day. All my family and friends are back home. Firstly, uprooting everything and move over to Australia drains you emotionally inside out. My wealth are slashed by 2/3 over night due to the strong AUD/ MYR.
    Yes, I am able to make some friends here at work, however its not easy blending in and custom to their foreign culture.
    Thinking the grass in always greener the other side is a myth. Australia is a nice place to retire, but certainly not a bustling country. Work life balance, is not much of a different compare to KL.
    For those who wants or plan to move overseas, its really important to consider ‘can you leave your family and friends behind.’ For me, that is the biggest challenge and am still struggling to battle that feeling, and at times loneliness.
    Things are very expensive in Australia. Taxes are just unbelievable, eating out can burn your wallet, public transports cost a bomb. for example, a 30KM ride will cost me AUD 76. Rental for a decent apartment will cost roughly AUD 1500-2000 per month (and its not in the city). Utilities are expensive. If you plan to have kids here in Australia, don’t even think you can get a helper (maid). Child care will cost you AUD 80-100 per day (9-5, and charge mininum AUD11 for every 10 mins late).
    All I am saying, there are quite alot of factors that you must willing to forgo and accept. Not bed of roses as perceived by many.

    • Malaysian-at-heart-too says:

      Thank you to Malaysian at heart for the true insights of migrating to Australia and to Evelyn for initiating this useful survey/sharing. I hate the racial policies in Malaysia which is driving its countless citizens out of the country, although likewise, I remain a Malaysian at heart no matter what. Do you mind to share further with us which organisation and in which Aust city was willing to employ you as a migrant with “no local experience”? Despite my occupation is engineering industry, I have not been lucky…

  5. Accidental Malaysian says:

    I was born in Malaysia, and left when I was 17..and have been abroad for 17 years. Therefore, I have spent half my life abroad. Although my family is in Malaysia, I no longer feel Malaysian, or shall I say, I do not quite feel like ‘anything’. As a teenager, I desperately wanted to leave home.. why? I could not understand why everyone was so racist ( I am talking about all races here towards each other) and religiously intolerant. I now work to try and improve health in many parts of the world by combining the fields of medicine,design and innovation. Would I want to come home and share my skills to my fellow Malaysians? Of course I would.. but would they accept, an eccentric, almost atheist, born’ Muslim’ girl like me? Probably not. That, is why, a non-Chinese, non-Indian, ‘Malay’ (for a lack of appropriate description for a girl of Yemeni heritage as me) would never return home. As long as a malay, cannot marry a chinese or an indian without forced conversions, we, the silent few will remain abroad where we can truly be ourselves without persecutions.

  6. lesan. says:

    I am a true Malaysian at heart and love my community back home. Malaysians are warm, friendly, helpful and considerate people, at least the ones i have come to know. Unfortunately, my beloved country is no longer a safe place to stay, i don’t feel safe walking in the streets of Kuala Lumpur. I currently lived in Singapore for coming to seven years and have on several occasions tried to return back to Kuala Lumpur, it has not been easy leaving one’s community behind to work and live elsewhere, even as near as Singapore. One can only hope Malaysia politics and safety concerns will improve in the future. For the record, i have visited the police station in Kuala Lumpur for almost 5x in my lifetime for cases of snatch theft and car break ins, 3x my own and 2x to help a friend. That alone can be a traumatic experience.

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