I have relocated from Shanghai to Kuala Lumpur for almost 2 years now. From a small cosmopolitan country Singapore to a major city Shanghai and a buzzing world in Kuala Lumpur. For the past 4 years, it has been nothing short of an adventure.

One thing that my friends love to ask me is what is life like between Malaysia and Singapore, what is the difference. Yes, I do get that question all the time. I mean besides the exchange rates at the current SGD$1 is to RM3. There is a vast difference between the two countries even though they shared a long history and are neighbours.

Singapore Night View



One major draw to me living in Kuala Lumpur is the local population here. I’m a Singaporean, and I love my fellow countrymen, but local Malaysian folks are just too friendly to ignore. I thought I would have a hard time socialising in KL, but I made friends so easily here! Whether it is at the baby fair, the queue for the restroom, at the supermarket even at a bookstore, people just chat you up easily and with no malice intent. It’s fantastic! I even ended up making friends from trading items in Carousell and Facebook! I have never experienced that in all my years living in Singapore. Singaporeans tend to keep to themselves and are warier if you do open up a conversation with a stranger.


Overview of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia


Come on; this is pretty obvious. There is no safe place like Singapore (actually Vienna comes close). I do miss that I can wear shorts and tee, take a midnight stroll to the nearest 24 hours eatery without fearing for my life and safety. Whereas in KL, I’m usually home by 6 pm before the sunsets unless I am accompanied by a friend and escorted home to my doorstep. I don’t feel threatened or insecure, but I have learned even in Shanghai that Singaporeans have taken safety for granted, I know I had. Where else in the world can you find the latest iPhone or a laptop or a wallet unattended on a MacDonald’s table left by the owner for the purpose of reserving the seats as he queues at the counter for his fast food order?


Singapore Public Housing


There is no way of getting around using the public transport in KL. Yes, they have buses and subways, but they usually don’t end from point A to point B, your end destination. It boils down to really poor planning and not farsighted. Besides, the public transport is not safe and clean. It is no wonder that each family in KL have at least 2 cars. Uber and Grabcar’s businesses thrive in KL especially with regular patrons like me. In comparison in Shanghai and Singapore, it is easy to get around using the public transport and there is no need for anyone to drive on a daily basis. In fact, all my life in Singapore, I hadn’t felt the need to get my driving license. Simply because having a car is more of a want than a necessity.


Kuala Lumpur Housing


You win some; you lose some in Singapore, a little country well known for its efficiency and productivity. Everything gets done fast and precise, but in exchange, the folks working the process is highly strung and stressed. It is a cold place where taking the time to smile and asking how is your day means another 1 minute of productivity cost. Most of us go through the mandated script of answering customers’ questions. No time for innovative and creative solutions, for a personal touch. Malaysians, on the other hand, have more warmth but they need to pull up their socks regarding efficiency! “I don’t know” and “I can’t help you.” often equals to their nonchalant voice subconsciously telling you “I don’t care.” It is the same answer you get even you escalate your problem 3 times above the hierarchy until you just give up. For good. The same attitude from government administration to banking to telco to consumables. So I learned to do what the locals do “Relax Lah.”

Simpler Life
So speaking of “Relax Lah”, the life in KL is much simpler. Folks here in Malaysia are easily contented and go about life with each passing day. Singaporeans are cultivated from young to plan for rainy days and future. Since we started school, we worried about our grades and whether we can find a good job upon graduation. When we are in the workforce, we began to worry whether we are earning enough to afford to have a roof over our heads and to get married. Once we are married, we worried if we can afford to start a family. Once we have a family, then it’s our child’s education, parents’ medical care, our retirement… The worrying only ceases when you take your last breath.

Overall, I truly enjoy my time in KL, and I do miss home in Singapore as well. Both countries have its pros and cons; the best way is to focus on its advantages since you can’t change much of its cons except to whine and complain about it. To my friends and folks to love to ask me to choose between the two countries: I have only this to tell them – my home is where my heart is.

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73 replies on “My Life: Kuala Lumpur vs Singapore

      1. oohh thanks Kally I will…I am enjoying so far …the food really is great. ..and shopping ahhh…we are considering actually of going to KL..and then Indonesia…will let you know. ..

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Oooo.. please do try the famous Chili Crab at Long Beach Restaurant East Coast Park. It is our signature dish! Please do let me know your plans if you are coming to KL, I’ll love to treat you to a local meal!

          Liked by 2 people

          1. Great! Skip the rice, take the bun with the Chili Crab, you not regret it!

            If you like cheap shopping, go to Bugis Street, lots of clothes and souvenirs to buy back home, remember to bargain!

            Liked by 2 people

      1. The only part of Asia I have been in is Singapore. That was in 1996, I was still at school. It’s a beautiful place but very warm. I am Scottish and not used to the humidity !

        Liked by 2 people

  1. I really loved your post comparing KL and Singapore. I believe every place has its own unique identity, pros and cons. I am a Mumbai boy, but I hate the pollution, tall skyline, traffic jams, and other urban problems that arise from poor planning. So I now live outside the city where I am close to nature but I can visit the city in an hour.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Ah.. that sounds really nice to be able to have your cake and eat it too, Sharukh. For me, if I get to choose, I will always want to live in front of the sea. Singapore does not have a location like that. Hopefully, one day my wish will come true… to retire in front of the sea.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I thoroughly enjoyed this post. You gave a comparison between the two countries that only a person who has lived both places could give. Fascinating! (Thanks for finding my blog. I’m happy to find your blog now.)

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Welcome to Singapore! How do you find our weather? Many expatriates couldn’t stand our humility. Thank you so much for reaching out to me, and welcome to MiddleMe!


          1. Absolutely! And I like how convenient the transportation is as you can either take a MRT, bus or a taxi. In addition, you are even able to easily rent a bicycle now (Obike), which is very much appreciated by the Dutch as we cycle a lot in our country.

            Liked by 2 people

          2. Been to Utrecht 4 years back and it was the place I got engaged! Love your Miffy museum! Well, I always thought that Singaporeans are pretty pampered in terms of taking the transportation system and safety for granted.


    1. It is very different from the rest of the south East Asian countries. Do come one day and maybe I might be in Singapore to show you around!


  3. Love your article and comparisons! I love KL too though I’m also Singaporean. When I lived in Beijing I really liked my Malaysian friends for exactly the same laid back attitude. I do miss that company now moving back to singapore. All the best!

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Hi Kally. Happy new year. Thank you sooo much for your advice on Singapore. We enjoyed the city very much. The gardens by the bay are spectacular. So are the southern ridges and the zoo. We even visited my great-uncle’s road (Onraet road) and almost got arrested as it is a restricted area. Loved your city and I’m sure we will be back. Xie xie, Kam siah (may not apply) thank you and merci.
    And have a lovely year 2018.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. You really make it appear really easy together with your presentation however I to find this topic to be really one thing which I feel I’d by no means understand. It sort of feels too complex and very broad for me. I am looking ahead on your subsequent submit, I will try to get the grasp of it!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi, Kally: I am just discovering your blog. Thank you for this taste of your home country AND current home base. I agree with you that “having a car is more of a want than a necessity.” All of our fossil fuel consumption is adding up to some rather extraordinary environmental/ecological challenges (right now I am thinking about ongoing fire disaster in Australia…) I visited Shanghai twice when friends lived there but have not traveled to other Asian countries. And I probably won’t (because I don’t want to use fossil fuels to get there), but I love reading blog posts about other parts of the world so that I can travel vicariously. Have you written any blog posts about your time living in Shang Hai? I loved riding a beat up old black bike (borrowed from my friends) all around the city.

    Liked by 1 person

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