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Moving to Penang Malaysia

Discussion in 'Teaching abroad' started by tigerli11y, May 19, 2020.

  1. tigerli11y

    tigerli11y New commenter

    I’ve just been offered a job with an international school in Penang.
    1) Salary:
    What’s the expected salary for a Head of Year Teacher? Is RM13k (with no housing allowance) too low? I’ll be moving with my husband and 2 under 5s.
    2) Spouse:
    My husband (not a teacher and unemployed) is hoping to work there too. Can anyone else relate? Should he try to secure a job before moving or better to look once we get there? Any advice on the practicalities of this? Also, any ideas as to what jobs he can do out there?
    3) Car:
    Is it worth renting or buying a car? Again... any advice much appreciated!
  2. taiyah

    taiyah Occasional commenter

    1. Salary: in all honesty it depends which school has offered this and your years of teaching. After tax, you can survive and travel on this easily. But savings will be minimal. Is the school part of the EPF scheme? It wouldn't hurt to ask for another 700 RM per month.

    2) Spouse: Malaysia visa and working permit rule is, spouses have to have their own working permit to work in the country. Yes, he will be under your 'sponsorship' but that's not enough. Penang is a very much equipped part of Malaysia, expecting salaries of £1000+ is not realistic.

    3) Car: buying is better. Repairs and maintenance is cheap if you find the right mechanic. Seek a colleague who has been there for years. They can lead you to one.

    Take the job for 13,000 RM?
    If it's the lifestyle you seek then go for it. If this is your first international contract, take it and get your foot in the door. If it's money, you're in the wrong part of Malaysia.

    Personally, I'd take it. The lifestyle Penang and the country offers is outstanding. But it all depends on your financial goals.
    migratingbird and tigerli11y like this.
  3. tigerli11y

    tigerli11y New commenter

    Thank you SO much! Really useful to know.

    In response to your question, yes yes School is part of the EPF scheme.

    We’re definitely looking for a lifestyle change and it is our first time... so it’s going to be a “YES”!

    Thank you again :)
  4. rouxx

    rouxx Lead commenter

    Not trying to rain on your parade.

    I do hope you’ve thought through all the financial and practical implications before heading out with two small children in these particularly uncertain times.

    I know virtually nothing about working in Malaysia except that they appear to have managed the crisis fairly well and it’s supposedly a great place to live and work. I’ve visited as a tourist many times and I would suspect that is true.

    However (and these would be my reservations)...the school is offering very late in the day a head of year post at a salary that appears to be on the low side and no accommodation. Have you checked other very important benefits like insurance and flights etc? That does not fill me with confidence and, although some of the more local international schools are likely to retain pupils better than those who rely on expat families, I would be particularly cautious bringing 3 dependents with me.

    I worry that the excitement of a post in a wonderful place and a new experience is overriding common sense.

    If you are single and financially solvent and prepared to jump at the drop of a hat then I reckon there are going to be some fabulous (or at least interesting) opportunities about this year. But with a family not the time to be making reckless leaps into the unknown.
    Luvsskiing and ACOYEAR8 like this.
  5. taiyah

    taiyah Occasional commenter

    Then don't comment. You're commenting for the sake of commenting. "I've never worked there but.... As a tourist..."

    Tourist "advice" being given to someone who's been OFFERED a contract. Dios Mio!

    @tigerli11y well done for making the decision. Do you due diligence and checks. In 2-3 years time Penang is our target destination. Be ballsy, tough and negotiate like a Chinese-Malay when looking for your apartment.
    MsBunnell and tigerli11y like this.

    ACOYEAR8 Star commenter

    Couldn't agree with rouxx more. Great people, marvellous language. Strange times.
    Luvsskiing likes this.
  7. Luvsskiing

    Luvsskiing Established commenter

    Agree with rouxx. It's not the time to be resigning a permanent job, packing everything into storage, selling the car and renting the house, unless you are fully prepared to have the job cancelled at the last moment for all the reasons given in other threads and have loads in the bank and a plan B.

    As for Penang, nice place, very historical, had a lot of money thrown at it in the last decade to do up its historical area, is rightly proud of its label as a food lover's paradise, great islands and close to great islands and Thailand. V hot. You'll need a car for the convenience unless going native. English is widely spoken.

    The salary is fine for a young single person but a pittance for a family. After tax, rent, a maid or nursery fees if hubby works etc you'll get by, but you can only enjoy the place, however cheap, if you have money in your pocket. Malaysia is inexpensive by Western standards but not that cheap. It's unlikely your husband can work, unless online or teaching. Getting a work visa will be a problem and a local will work for far less, and they'll be lots of people needing work post c19. Is insurance for the whole family included? If not, have you checked How much it will sost you? How about return flights?

    Sorry, I wouldn't take this. You'll be too poor to enjoy Malaysia. I'd keep looking with your experience. Vietnam, China and Thailand can / could offer much better salaries with far better benefits, but everything is up in the air with C19. Keep your job for another year, save hard, get hubby onto a TEFL course and some experience if he can't do a pgce, do your homework and apply for next year, ideally to a place where he can work as well.
  8. amariB

    amariB New commenter

    I’m assuming you know about the current border closures for foreigners? If they open before August, it’s likely that you will still need to quarantine in government facilities. Something to be aware of if you’re going with kids. At my school in Malaysia we’re being told not to travel in the summer in case we can’t get back in.
    tigerli11y likes this.
  9. amysdad

    amysdad Established commenter

    Rough translation, 13000MYR is about £2500, so you should be OK on it. I'm surprised about there not being housing allowance though, so you might want to push for a bit more. As Rouxx says, I would also check things like health insurance, flights etc to make sure your kids and spouse will be covered.

    Never sure about a car, though. Yes, they do drive on the left like the UK, but like a lot of Asia it could be a bit mental driving around! Depending where you are, you might find that using something like Grab (equivalent of Uber) is pretty easy and cheap.
    tigerli11y likes this.
  10. mr_dybell

    mr_dybell New commenter

    I am currently living in KL, Malaysia, so do have some words of advice for you. It is very strange not to be given any accommodation allowance as this is pretty standard amongst the international schools in Malaysia. 13,000 is adequate for a single teacher but with dependents this will be stretched, particularly as you will be on 30% tax until January. Is there any room for negotiation, bearing in mind you are taking on a position of responsibility? On a positive note, Penang is a great place and I'd be happy to discuss anything else with you privately if I/you can work out how to start a conversation.
    tigerli11y likes this.
  11. rouxx

    rouxx Lead commenter

    I am commenting on the current global situation rather than Malaysia in particular.

    My concern was something that in more ordinary times that seems like a great first step, might not be such a good idea with two small children and a husband without employment.

    I can’t see any part of my post that was referring to tourism apart from the fact that I said I had only been there as a tourist.
  12. taiyah

    taiyah Occasional commenter

    Yes, the world has turned upside down. But commentors such as yourself need to understand and still be open-minded about teachers (and their families) looking for jobs and that there are schools needing teachers and will do the right thing.

    Of course, the risk is higher these days but they have been OFFERED a job. The OP is in need of accurate answers from those who have lived and worked in the the city they are willing to pack up and immigrate their entire family in.
    MsBunnell likes this.
  13. Mitochondria1

    Mitochondria1 Occasional commenter

    And this doesn't seem to be one of them. No housing allowance and only 2500 pounds for a family of 4? No.
  14. afterdark

    afterdark Lead commenter

    Check on the medical cover for the family.

    Driving is ok, not as bad as Sri Lanka or the Middle East but you will want an automatic car not a manual gear change. Do you have you international drivers’ licence? Practice driving as you expect to see a child on a bicycle ride up on either side without any road, that way you will be better prepared for the motorcyclists who drive as the rules of the road don't apply to them.

    They sail through red lights, do U-turns driving the wrong way around roundabouts.

    As for the driving in Penang itself, there is a lot of traffic and parking is always a pain.

    Ask to be put in touch with someone who is already there and continuing.

    Penang is quite Westernised is some ways. The Jaya grocer and similar will provide a taste of home foods, at a price.

    Driving in the dark is an experience. You will want a decent car with good brakes.

    The people are great. Food is cheap. Currently there is an MCO (Movement control order). At one stage there was effectively a curfew. Travel has been restricted to a 10 km radius, no travelling between states.

    If you did not know that Malaysia is divided up into states then you have not done enough homework on your intended destination.

    In many places the people are mostly multilingual. 99 shops abound, like little spar shops used to be in the UK. They are reasonably priced and clean.

    There are also 7-11, the American shops always pricier.

    Do not try a Durian fruit indoors, always go for a stall in market or by the roadside. Small roadside eateries are very common and popular.

    If you ask for a cup of coffee and it is very cheap you may not get a cup but rather a small bag and a straw...

    Local dishes tend to the very spicey. You can buy alcohol freely and there are pork sections in many supermarkets.

    With no accommodation 13k MYR is on the low side, remember that exchange rates can fluctuate, sometimes wildly. The current pandemic or aftermath thereof, may yet cause wild fluctuations in the exchange rates. When looking for accommodation it may help to ask for a translator from the school. The office staff may be amenable to do this for a small fee.

    Malaysia seem to be succeeding in curbing spread of the virus.


    With the UK having the highest death rate in Europe you may be better off in Malaysia. The population of Malaysia is approx 32 million that is around half of the population of the UK. So, if you double their numbers and compare the UK figures then you can see which country is dealing with the pandemic more effectively.

    Malaysia is almost tropical; you will need mostly summer clothes, unless you need a jumper in 32 degree C heat.
    tigerli11y and CocoaChannel like this.
  15. Luvsskiing

    Luvsskiing Established commenter

    It might be an idea to search for some expat sights for Penang, join a few forums, make contact via Facebook etc, and try to work out how much you need. There are plenty of good ones about:

    e.g. https://ohmyexpatlife.com/2017/02/24/cost-of-living-in-penang/

    Clearly, a budget depends on how wild and comfortable you want to live, but one back of the fag packet, conservative guess for a family of four living modestly .....

    Salary: £2400 pm

    Tax: £720
    House rental: £500 (don't forget deposit / key money needed)
    Small car lease, insurance etc: £200
    Health insurance for family: ?????
    Flights for family: ?????
    Utilities: £100
    Food, drinks, fun: £500

    Total: £2000

    £400 pm left for insurance, flights, holidays, travel, maid service, any extras

    It's doable, but tight. You won't save anything, and opportunities for exploration will be limited unless you have other finance.

    I think my time has come. If my posts are going to be moderated on these forums and not appear for three or for days, it will be time to say goodbye to the Guardian Protection, NEU-are-perfect, Momentum rocks, hard left no other views allowed Moderators Protection League.

    Your loss.
    Last edited: May 20, 2020
    tigerli11y likes this.
  16. CocoaChannel

    CocoaChannel New commenter

    I’m a very new member, not even a teacher yet, but my other half is from Penang, and I’m there a lot (not right now obviously).

    RM13K sounds like what a local would get in a mid-level manager role. I don’t drink alcohol at all and eat mostly local/hawker food. Alcohol is ridiculously expensive in Malaysia so that along with western food would start to eat into that RM13K. I wasn’t always so well behaved, and it took me a long time to get used to the food.

    Cars were mentioned above. They’re very expensive to buy, but a load of people I know now use Grab (same as Uber) and it works. As already said, parking is terrible, and the driving’s not great either.

    Unless your husband can do TEFL or has some special skills, there won’t be much work. There are some western-run TEFL providers there who can advise.

    Things won’t be much fun for a few months with Covid-19, but people are allowed out now.

    I’m/was in a few sports clubs there. You need to mix with the locals or it’ll be very isolated. You really need to think what you’d do in your free time there as it’s not to everyone’s liking.

    I’d go tomorrow (I’d have to sneak in right now) if I could, but I’m working on that.

    Good luck whatever you decide.
    tigerli11y likes this.
  17. CocoaChannel

    CocoaChannel New commenter

    And to reply to myself :)

    Medical insurance got a mention too. I get all my blood tests done at a company called Pathlab in Georgetown. I’ve had all sorts of tests at Island hospital to check I’m fit and well. No way could I afford that in Europe. Medical treatment is excellent, but I don’t think the insurance is particularly cheap.
  18. tigerli11y

    tigerli11y New commenter

    Believe it or not... £2500 is not far from what my family are currently living off at the moment. In London. Yes, the 4 of us. Somehow, we make it through each month - I pray and thank God always.
  19. taiyah

    taiyah Occasional commenter

    The problem with commenting for the sake of commenting is that missing the ENTIRE conversation lead to comments like this.

    This thread is not for you. It's for the OP.

    £2500 may not be enough for you because you but you're not the OP. She's said, "Yes" to it. Move on.
    tigerli11y likes this.
  20. tigerli11y

    tigerli11y New commenter

    I also came across this site. Thank you. It does help to put things into perspective. It really does depend on the lifestyle that one chooses.

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