Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia


Ellen plans to stay in Malaysia. ‘Hell, why not?’ she said, smiling like a Cheshire cat. At 67, Ellen is a grandmother and works as a management consultant. She has been very successful in her career, married and divorced once, followed by a long-term second relationship which ultimately ended, too. She never expected to have another relationship and was content to keep things that way.

But at a conference two years ago, Ellen met a dynamic young Iranian doctor. He had been studying in Kuala Lumpur but decided to remain there and continue his research.  He is 33, a handsome ‘George Clooney look-alike’, charming, perfectly fluent in English, and enjoyed a drink and some good political conversation. And, Ellen added quietly, ‘Of course, he is a sex bomb.’

Ellen got lucky. But even if she hadn’t she has no doubt that she would have stayed in KL. ‘What do I like about living in Malaysia?’ Ellen said - and here she made no reference to any nocturnal pleasures: ‘The freedom to be who I am.’ She explained, ‘If I go home to Sydney, I’ve got children and grandchildren. I have to be all goodness and kindness and strive to be the perfect mum. Here, I can be the rat-bag I really am!’

Ellen isn’t really a rat-bag—she just wants more out of life. For Ellen, another important aspect of living in Malaysia is the respect that Malaysians have for older generations. ‘The attitude towards older people is much better here than in the Western world. People are so kind and lovely, they will look out for me, make sure I get home safely. In the work place, I am respected for my status at work but also because of my age, and you just don’t get that in Australia—it is so nice.’

She said that while many of her friends and associates in Australia are tempted to move overseas, they are too anxious to do so. At the top of their anxiety list is the medical services. ‘As you get older you worry about who is going to look after you every time things fall off or don’t function 100 per cent,’ said Ellen.

She added quickly, however: ‘In my view medical services in Malaysia are absolutely fantastic—really, really top notch. The cardiologist I go to studied with my cousin who is now a professor of surgery in Australia. You get better treatment here in lots of ways. Even if I had a life-threatening illness, I would be quite happy to stay and be treated here.’ And, she emphasised, it would come at a fraction of the cost of the same treatment in Australia.

Ellen really did find a new life at 65 by moving countries. She was happy in Australia but she grasped willingly the move when business offered up opportunities. She lives in Bangsar, an upmarket suburb of Kuala Lumpur, in a very pleasant and spacious apartment that costs very little to rent. It has three bedrooms, two bathrooms and costs just A$1200 a month. This is about a third of what a similar apartment would cost to rent in an equivalent suburb in Sydney.

The Cost of Living allows her money goes much further in KL than in Australia and she is meeting a totally new set of people. At the same time, she has remained close to friends and family back in Melbourne.

To Ellen, the move was absolutely the right thing to do.