Quay to happiness: Yamazaki taking a stroll along Straits Quay Marina in Penang.
PETALING JAYA: Malaysia’s ranking as being among the top retirement destinations came as no surprise for expatriates who have settled here.
For Karen Palko, who arrived with the Peace Corps in 1979, Malaysia is perfect because it offered Westerners a foot in both worlds.
She said Malaysia was no third-world country and there was efficiency, culture and natural beauty.
“I would say the weather is number one. You have to have lived in the cold to appreciate the heat,” said the 57-year-old California native.
She said those seeking to settle here would also find Malaysia affordable.
Malaysia had been ranked fifth in the 2016 Global Retirement Index, issued by International Livingpublication, which rated 23 countries. The top four are Panama, Ecuador, Mexico and Costa Rica.
International Living, which claimed it has been helping people to retire overseas for the past 30 years, said the criteria was based on factors such as buying and renting of real estate, ease of visas, cost of living, entertainment and amenities, infrastructure and climate.
Among others, it noted that Malaysia scored strongly due to the great-value rentals and the Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) visa, which lasts for 10 years.
It also said that Malaysia had excellent hospitals, highly-trained doctors and affordable healthcare.
American Malaysian Chamber of Commerce past president Datuk Nicholas Zefferys, 75, said Westerners, particularly Americans, knew little about Malaysia.
“They are pleasantly surprised at the living standards and good government,” said Zefferys, who arrived 25 years ago.
Zefferys, who is from Seattle, said he had learnt more about the world through living in Malaysia because many cultures were represented here.
“This makes Malaysia an exciting place to be,” he said.
He also said that food here was superior to anywhere else in the world.
Monem Salam, who is originally from Texas, said: “The biggest appeal is the attitude of the people who have made us feel very welcomed.”
Monem, 43, who is the president of investment firm Saturna Sdn Bhd, moved here five years ago.
The father of three children aged between 10 and 16 said the MM2H programme was gaining popularity.
“Many in the US are interested and have asked me about it,” he said. Japanese mother of three Emi Yamazaki, 48, has been calling Penang “home” for 14 years.
“I lived in various cities in the past including London, Hong Kong and Singapore,” she said, professing her fondness for Penang.
“It is nice and compact,” said Yamazaki, who had worked in the media industry.
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