I entered this blog in a writing contest for expat blogs, where we were asked to write a list that would be helpful for people to know about our country. The number of people moving from Malaysia to Mongolia is so small — though we do know a few — that I had to go a bit tongue-in-cheek with my list.
A Three-Month Retrospective: Some Things to Know in Case You’re in That Tiny Group of People Who Move from Malaysia to Mongolia:
1. Forget the calendar — no matter that it may still be warm in much of the northern hemisphere — and put those sandals in storage. Hide your cotton shirts and “sweaters” too. When you see them in the drawer, they’ll either make you feel cold or sad.
2. Pack plenty of spices and chilies. Not only in your shipped luggage for your own kitchen, but in little packets to keep in your purse or pocket for everyday. You will understand why, and thank me, when you start eating Mongolian food.
3. The language difference is profound: Malay is much easier to pick up than Mongolian, and you can find lots of English speakers in Malaysia if you need help. This is not the case in Mongolia.
4. Counter to the Asian stereotype, Mongolians will say no and are generally much more direct than Malaysians. This can be refreshing, but it may also feel a bit abrupt.
5. Relatedly, Mongolians are much more open about bodily functions, especially sexuality, than most Malaysians, and all of it is fun to laugh about.
6. If you move with your overfed American cat, he or she may well exceed the airline weight limit on all possible routes, and you will look like a freak for travelling with a cat in the cabin. Just smile and assume there are some animal lovers among the airline personnel – it’s just a matter of finding them.
7. Mongolians, unlike Malaysians, aren’t interested in what religion you are, nor will they ask you about it.
8. The good news is that you can let pedicure maintenance slide (see #1 above). The bad news is Hat Hair.
9. You will miss the lively political discussions you used to have with Malaysian taxi drivers.
10. In Mongolia, there is no such thing as too much moisturizer. In Malaysia, there is no such thing as too many umbrellas.
11. If you’re American, you will be surprised and a bit embarrassed at how many more of your fellow countrymen and –women have heard of Mongolia than Malaysia.
12. Mongolians don’t talk about their president’s wife. I’m just saying.
13. There is no escaping big, dumb American action movies. Same goes for Pringles.
14. You will remember that seasonal change means much more than just how many times a week it rains. And you will learn that seasonal change in Mongolia does not mean getting to put your coats away.
15. Alcohol is MUCH cheaper in Mongolia, which can be good until some drunk guy bounces off you on the sidewalk.
16. Consider either Mauritania or Macedonia as possible next expat stops, because it will seem as if you’ve made random moves until people work out the alliteration.
17. Note that diplomacy between the two countries has been a bit dodgy, and you may want to google “Altantuya” to find out more about this history.
18. Durian is much more appealing than mutton. Scientific research data backs me up.
19. Re: #18 above, Malaysia totally kicks butt in the Quality of Life Category – Local Fruit, but Mongolia has the edge in Quality of Life Category – The Unexpected. Anything can happen here.
20. Regardless of which place you’re living, you are an outsider and thus an object of curiosity. People will stare at you. It doesn’t matter.
21. (I won’t repeat the platitude about maintaining a sense of humor, but if I were to do so, it would be here at #21.)