Why Hongkongers choose Malaysia

The ongoing political unrest in Hong Kong has spurred residents there to consider living overseas. But even before the turmoil, many have already chosen Malaysia as their second home — some looking to retire in a more peaceful environment while others want to escape the stress of everyday life in Hong Kong.  
Johnny Yue, 50, has just moved to Malaysia with his young family. The idea to move here crossed his mind after he attended an e-commerce platform conference in Kuala Lumpur a year ago.
Read alsoProperty prices in Malaysia at least five times lower than in HK
“Things were different from what I have read in news reports about Malaysia. The friendly people, the food as well as the living environment are amazing. That got me to rethink my retirement plans and ask myself, why not move here?” Yue tells EdgeProp.my.
Soon after he shared the “second home” idea with his wife, the couple with their 10-year-old daughter visited Malaysia four times, travelling to different parts of the country to have a taste of what life is like here.
They then decided to apply for the Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) programme and got the approval after a year.
MM2H offers a 10-year renewable visa programme. Aimed at promoting Malaysia as an ideal place to stay and invest, Yue says the programme suits his needs as he and his family were not looking to emigrate.
After close to one year of preparations and scouting, in August, the Yue family found a 1,700 sq ft condominium close to Kepong, KL with a monthly rent of RM4,000.
“The apartment is double the size of my rental apartment in Hong Kong. There are also sports facilities and parks within the township. Schools are just within walking distance. This is the life we are looking for,” says Yue.
In Hong Kong, he was renting an 800 sq ft apartment, which is considered a sizeable abode there, for a monthly rental of HK$27,000 (about RM14,300).
“I owned an apartment but cashed out a few years back, thinking of upgrading to a better house. But property prices escalated at such an unbelievable speed that I did not think it worth getting another property,” he shares.
Citing a 40-year-old apartment located on the fringe of the city, he said it was tagged at HK$11 million, about RM5.83 million or an average of RM7,288 psf. He settled for renting it instead. 
Less stressful life
Yue, who was a fitness trainer, decided to take a break and become an e-commerce trader instead while looking for potential investment opportunities in Malaysia. He says he was tired of working in a high-pressure environment,

“I wanted to change my lifestyle, maybe start a small business, so that I can have more time for my family and give them a better living environment. This was why I chose to move to Malaysia,” he says.
Interestingly, while scouting for a suitable place to live in Malaysia, Yue had video-recorded and uploaded on YouTube his experience, showcasing each area’s highlights including the food. He video-logged the entire process of his move to Malaysia and much to his surprise, the videos have attracted over 10,000 views, with most of his followers from Hong Kong.
“This shows that people are interested to know more about Malaysia and may be thinking of coming to live here,” he reckons.
Closer to home
According to Gary Crestejo, the administrator for social media platform “Hongkongers in Malaysia”, there are at least 2,000 Hong Kong folks who have started a new life in Malaysia.

Crestejo, who is the sole franchisee of Hong Kong’s Chee Kee Wonton Noodle in Malaysia (known for its springy bamboo pole-kneaded egg noodles and shrimp dumplings), has been staying in KL for close to six years.
His wife and two daughters, after several visits to Malaysia, have finally agreed to step out of their comfort zone to join him in Malaysia next year.
“They were initially reluctant to move although they liked it here — the space, entertainment and food, but the heightened political uncertainties, escalating living costs and [for his children] the stress of studying have made us decide that moving might be good  for the family,” says the Portuguese Chinese who was born in Hong Kong.
Although he holds a Canadian passport, Crestejo has chosen to settle down in KL for a number of reasons.
For one, the Chinese in Malaysia share a similar culture with those in Hong Kong. Furthermore, the cost of living is lower than in Hong Kong while the quality of life is good. He also likes the weather and the fact that the country is relatively safe from natural disasters.

“Another reason is that Malaysia is relatively geographically closer and offers frequent flights to Hong Kong. If anything happened to my relatives in Hong Kong, in just a few hours I could be there with them,” he points out.
Lower cost
Six years ago, Crestejo came to Malaysia as an investor in a telco business before venturing into the F&B industry in 2016.
He rebranded the famous 100-year-old Chee Kee noodles as Mak’s Chee in Malaysia. It currently has three outlets and a central kitchen in the Klang Valley, hiring more than 50 Malaysians.

“It was a challenge starting off because it wasn’t easy to get suitable ingredients, especially for the condiments and flour to make the noodles here in Malaysia,” he recounts.
Nevertheless, the cost of doing business in Malaysia is much lower than in Hong Kong, he says, adding that renting a space on the second floor of a shoplot in Hong Kong will set one back at least HK$80,000 and the staffing cost will eat up a big chunk of the revenue.
For instance, the monthly salary for a dishwasher is at least HK$18,000. For an F&B business to be viable, it  has to operate over 10 hours non-stop daily as the earnings of the first eight hours are only sufficient to cover the rental and headcount costs.

The costs incurred in Malaysia would be less than half of that in Hong Kong, but so are the crowd and earnings.
“Nevertheless, I have more time here, less stress and a comfortable life. I can even go for a movie during off-peak hours as my shops are all in shopping malls,” Crestejo says.
This story first appeared in the EdgeProp.my pullout on Nov 29, 2019. You can access back issues here.

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