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Living in Malaysia vs. Turkey

After living for about one year each in Malaysia and in Turkey, the time has come to compare and contrast these two wonderful countries. 

(Go to this link if you would like to watch a video with the same information: Life in Malaysia vs. Turkey)

The Food

One of our favorite foods in Turkey is iskander.

So of course the food is different.  In Malaysia there are a lot more dishes that use rice and noodles, while Turkey is a little bit more meat heavy.  But beyond the differences in what makes up a typical diet in Malaysia compared to Turkey, there are differences in the role that food plays in the culture and everyday life.  For example, food in Malaysia plays a much larger part of socialization. If you are hanging out with friends in Malaysia, you will probably be eating something.  In Turkey, food is less important, but tea is the dominant form of showing hospitality.  For example, just going into a mattress store to look at mattresses, you might be offered tea in the store.  

In Malaysia non-halal food items like pork and alcohol are usually in a separate area of the grocery store that is staffed by nonmuslims.  Turkey seems to be more strict with pork, it’s very difficult to find anywhere, but much less strict on alcohol which you can find just about everywhere.  

Another difference in food between Malaysia and Turkey is breakfast.  In Malaysia you might eat fish for breakfast, just like you might eat for lunch or dinner.  In Turkey, a traditional Turkish breakfast will be made up of, about, 10 or 15 small plates of small portions of cheeses, breads, jams, olives, and a lot more.  

And finally, there is much more variety in the food in Malaysia, while in Turkey finding international food is more of a challenge.  We saw and ate at several Turkish restaurants in Malaysia. But in Turkey, there is only one Malaysian restaurant that we know of, and unfortunately it was closed when we went to that Malaysia restaurant.  But, we’re planning to head back to Malaysia soon, and our stomachs are already getting excited about it!


Many apartment complexes in Malaysia have a swimming pool.

In Malaysia it is pretty common for a family to live in a high rise apartment building, many of these approaching, around 20 or 30 stories high, and there could be up to a couple of hundred units in the building.  The building will quite often have a swimming pool, a gym, a common area or lobby, and security personnel.  Living in a building like this would be fairly common for a middle income family.  

In Turkey, there are apartment buildings like this too, but these are likely above the middle income category and more into the luxury housing category (especially when you start thinking about a building with a pool and gym).  What is more common in Turkey for a middle income family, especially in our neighborhood in Izmir where we live, would be a building that is four or five stories tall and has maybe 5 to 10 units available in the building.  


It is common to shop in Turkey in small stores located in pedestrian zones.

You’ll find both shopping malls and outdoor markets in both countries, but in Malaysia there is more of a leaning toward the malls and less toward the outdoor markets.  There are some outdoor markets in Malaysia, often are called wet markets, where you can buy fish and meat and produce.  But in Malaysia, there are an abundance of shopping malls.  Many of these malls have a full grocery store, they have multiple floors of individual stores, they usually have a massive food court, and also some type of entertainment venue such as a movie theater.  

In Turkey there are malls like this too but not as many as Malaysia. In Turkey it is more common to find pedestrian zones that are lined with stores.  The stores tend to be a little smaller in Turkey and bigger in Malaysia.  In Turkey you might find a tiny store that only sells items you might want to buy for a birthday party, or a store that only sells different types of baskets.


Watch out for scooters in both Malaysia and in Turkey!

Fasten your seatbelt! From the point of view of a pedestrian in both Malaysia and Turkey, the driving can be described as terrifying! It’s the scooters that you really need to watch out for in both countries.  There are scooters zooming on sidewalks, scooters going the wrong way on the road, scooters running red lights.  Our biggest threat to injury and death in Turkey and Malaysia isn’t from natural disasters, isn’t from disease.  Our biggest threat is getting run over by a scooter. (Believe it or not, there are places in the world that are worse.  I’m looking at you India.  I’m looking at you Vietnam). Here are a couple of tips to make being a pedestrian less horrifying in Malaysia and Turkey:  Look both ways when crossing the street even on a one way road, and never assume a driver is going to stop or even slow down for you.


Both Malaysia and Turkey are fairly inexpensive for a foreigner from somewhere like the United States.  A typical apartment in Malaysia might be in the US$500 US range, whereas in Turkey might be $400 or lower. But as already mentioned, an apartment in Malaysia will more often come with a pool, gym, and security.  

Food prices are fairly similar, maybe a little higher in Malaysia. More of the food in Malaysia is imported while in Turkey more of it is produced within the country.  

The price for public transportation is similar in both countries.  Owning a car is cheaper in Malaysia, and petrol or gasoline is at a much lower in Malaysia price compared to Turkey.  Alcohol is cheaper in Turkey.  

Overall, based on our personal lifestyle, we think the two of us could comfortably live long term in Malaysia in the $1300 to $1500 range per month. Turkey might be a few hundred dollars less than that.


Malaysia definitely wins this category.  It is easier for us to communicate in Malaysia because English is widely spoken there.

Internet Speed

Malaysia’s internet is super fast, Turkey’s internet is definitely slower but still fast enough for us.

Public Transportation

Both Malaysia and Turkey have great transportation systems both within cities and also between cities.


We think both countries are generally safe from violent crime.


Malaysia is hot all year, with Cameron Highlands being the exception.

We prefer the weather in Turkey because you get all four seasons. In Malaysia the temperature is hot all year (except for Cameron Highlands, which is a mountain resort in Malaysia with pleasant temperatures).


For Malaysia, unless you are applying for residency through the state of Sarawak, the amount of money you need to qualify is completely ridiculous.  Turkey’s immigration requirements are easier to meet, but the rules have been changing and also becoming more difficult.

Health Care

We think the healh care is completely adequate in both countries, but Malaysia rates higher according to the World Health Organization.


Malaysia easily has the stronger and more stable economy right now.  

So there you have it, we love both countries, love the people in both countries, and we would not hesitate to recommend either one of them to someone who is thinking about living abroad.

Thanks for traveling with us!


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