Andre's Malaysian Dream: From Expat Assignment to Life-Changing Experience

Andre Stiegler, a German adventurer, never expected a two-year Malaysian assignment to evolve into a 14-year love affair.

This interview explores his journey through Greater Kuala Lumpur's (Greater KL/KL) vibrant streets, delicious cuisine, and unique culture. Beyond personal anecdotes, the lead of Electronic Arts' Codemasters Studios offers insights for companies seeking overseas expansion and valuable advice for those considering a move to this dynamic region.

For Andre, Malaysia and Greater KL have been an ongoing journey of self-discovery, where embracing local life unlocks both personal and professional growth.

Q1: Tell us about yourself.

"Hey there! I'm Andre, and I'm originally from Saxony in Germany. In my twenties, I decided to explore the world, leading me to live and work in the Netherlands, Ireland, and the UK. Each place taught me something new and gave me incredible experiences. In 2010, I got a chance to move to Malaysia for what was supposed to be just a two-year assignment. It's been 14 years now, and I'm still here, totally in love with this vibrant and diverse country. It feels like I've found a second home! On the work front, I lead Codemasters Studios, part of Electronic Arts."

Q2: Reflecting on your 14 years in Greater KL, what initially drew you to the city, and how has your understanding of its unique character evolved and enriched your experience?

"I've been living in Malaysia for 14 years now, and I'm just as thrilled and fond of this place as I was on my first day. Living in KL has been a real adventure for me. I become a huge fan of the wide range of local and regional food – the flavours here are just something else. The weather is usually sunny, giving everything a tropical vibe, which we love. 

When I compare KL to other places in Southeast Asia, it's got this perfect balance – the infrastructure is solid, the standard of living is high, the schools are great, and English is widely spoken. And what's more, the cost of living is surprisingly reasonable for the quality of life we get here."

Q3: Stepping into the shoes of an expat, could you describe the overall essence of living in Greater KL? What cultural or practical features make it distinct from your homeland?

"Living in Greater KL as an expat has been an incredible experience. Coming from Germany, one of the biggest changes for me is the weather here and that everything is more laid back. What makes this place special is how friendly the people are. The locals are so welcoming and kind; they've made my family and me feel at home. 

Another great part of being here is how easy it is to travel around Southeast Asia from KL. Being able to explore new places, cultures, and experiences during weekends or short holidays has been amazing. It's changed the way we think about leisure and adventure. Coming from a family of chefs, I've always loved food, and the culinary scene in Malaysia has been incredible."

Q4: What were your challenges when adjusting to life in Greater KL? How has your perception of the city changed? Have there been any cultural or lifestyle elements that you've grown to appreciate or embrace during your time here?

"Adjusting to life in Greater KL presented its unique challenges, primarily in understanding the local culture. Initially, I was taken aback by the city's modern, Western-like appearance, which I had not anticipated. However, as I delved deeper, I discovered that beneath this contemporary facade lay a rich tapestry of deep-rooted local traditions and lifestyles. 

Early in, I realized that some things here might appear less efficient at first glance or different from what I was used to in Europe, but often, they're a key part of what makes life here special. Learning to appreciate these differences has been important. Trying to live here exactly like you did in Europe would get very frustrating. I needed to learn how to live in Malaysia. 

But It's not just about getting used to a new place; it's about growing as a person and broadening my perspective. This experience has taught me how valuable it is to be open and adaptable, especially in a global context."

Q5: When deciding to open an overseas office, what factors should a company consider, and what advantages does Greater KL offer compared to other regional cities?

"When you're setting up an office in another country, there are many important things you need to consider. For us, the big ones were having good infrastructure, finding talented people, and the chance to discover new talent. 

It's all about ensuring our new office works well with our global team while making the most of what the local area offers. Greater KL stands out in these areas. The city's infrastructure is top-notch, which makes doing business here smooth and reliable. Plus, there's a great pool of skilled and diverse people here, bringing many different ideas and perspectives to our work. 

The culture of KL is a big plus, especially for creative fields like ours. It allows us to add unique local touches to our products, making them more exciting and relevant worldwide. This cultural depth helps us create technically good stuff with cultural appeal."

(Stock Image) Greater KL's urban oasis, where the city meets nature in perfect harmony.

Q6: Living in a new place often comes with memorable experiences. Could you share some anecdote or unforgettable moment that encapsulates your time in Greater KL?

"My day, which was a perfect snapshot of life here in Greater KL, started really nicely. I kicked things off with a hearty breakfast of Nasi Lemak at a local spot. The combo of fragrant rice, spicy sambal, crispy anchovies, and a soft-boiled egg was just what I needed to get ready for the day. 

After breakfast, I headed out to the jungle, surprisingly only a 30-minute drive from the busy city. Trekking through the jungle was like stepping into another world – peaceful rivers, stunning waterfalls, and the sounds of wildlife all around. It's such a change from city life and shows off the natural beauty of Malaysia. 

As evening rolled in, I found myself on a hill just outside the city. The view from up there was incredible, especially as the sun set and lit up KL in this amazing glow. Watching the city skyline against the sunset backdrop was a moment of pure peace. Then I went back down into the city centre for the evening. I had some delicious pizza, a nice change from the traditional breakfast. 

I wrapped up my day early the next morning with some delicious dim sum. It was a great way to end a day with a bit of everything – from a traditional Malaysian breakfast to a jungle escape, a hilltop sunset, and city nightlife."

(Stock Image) Sweetest temptations: A close-up look at the intricate beauty and deliciousness of traditional Malaysian kuih.

Q7: Describe a typical weekend in Greater KL for you and your family.

"On the surface, our weekends here in Greater KL are similar to how we spent them back in Europe, but with some really cool local twists. We usually do some grocery shopping, but the highlight is often our late lunch tradition. There are many places to eat in KL, each with its vibe and flavour. We especially love eating out, which we can do nearly all year here. It's a simple pleasure, but it's something we value. 

Weekends here are also great for spontaneously taking a trip. One of our favourite spots is Langkawi, just a short 60-minute domestic flight from KL. These quick getaways add so much excitement and relaxation to our weekends. We can soak in the natural beauty and peace of the island. These trips to Langkawi have become a special part of our family life here in Malaysia."

Andre enjoyed kayaking through paradise and exploring hidden coves and secret beaches in Langkawi.
Q8: For expats considering a move to Greater KL, what advice would you offer to help them make a smooth and enjoyable transition to this diverse and vibrant region?

"If you're considering moving to Greater KL, here's my advice: step out of the 'expat bubble'. It's easy for expats to arrive here for a short-term assignment and mingle within their circles. They often stick to familiar foods and socialize mainly with other expats. While this might seem comfortable, it dramatically limits the depth of experience you could have in this vibrant and diverse city. 

Now, an essential thing to remember is to stay calm if things work differently than you're used to back home. Be humble, be kind, and always remember all the fantastic things Malaysia has to offer. Embrace the local culture and lifestyle wholeheartedly. Malaysia's culinary scene is a treasure trove waiting to be explored, so try as many local dishes as you can. Participate in local customs and festivities, and remember, it's about experiencing, not just observing. Socializing with locals can open new perspectives on Kuala Lumpur, helping you forge a more authentic connection with the place. Give yourself the grace to learn and grow in this new environment. The benefits of embracing this approach are numerous. You'll develop a deeper understanding and appreciation of the local culture, enriching your personal and professional life. You gain a more nuanced view of the world, something truly invaluable. 

To me, this mindset has transformed my time in Greater KL from a mere expat assignment into an enriching life experience."

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