Adapting to a tropical country (is not always easy)

And that is not a complaint at all! For sure I don’t miss the cold, the cold rain, something that is called ‘snow’, hail, fog, and the dark gloomy days during winter time. I am enjoying this warmth and I’ll explain the changes I have to consciously think about, which I didn’t have to think about much before moving here. All revolves around….. Heat! That’s an obvious no-brainer, still it has its consequences in daily activities.

Are you ready for it?


Actually, the lack of water does give serious health consequences. I am pretty much used to the water issue, yet, it’s definitely something that has to be in my mind all the time. For example, the water from the tap cannot be consumed. At least, not directly. Taking a shower and using it for food without boiling first is okay to do here in Malaysia. When it boils during cooking all the bacteria die and all is good.

Lack of water leads to dehydration and those symptoms are very similar to malaria; feeling weak, headache, feverish, and a general feeling of discomfort. It’s something else than a sun/heatstroke as that’s caused by too much sun for too long and that your body is unable cooling down again. I have a big 1.4 liter bottle of which I generally drink 2 of, plus the coffee, and liquids from food and all.

My water bottle!

Before that bottle there were days I didn’t drink enough. Enough not to dehydrate but too less to stay properly hydrated and my feet got swollen. But, after drinking 3 liters of water and movement after a good night sleep, I was back to normal again (hence I bought that reusable (good for the environment) bottle preventing not drinking enough).

I don’t bring that thing with me all the time though. Before going somewhere I make sure I drank plenty in advance and either I buy something to drink or I drink again when I’m home – depending how hot it is.

Drinking water is not the only thing, as I mentioned, tap water for cooking is fine, but not to drink directly. Thus, there is an electric kettle and 2 bottles of water readily available. It might happen that the city has maintenance in its piping and then the water is troubled. Then we need to buy water from the shop to boil our own water again after a couple of days.

Water supply

The water supply also works a little bit different. The pressure is not that high. Thus, most houses have huge tanks on the roof that is mostly filled up during the night and used during the day. So have we. We have a near 1000 liter tank on the roof, so with the 4 of us (we share the water tank with her parents) we can survive for a few days if there is a problem in the water supply.

Hence, we just have 1 water pipe to the taps and the temperature is how warm the water in that tank is. The washing machine also only has the tank’s temperature and doesn’t have a heating element. And you know what? It washes perfectly clean! Unless there’s a fat stain from cooking or something similar, then it’s spot washing by hand before the washing machine (but that doesn’t differ that much with western machines anyway).

As the tank is standing on the roof and as it is a tropical country and the temperatures are at least 32 degrees Celsius and the sun is on the tank most of the day, the water can be so warm whilst taking a shower, while you really want a cold shower to cool down! That too is something daily that reminds me I’m now in a hot country!

Our big ass water tank


Speaking about hot (the other hot), the food is hot too! Not as hot as in India or even Thailand, but, yes, spices are well used. The food culture here is on the one hand typical Malaysian, with their way of preparing fish, the nasi-lemak (boiled in coconut milk rice, sambal and chicken for example, wrapped in a banana leaf), the noodles, the food stalls, and the night markets with fruit typical to this region.

Schermafdruk 2018-04-20 14.17.36
Nasi Lemak – Malaysia’s National Dish

On the other hand, there are also the ‘Tesco’s and the lot’. Those are just Western supermarkets with western food, Australian diary, and the typical sweets that’s also all over in European grocery stores. What is similar too are the long rows with sodas: thousands of liters sugar water with a taste and a brand on it. Malaysians are getting hooked on that too. I don’t know the exact numbers but Malaysians are not “typical Asian skinny” as the proportion of obese and overweight people are growing steadily due to soda and…

Junk Food

Especially the KFC is very popular, but of course also Domino’s, Pizza Hut, and the MC Donald. That food, compared with local food from the local market and even bought at Tesco, is very expensive! I always have like, oh that junk food is cheap, a $2 hamburger etc, but, here it is a treat, luxurious, something you don’t eat every day, thus, people eat there more often. Families, parties, a come-together,  all those events I would go to a proper restaurant to, many Malaysians go to junk food places. I’m sure that the people suffering from welfare diseases, such as certain cancers, will go up over time compared to a couple of years ago.

We are trying to eat as local as possible and cook ourselves most of the times. Except Fridays, that’s our ‘cheat day’. Meaning, night market and getting sugar rich fat fast food (and some vegetables for next week as it’s ridiculously cheap!)


Healthy homemade salad!

Bacteria and Dust

Because it is so warm, everything accumulates so. gigantically. FAST! It really is important to be cautious to leave every single thing covered at all times! Flies are horrible and disgusting egg-laying animals that contaminate so much more than you’d realize. When cooked food cools down a bit, cover it else flies lay their eggs on a very nice piece of chicken that you still want to eat. The speed of food not being able to be eaten anymore is so fast! Once the food doesn’t heat the fridge anymore and that the fridge can cool the food, put it in the fridge to keep it well for a while longer.

Especially in the beginning I had to learn how to shop again. Buying fresh food is best doing that 3x in the week, rather than 1 big shopping for example.

The same is for dust. Once you think the house is clean? Forget it, no, the house never can be clean as there always is dust everywhere. Why? Ventilators and air-conditioning is why. In colder countries there is heating, heating as in floor heating or radiators under the windows, and well insulated buildings to keep the heat inside. Here not. Houses without air-conditioning have ‘open windows’ and closed windows when there is air-conditioning. Still, in both the artificial air circulation is much bigger than in colder countries, the walls are thinner, less insulation, thus, more dust literary flying around.

Dust spreading monsters! (but I keep cool)
Typical ‘open windows’

Cleaning it up keeps you occupied though!

There most probably are many other things I encountered. When they pop up in my mind I’ll write an other time about it! What about you? How did you experience change of climate?





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