“I’ve been out of Kuala Lumpur just once so far, visiting Cameron Highlands (pic) where I picked strawberries. The highlands are very beautiful, but my favourite kind of holiday is one where sports and barbecue are involved. “I’m also looking forward to climbing Mount Kinabalu some day,” says Park.
Navigating over the hills and valleys in Malaysia, expatriate Andrew Park finds himself indescribably charmed by the life here.
“There is a complex culture here, and I want to experience all it has to offer.
“I am especially enthusiastic about Malaysia’s growing coffee culture and I would like to integrate it with Korean food and beverage,” said Park, an assistant general manager in a company that operates a Korean bakery.
The South Korean from Busan with a passion for sports and food, has comfortably moulded a life in Malaysia despite having been here barely a year.
“I’ve been out of Kuala Lumpur just once so far, visiting Cameron Highlands where I picked strawberries. The highlands are very beautiful, but my favourite kind of holiday is one where sports and barbecue are involved.
“I’m also looking forward to climbing Mount Kinabalu some day.”
His friends have told him about the many beaches all over Malaysia, but they are not quite his cup of tea.
“I find islands a little boring, although Penang as the Pearl of the Orient does intrigue me,” he said.
The 43-year-old describes himself as an ordinary chap who is very interested in learning the cultural cocktail that defines this country, and adapting to strange similarities and even stranger differences.
“Some things I can accept and get used to easily, but the working environment is very different.
“For example, in the Korean culture we always respect and follow our boss, even if it may not be reasonable.
“Here, people are quite independent and individuals speak their minds. But I can see that harmony and teamwork are emphasised and each department and person is respected, not just at the highest level but from the top to the bottom,” said Park.
Having studied in the United States and worked in Toronto, Canada for two years, he finds similarities in city lifestyles, while the main contrast is in the people.
“There is a huge difference between Western and Eastern countries. Compared to other countries I’ve been in, I find Malaysians respect each other more, that’s why I love Malaysia,” he said.
He admits that he can most identify with Malaysian Chinese.
“Back in Korea, we learned using Chinese characters, even though the words are pronounced differently; I guess because we have common ancestry.
“But Malaysians have become a unique nation. Seeing such varied backgrounds and people in one country is exciting. Things like eating with hands in restaurants is a new practice for me,” he remarked.
For Park, the biggest challenge in adapting to life here is the driving culture.
“Malaysians show respect to one another all the time, except when they are on the road,” he said with a laugh and shakes his head in disbelief.
Despite his harrowing experiences on the road, he is keen to introduce Malaysia to his family.
“My parents have retired in Chiangmai, Thailand and I would like to bring them here for a holiday,” he added.