Moving from San Francisco to Kuala Lumpur as a Software Engineer

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Source: Donald Yip / shutterstock

Moving to a foreign country is one of the biggest life transitions you can ever make. While it can be challenging and fraught with paperwork, it can also be an immensely rewarding and enriching experience. About a year ago, I made a difficult decision of moving from San Francisco to Kuala Lumpur and I want to share with you if it was worth it.

I moved from Mumbai, India to Salt Lake City, Utah in 2015 to pursue Masters. After my graduation in 2017, I moved to San Francisco for work. I fell in love with the vibe of the city. I loved my job and my colleagues. I was grateful for everything I had and didn’t have much to complain about. But slowly, I started to miss my family who was still in India in an opposite time zone. When I was not working, I tried to keep myself occupied by working out and catching up with friends. However, it was not fulfilling and I decided to look for opportunities closer to home.

When I started looking, I was under the impression that I would have to compromise on the work environment, job satisfaction, and compensation. But I found out that there are endless opportunities for software engineers and they can move to many other countries without having to compromise on the above-mentioned factors. One such opportunity in Kuala Lumpur fell on my lap and I decided to go for it. Below are some interesting points that hold true for my situation but can be generalized and might benefit others who are looking for a similar move:

  1. While my total compensation reduced, it is all in cash. The expat package is in Kuala Lumpur is much higher as compared to the average salaries in the region.
  2. I now pay 18-20% in taxes as compared to ~40% including federal and state taxes earlier.
  3. I can now afford to live downtown and have a much better quality of life. I used to live close to south SF earlier since the rent at a good neighborhood in downtown was insanely high.
  4. Most companies in KL offer a ~12% match to the retirement fund (401K equivalent).
  5. I am able to travel a lot more now since many countries are only a couple of hours' flight away.
  6. Since the cost of living is way cheaper, one would save more as an expat in KL for the same standard of living as in SF.
  7. Witnessing how different people from diverse backgrounds and countries approach a given problem helped me understand different viewpoints and inculcate them in my life.

Every city has its pros and cons, but this proved to be a great move for me both professionally and personally and I hope my story encourages you to explore opportunities outside your city.

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