The idea to seek an international career opportunity led Yusuf Ziyaeddin Özel to Kuala Lumpur slightly over a year ago. Having worked in Istanbul only, the 28-year-old Turkish was ready to take on a bigger challenge, work wise.
“I put the word out among my friends and one of them suggested that I consider Southeast Asia, particularly Malaysia. As he had worked in Malaysia before and made some contacts, he readily suggested a few companies to me,” said Özel, who was subsequently hired as Search Engine Optimisation Manager with an e-commerce company, one of Southeast Asia’s largest online retail platforms. “My team and I are in charge of increasing our presence on search engines,” he explained his job scope.
The decision to work in Malaysia seemed to have been the right choice for Özel. “English is the only language I know professionally other than Turkish. As it is also one of the main languages of Malaysia, this is a more suitable country for me compared to her neighbours where English is not as commonly used.
“Having lived in Kuala Lumpur for over a year now, I enjoy the city’s multiracial and multicultural society. This diversity provides the people with a different level of acceptance towards one another. Also, after visiting Jakarta and Singapore, I realised what a liveable city KL is in terms of cost of living and accessibility. Granted, it is not as organised and clean as Singapore but at the same time, it is not as expensive or lacking in warmth. On the other hand, KL is costlier than Jakarta but it is more diverse and less crowded,” he opined.
In fact, coming from a country where the majority of the population is Muslim, Özel felt an instant connection with Malaysia as both countries share many similar beliefs, traditions and even words. “I have observed quite frequently how these similarities have enabled people from these two nations to warm up to each other quickly. Many Malaysians who have visited Turkey fall in love with her history and nature. The same can be said about Turkish people who have been to Malaysia,” he said.
What caught Özel by surprise, though, was KL’s public transport system. “I had assumed KL to be more developed in this area but was quite disappointed when I found out about transportation options. It is not easy to move around for those who do not own a car, and those who drive do not necessarily abide by traffic rules. Hopefully, the new mass rapid transit system will provide greater accessibility to people like me who depend entirely on public transport,” he shared.
One year in KL, the bachelor is already living like a local; enjoying a breakfast of roti telur and idiyappam over two glasses of teh-o, before heading off to work. “My other favourite local dishes include char kway teow, Singaporean mee hoon, nasi goreng Pattaya and murtabak. It looks like my taste buds are very diverse as well,” he chuckled.
Özel was also proud to announce that he is a durian lover. When he was newly in Malaysia, he was fascinated with the many ‘exotic’ tropical fruits such as papaya, mango and coconut, etc. “It was only months later that I got to try the King of Fruits. The first time I had a taste of it, in Jalan Alor, I wasn’t quite sure if I liked it. My colleagues subsequently recommended a place in SS2. It was there that I discovered that I actually am a durian lover! Later, I was introduced to many more species of durian. Once I got hooked up with Musang King, the others started fading for me,” he confessed.
Leading a solitary life, Özel spends much of his personal time at home, watching TV or playing video games. Nonetheless, he is taking the opportunity of living in a foreign city to explore. “I enjoy cafe-hopping, usually for breakfast or brunch, and I hunt for shisha bars, something which I really miss from home. Sometimes, I go out for a movie. On weekends, I take time to prepare my own meals. During long weekends, I travel further, such as to Genting Highlands, Malacca and Kuching. I am planning to visit Langkawi, Penang and the Perhentian islands soon,” he said.
If there is one thing Özel would love to see improved within KL city, besides solving public transport woes, it would be to have renovation done on some areas in the city. “Well, the haze is really disturbing when it happens, but I guess it is not something that can be helped,” he raised both his hands in exasperation.
Note: An edited version of this article [Come for the job, stay for the sights] was published on 4th February, 2017 in the now-defunct The Malay Mail.