Mar 11 2009 by Jackie Grant, Dumfries Standard Wednesday
THE NUMBER of second home owners in Dumfries and Galloway has fallen dramatically in the last few years.
Steep house prices and the following economic slump has resulted in more and more people opting to buy bolt-holes abroad.
Better weather conditions and greater value for money are the main reasons for buying abroad, according to research carried out by Foreign Currency Direct.
And the Office of National Statistics cite the most popular destinations as Spain, France and Italy despite the falling strength of the Pound against the Euro.
But a former Thornhill man is trying to entice people away from the UK and other Mediterranean hotspots by persuading them to start a new life in South East Asia.
For the past six months, Douglas Williams has been living and working in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur, with his teacher wife Alice and baby daughter Lois.
Before his move, Douglas lived and worked in Shanghai, in China where he said “existence is worlds apart from life in Nithsdale”.
As editor of the Malaysian Expat magazine, Douglas invited the Dumfries and Galloway Standard to send a reporter to Malaysia to experience the country personally.
The aim of the trip, organised by The Expat Group and Tourism Malaysia, was to promote the country and the Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) programme to the UK market.
Englishman Andy Davison chose to settle in Malaysia after over 25 years travelling around the world with a major multinational corporation.
He started the www.mm2h.com website to offer information about the programme, which was launched a few years ago by the Malaysian government and offers a renewable, 10-year, multiple entry visa for qualified applicants who would like to live or spend extended periods in the country.
So far some 10,000 people from the UK have been approved for the scheme.
With all-year-round tropical weather, the low cost of living, developed infrastructure, laid back lifestyle, wonderful food and lovely people, it’s easy to see why Malaysia is the second choice of home for a growing number of ex-pats.
Although the average salary is slightly lower than the UK, the cheap cost of living makes up for a smaller wage.
Douglas said: “Life is a pleasant dream again. It might not be Nithsdale, but Malaysia has the same qualities — stunning scenery and friendly people, but with the added bonus of year-round wonderful weather.
“There is a huge ex-pat community here and I feel right at home. I can’t imagine leaving this wonderful country for a long time to come.”
Robert Slater and his wife Eileen feel the same. They sought out the best island in Asia on which to retire. After a long search, the South West Scotland couple chose Penang — the Pearl of the Orient — and have lived there for over six months.
They chose to go through the MM2H programme because it allowed them to ship their car over from Scotland and obtain 10-year visas — even though people who move to the country through MM2H can buy a car tax free.
The growing number of housing developments popping up all over the country have price tags to suit the pockets of everyone — and the Slaters were delighted to buy a home they could never have afforded in the UK.
Robert said: “Penang also fits the bill as a home-away-from-home because of the large ex-pat community and of course, the good food. Another good thing is that English is widely spoken here.
“We don’t really miss anything about Scotland, especially the cold weather and the long darkness during the day. We were determined to retire here. The tropical climate in Malaysia is wonderful for us.
“I would recommend this country to anyone, even just for a short holiday.”