From Malaysia to Belfast – How Different are They?
Moving halfway across the world for university can be daunting but also exciting. Postgraduate student Veronica shares some differences (and similarities) between Malaysia and Belfast to give you an idea of what to expect when you arrive at Queen's.
Ordinarily, moving to a new place can be bearable but moving 10,753 kilometers (about 6681.6 miles) away from home can truly be nerve-wracking. The fear of not knowing what to expect can sometimes remove all sense of excitement and just bring about a strange mixture of emotions, especially if you’re not familiar with the place you’re moving to. After living in Belfast for almost 10 months, let me break down how different (or similar) Belfast actually is compared to Malaysia.
One thing many people told me before I arrived in Belfast was the somewhat unpredictable weather. I moved to Belfast during autumn and was immediately greeted by the chilly breeze and rainfall. Coming from Malaysia I was very much used to the scorching heat back at home, so naturally it took some time for me to get used to the weather here. Nonetheless, the weather in Belfast is always breezy, making it the perfect weather to get around. Just a heads up, it rains quite a bit in Belfast (even in the summer!) so it would be handy to always keep a small umbrella or a raincoat in your bag. Nonetheless, you get to experience the 4 beautiful seasons which we don't get in Malaysia.
P.S. I also experienced my first winter in Belfast and it was truly beautiful. Just make sure to layer up during the winter and keep warm.
Lanyon covered with a thick blanket of snow during the winter
The Northern Irish Accent / Slang
One thing that might take you by surprise when you arrive is the Northern Irish accent. Northern Irish people speak with a very distinctive intonation pattern and some people might find it perplexing, especially if they are not familiar with it. There are also some common Northern Irish slangs/words like; wee, grand, craic, which you will surely hear and may not understand initially. However, once you’ve been out and about in Belfast; be it shopping or simply just having a quick chat with your Northern Irish peers, you will surely understand and get used to the accent quickly just like I did.
P.S. These local slangs are somewhat similar to the Manglish slangs that we Malaysians use.
What's the craic?
The Food / Cuisine
Food is probably one of the most important factors that Malaysians would be genuinely concerned about, given our love for food being an integral part of our culture. It may be difficult to get certain dishes, drinks, or desserts like Nasi Lemak, Teh Tarik, and Cendol, but there are plenty of Asian restaurants in Belfast where you can get similar dishes like Nasi Goreng or Roti Canai. If you’re really missing the Malaysian cuisine, there are also plenty of Asian grocery stores (Lee Foods Oriental Supermarket, Mr Spice Asian Supermarket, Asia Supermarket) where you can find all the ingredients needed to make them yourselves – perhaps it’s also a good time to channel your inner MasterChef. Belfast also has many local and intercontinental restaurants offering a variety of cuisines and it’s definitely worth trying, especially if you're a foodie like me.
Delicious food I had at the Belfast Spring Continental Market
Us Malaysians often drive or occasionally use public transportation to get around, due to its convenience even if our destination is located nearby. However, ever since I arrived in Belfast, I’ve always walked to where I need to go; be it getting to campus or doing a grocery run. The weather is often so breezy which makes it relaxing and you would rarely ever break a sweat even if it’s a 30-minute walk away. Since I live in Elms BT1, located right in the heart of the city, shops are really close-by, which further adds to my convenience. However, if walking is not for you, there’s always buses and trains which are rather affordable that you can take to get around.
Queen's is walking distance from the city centre and student accommodation
We Malaysians are no strangers to diversity as Malaysia is a country that is home to many different ethnicities and cultures. Being in Belfast for over 10 months, I can say that Belfast is an ethnically diverse city, from the locals to many other international students, it simply reminds me of home sometimes. The people in Belfast are also some of the nicest and warmest people you may meet during your time here.
Belfast is an ethnically diverse city
Yes, Belfast may be different when compared to Malaysia, but it’s experiences like these that makes us a global citizen. Nonetheless, Belfast has truly been grand and I’m so glad I decided to study at Queen’s. If you’re a Malaysian considering coming to Queen’s, just take a leap of faith and enjoy the experience that comes your way!
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MSc Molecular Biology and Biotechnology | Postgraduate Student | Selangor, Malaysia
Hey there! I’m Veronica, a 22 year old from Selangor, Malaysia pursuing a Masters in Molecular Biology and Biotechnology at Queen’s. I’ve always been fascinated by scientific research and uncovering biological mysteries which made me pursue my education in biological sciences. Apart from my studies, I enjoy travelling, reading and listening to music during my free time.
I’ve just recently moved to Belfast and I’m currently living in Queen’s Accommodation, Elms BT1 located at the heart of Belfast City Centre. I have just only begun exploring the city and it’s been nothing short of amazing! I hope my blogs would help answer questions for both current & prospective Queen’s students!