Maria moved from Miami, Florida to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in December 2018.
She has been living there ever since.
This is her expat story.
Tell us about your expat move.
I am a Claims Team Manager for the Asia Pacific region of the International Organisations business at Cigna. I’m based in Kuala Lumpur and I moved here in December 2018.
I used to work at an office in Miami, Florida, so I moved all the way to the other side of the world! I’m really enjoying it here.
What have been some of the biggest highlights from your expat journey so far?
It’s very different here in Malaysia. I am of Latino descent, originally from South America. My family and I migrated to Miami Florida and I lived there almost my whole life.
When I moved to Asia, I had already been to the office in Kuala Lumpur a couple of times before on work trips. This was usually for short periods of time, mainly on projects. But I found that it has been very different actually living here. Especially culturally, I think it’s totally different.
I really enjoy travelling and I’ve got to do a lot of travelling since I’ve been here. It’s easy to travel around to other Asian countries close by here and also quite cost effective at the same time. So I’ve been travelling here a lot.
Something that really excites me is getting the opportunity to meet new people. Since I’ve been here, I’ve had the opportunity to visit a lot of new clients here and that’s also been really great.
What do you miss about your home country?
The biggest thing for me is my family. I miss them a lot. I’ve been here for just over a year and I’ve been back home to the US once already. I also miss the food, Latin food especially. Of course, I miss my friends a lot too so I would say, family, friends and food.
What have been some of the biggest challenges so far?
The culture is very different here and I’ve been getting used to working in a new team. The work ethic here is a little bit different and so is the work style. These are both very different to what I’m used to back home. So getting used to the team, integrating with my new colleagues and keeping the team motivated has been quite challenging. But it’s also been very helpful for me to learn along the way.
Apart from work, I’ve also been doing a lot of learning. Learning my way around a new city and getting used to commuting and public transportation was a real challenge for me. So I actually ended up learning to drive here and that has been very different for me getting used to driving on the other side of the road! Those have been the biggest challenges.
How much do you enjoy your role at Cigna?
I really enjoy my role here at Cigna. I started in the Customer Service team working out of Miami, Florida. I progressed over the years and took over team management roles. I moved into claims about five years ago. It’s great to meet the clients and get to do face-to-face staffing consultations. It gives me the opportunity to really get down to member level and see how we can help our people.
The fact that we actually make a difference in someone’s life is very important for me. I always try to remember that we’re dealing with people’s lives and our job is to help people. If we can make things better for our customers and make their lives a little bit easier then we’re doing our job and that is very satisfying for me.
What sort of advice would you give to those who are considering making a move?
First of all, I would say do it! I believe there’s nothing better than experiencing life outside of your comfort zone. I would also tell people to do their research before they go. Do your research on the culture, find advice before you move so that you can make your expat move easier.
For example, for me, I really hate public transportation so that’s why I decided to get a car here and start driving. Also, if you need to deal with traffic, try to do some research so that you’ll be close to your place of work and avoid the traffic.
I would also tell people to try and learn a bit about the culture of where you are going to. I think local people will appreciate if you come on board and try to engage in their culture.
I would also suggest trying to join expats groups because there is a lot of expat groups around in the world so you can always try and mingle with them.
Finally, how would you describe your expat journey in 10 words or less?
Enjoying expat life while doing what I love the most!