At home in Malaysia: Frank’s dilemma

Frank Poulsen and his wife.

Frank Poulsen’s favourite aspects of living in Penang are the laid-back lifestyle and the variety of small, intriguing places to visit. Beautiful beaches, tropical jungle and stunning viewpoints are also only a stone’s throw away from the diverse cultural city due to the small size of Penang. Beautiful surroundings that allow for Frank to bike, run and hike as well as play squash and golf.

This lifestyle appealed to Frank, who moved to Georgetown in 2000, when his previous position at the Danish popsicle and soft drink manufacturer CO-RO brought him to the Malay island.

Since 2011, the Dane runs his own company with his wife.

Not Malaysia

Today, Frank is 53 years old, but his first introduction to Malaysia was when he moved to Kuala Lumpur in 1992. Back then, he was in his mid-twenties.

He was supposed to be based in the Malaysian capital for one year and then return to Denmark. But one year abroad became five, as Frank decided to spend a year in China after he had already extended his stay in Malaysia.

When CO-RO offered him a one-way ticket to Malaysia in 2000, he was therefore eager to return to the country, he fell in love with a few years earlier.

Life in Penang is, however, different to the wild party life, he left behind in Kuala Lumpur, where he lived with seven other Danes.

“People are friendlier (in Penang). It is quiet here,” he says.

Culturally Penang also stands out.

The island hasn’t changed much during Frank’s time living there, as the historic site is protected by UNESCO.

“Georgetown isn’t Malaysia. Malay are a minority here,” Frank says and elaborates that the island is dominated by large Chinese and Indian populations unlike mainland Malaysia, which is mainly Malay and Muslim.

“There is no Muslim dominance, and there are no restrictions on clothing.”

Furthermore, alcohol is allowed, and most women work. The only reason, Frank’s wife isn’t working is, that the couple have made that decision together.

Franks dilemma

Frank and his Malay wife have two children together, and she has a child from before she met the Dane.

The family has a summer house in Frank’s birth town Struer, where he and his family spend seven weeks every year. This way, he reckons he sees his Danish family more than if he actually lived in Denmark.

So, even though Frank’s wife and children are pulling him towards Denmark, he is reluctant to pull up stakes and leave the island life for a return to his mother country.

“I feel at home here. Every other place is just a place I visit.”

Frank Poulsen with wife (behind) and three children.

Despite claiming to be a global citizen, able to live anywhere in the world, he feels that moving back to Denmark is also stepping outside the comfort zone life on Penang provides.

But their two shared children have Danish passports, and the 15-year-old already lives in Denmark now. The two year older brother is also eager to move to the cold North.

“And I want to be close to my children,” Franks explains.


Frank’s wife and children speak Danish, and even though they have one leg in each camp, they feel Danish, so returning to Denmark might be nearer, than he’d like.

This is despite the fact, that the Dane recently applied for a permanent residency in Malaysia and is content with life on the cultural island.

While Frank doesn’t know what the future brings, he goes on with the island life he knows. Even though that includes leaving the island quite a lot for his work.

“Otherwise I would get økuller (a Danish term used to describe a state in which you go mad from living on an island),” Franks jokes.

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