cost of living canada

Canadian-born family shares why they're moving to Malaysia

A Canadian couple is finally packing up and uprooting their lives to settle in Malaysia because the cost of living in Canada is becoming "unreal."

Married couple Sana, 32, and Muhammad William Saleh, 37, are social media content creators and business owners who run Lala Hijabs, a company that sells hand-dyed and colourful hijabs. Sana and Muhammad were born in Canada and grew up in Okanagan, B.C., then moved to Ontario once they had kids.

Their YouTube channel, Saleh Family, has 1.3 million subscribers, and now they're taking their viewers along on their journey from Canada to Malaysia.

They travelled there in February and plan to return to Canada in May to pack up their things; the family will be moving to Malaysia permanently in the fall.

We talked to the Salehs about this decision.

Making the move

As the cost of living continued to creep up, the Salehs began reconsidering their future in Canada.

"The cost of living has become unreal," Sana told us. "Rent, bills, groceries, car payments, insurance — all of it is way too unaffordable, and we could never buy a house there either."

But the straw that broke the camel's back happened in October 2023. The Salehs were unhappy with Canada's stance on the war that erupted in the Middle East and no longer wanted to live in the country. The couple did not feel welcome as Muslims and considered moving to a country with aligning values.

They travelled to Dubai several times before ultimately deciding it wasn't for them. In a YouTube video, they explained that they weren't fans of the heat and the lack of nature.

"I feel like Dubai is the place where Westerners go to pretend they're rich so they can go home broke," said Muhammad.

However, one Asian country always held a special place in their hearts.

"We came to Malaysia 10 years ago for our honeymoon, fell in love with the country, and ultimately decided we would come back again someday, possibly to live," said Sana. "Now here we are, 10 years later, with three kids in tow!"

In a video, the couple explained that they enjoy the diversity in Malaysia.

Muhammad said it's about "being able to see people of different religions, different cultures, all assimilating into the overwhelmingly predominantly Muslim population."

And the difference in the cost of living has been tremendous.

cost of living canaada"Mobile data in Malaysia is 10 times the amount we get in Canada," said Sana. "It's like 80 gigs per phone, and you get your minutes and all that sort of stuff for $12 each," added Muhammad.

"Let that sink in," said Sana. "Our cell phone bill in Canada for two phones is $200. It hurts — it hurts knowing we're still paying our cell phone bill back in Canada."

Housing in Malaysia is also far more affordable. In a video apartment tour, Sana noted that they paid around $1,000 for over a month in a four-bedroom, five-bath apartment in Kuala Lumpur.

Groceries and food are also drastically cheaper in Malaysia.

"To give you an example, a family meal for all of us is generally over $100 back in Canada, and that's not exaggerating," said Sana. "You can get by on, like, $20 to $30 and get a lot of food for the whole family to eat."

And while she advises that people still be mindful of their budget, the lower cost of living still leaves people with more money at the end of the day.

"The money you would save can then be used for other things, like travelling," said Sana.

The weather was also a significant factor.

"It can be super hot and sunny, and the rain will come and cool everything off," said Muhammad.

The couple also said that communicating with the locals has made it easier to get around.

"Everyone speaks English everywhere you go. Even when we've gone to the village areas, you might find some people who have a hard time speaking it, but you can absolutely get by," said Sana. "There are signs in English. There's no language barrier here that we've found, and it's fantastic."

However, moving to a different country does come with trade-offs.

"Visas can be complicated here, and foreigners cannot buy properties here easily," said Sana.

Muhammad also made some small sacrifices. A Tim Hortons addict, he has had to find a substitute for his regular cup of Timmy's: Tealive, a local bubble tea chain.

"It didn't take very long, but I have a new substitute addiction," he said.

The Salehs said they have friends who have already moved to the UAE, while others are in the process of moving elsewhere from Canada.

When asked how long they see themselves living in Malaysia, Sana said, "Hopefully, for the rest of our lives! We would love to see our kids be raised here, get married here, and have kids here."

Photos by

The Saleh Family


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