Take It From Me Florent Mamelle

Expatriate Lifestyle - - March -


Mak­ing Malaysia home

Be­tween 2000 and 2009, I thought about mov­ing to South­east Asia. I sold my busi­ness, think­ing ‘If I don’t do it now, I’ll never do it’. My kids were four and seven years old, so it was the right time for them to have an English ed­u­ca­tion. My wife and I are from Paris and Lyon – big cities – and I need to live in a city for my busi­ness. We couldn’t stay in Bali, too small; Jakarta, too messy. The short­list was Sin­ga­pore, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok. We chose Kuala Lumpur be­cause of its in­fras­truc­ture and be­cause we could speak English there.

Learn­ing Malay

Each time I want to take lessons to learn Ba­hasa Malaysia there are al­ways Malaysians who ask me, “Why do you want to do this? You don’t need to!” But I would like to learn! Of course I’ve picked up a few words al­ready, like makan and boleh.

Favourite fes­ti­val to shoot

Due to my trav­els, I’ve be­gun to un­der­stand Bud­dhist and In­dian culture quite well. Ev­ery year, I go with a friend to Thai­pusam and spend one or two days just shoot­ing. It’s very dif­fi­cult ac­tu­ally as there’s not much light and you have to catch the mo­ment as peo­ple are con­stantly mov­ing. I don’t like to use the flash, so it’s re­ally good prac­tice for tak­ing por­traits and pic­tures in low light.

Sim­i­lar to France

Malaysians and French love food! If I could in­tro­duce some­thing from the French culture here, it would be more choices of French food. There are a few places here that serve French food, but it’s quite ex­pen­sive. In Bangkok and Cam­bo­dia, there are so many places to find re­ally good, rea­son­ably priced French food. Why not here in Malaysia too?

Favourite ex­hi­bi­tion space

If I had to choose, my favourite space would be White Box at Pub­lika. I like the set­ting as you can move the ex­hi­bi­tion walls around. It was the first place I wanted to ex­hibit my pho­tog­ra­phy and I did a dual ex­hi­bi­tion there with a friend once. We’re plan­ning to ex­hibit here again in the fu­ture.

Favourite dish

My favourite dish here is char kuey teow! I love it! I don’t have a par­tic­u­lar place; if I see a stall sell­ing char kuey teow, I’ll just park and go for it. Malaysia is good for food. If I’m in town, I’ll be at Pavil­ion, Bukit Bin­tang or Jalan Alor, which is re­ally nice for seafood.

Pho­tog­ra­phy tips

When peo­ple see some­thing nice, they don’t move. They take a pic­ture from where they are and zoom. My first piece of ad­vice: use your legs, you’ll see dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives. Think be­fore tak­ing pic­tures. Know the lim­i­ta­tion of your de­vice, be it a mo­bile phone or pro­fes­sional cam­era. I use a prime lens so I don’t use the zoom of­ten. If I were to take a pic­ture of your face, I’ll use an 85mm or 50mm lens de­pend­ing on what I want, like do I want your eyes sharp and every­thing else blurred, or do I want some­thing in the back­ground clear? You have to know what you want.

Pho­tog­ra­pher com­mu­nity

When you go to ex­hi­bi­tions, you meet crazy pho­tog­ra­phers or trav­ellers who have been all around the world. Ev­ery time we meet, they give me new ideas and my list of places to visit grows longer. That’s how I plan ahead and know what’s com­ing up ahead of time like a ceremony in Pa­pua New Guinea in Au­gust, a Fes­ti­val of Lights in Myan­mar in Oc­to­ber – the list goes on. And in be­tween, there are al­ways the vol­ca­noes.

Tips for Ex­pats

Our friends and fam­ily are in Paris, so we had to find a new bal­ance. My fam­ily and I have been trav­el­ling around South­east Asia for quite some time, so it was ac­tu­ally easy for us to adapt. Be open-minded and don’t stick to only one place like KLCC! EL

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