A Woman Learning Thai...and some men too ;)

Learn Thai Language & Thai Culture

Category: Expat Life (page 3 of 3)

Survey: Expats Love Thailand, but the Thai Language Loses Out

 HSBC Expat report

No surprise, Thailand comes top for love

The latest HSBC report was emailed to me just this morning (thanks Lana)

Bangkok Post: Expats fall in love with Thailand but not the language.

Putting Thailand aside for now… I was not surprised to find that the UK’s scores were low, but I was surprised at how low they did go. Ouch. And while I agree with most of the UK’s ranking, I disagree with the results on food quality. Except for broccoli, as France has them beat.

Thailand, on the other hand, was not much of a surprise (does anyone disagree?)

Thailand country report:

  • Overall ranking: 3rd out of 26
  • Quality of life: 3rd out of 26
  • Ease of integration: 4th out of 26

Top reasons for staying in Thailand:

  • Length of contract (53%)
  • Career prospects (47%)
  • Better environment/quality of life for children (35%)
  • Lifestyle (28%)
  • The weather (24%)

Thailand falls looooooooooow on learning the Thai language, but climbs high on finding love:

Negatively, Thailand scored poorly when it came to overcoming the language barrier – over a third (38%) of expats in Thailand rated the language barrier as the top challenge while living in the country.

Despite this, however, over a half (58%) of expats have chosen to learn more of the native tongue and, not letting language get in the way, a staggering 76% of expats have managed to make local friends already.

However, the luckiest expats for finding love were found in Thailand – some 47%
admit finding love since moving to the country. This is in stark contrast to the
worldwide average of just 20%.

What I would like to know though, are the details of the expats contributing to the Thai survey: Male, female, profession, retired, long time tourist…

About the Expat Explorer survey: The Expat Explorer survey, now in its second year, is the largest global survey of expats. Commissioned by HSBC Bank International and conducted by third party research company FreshMinds, more than 3,100 expats were questioned between February and April 2009.

Share Button

From Bangkok to the Burmese

Myanmar

Burma/Myanmar, an expected treat…

Getting anywhere for a first time in this region is often a mystery. For me anyway. Myanmar was even more so as I was going in blind. Pretty much.

Personal visa experiences…

Chris Mitchell’s post, Myanmar Visa In Bangkok: How To Get It, covers most of what you will need to get a visa.

  • For a tourist visa: Passport, two coloured passport photos, 1000 baht (depending).
  • For paperwork (official time): Arrive before 9am.
  • Forms: Fill out the tourist visa and arrival form (but be prepared for ‘surprise’ forms).
  • For pickup (official time): Arrive before 3pm.

The Myanmar Embassy is located on the corner of Thanon Pan and Sathorn Nua Rd in Silom. And while it is a fairly easy address to locate via taxi, not all drivers are created equal.

If your driver gets lost (as mine did) tell him to get to the Sri Mariamman Hindu Temple on the corner of Silom road and Thanon Pan, then drive all the way down Thanon Pan to the end of the street. The embassy is on the left side.

If your taxi driver is still lost, then get it into his head that the Hindu temple is on Silom near the British Club and the Narai Hotel (soi 18). You can easily walk from there.

Once at the Myanmar Embassy, scout out the seating arrangements. If you are aiming for a tourist visa, sit in the seats running down the middle of the room, as the occupants are first at the tourist visa counter. For a business visa, the seats of choice are along the right wall next to the far counter.

When filling out the forms, Chris advises to avoid putting ‘journalist’ or ‘photographer’ as your profession. I’m not working so I bypassed putting a profession. Instead, I ran that section through with a scratch of my pen.

Problem was, it threw the visa people off balance. ‘No employment? No working?’

Even so, several minutes later – after those behind the counter got into group huddles and made phone calls and such – I was told to pick up my paperwork in three days. Easy.

The hindsight of going to Myanmar…

I like to believe that I behave in the manner of a well seasoned traveller, but it is not always so.

When going to a country for the first time, months prior to departure I grab a selection of general knowledge and history books on the area. Sure, Google is helpful, but for travelling I prefer paper over digital.

But this time, in the month running up the trip, I found myself battling insomnia instead of researching for a trip to Myanmar.

‘I’ll just grab a guide book at the airport’… says I…

Rushing through duty-free at Suvarnabhumi, I purchased the Lonely Planet Myanmar (Burma) guide. Sitting on the plane, I flipped through to this statement:

Few countries warrant more pre-trip reading than Myanmar.

Well, cacca.

At the bottom of the same page was section titled, ‘Get your cash ready’.

Considering Myanmar has essentially no places that accept a credit card, travellers cheques or ATM cards, you need to plan how much money you’re going to spend – and get the right kind of bills (clean, crisp, new US dollar bills) well before your plane lands in Yangon (Rangoon). Many, many visitors forget to do this, and end up heading back to Thailand to get some.

Double cacca.

For a seven day trip to Myanmar I had a grand total of US$200 and a few thousand Thai baht. And while the accommodation, main travel (car and plane), and most of the food was paid for, the rest was not.

For my seven days, I still needed money for tour guides and drivers, as well as the odd beer. And I especially needed mad money.

And believe it or not, Myanmar is not exactly cheap.

I was lucky in that I had people in both Yangon and Mandalay. I can only imagine the frustration others feel when realising there is no easy way to get additional money in Myanmar.

And that they would need to turn back to Thailand for more.

So when planning your trip to Myanmar, my advice is this: Buy the Lonely Planet Myanmar (Burma) guide.

Like everyone else out there, I have a growing collection of travel guides. But, when it comes to value for money, this one is tops. Well done guys!

Money is important. Sure. But it is only a small part of what you need to know before visiting Myanmar. Or not.

Because after reading ‘to go or not to go’ in the Lonely Planet guide, you just might decide that a trip to Myanmar is not for you.

For me, it all came down to one major point: Whether or not I agreed with Aung San Suu Kyi’s stance on tourism.

I do support Aung San Suu Kyi, but I do not agree with everything she stands for. So while it did cause time for reflection, it was a decision I was prepared to make.

And off to Myanmar I went.

A few Myanmar tips…

My Myanmar visit lasted a total of seven short days, so if you have anything to add (or correct even), please leave your helpful tips in the comments below.

Money: In theory, you are supposed to change your US dollars to FECs (Foreign Exchange Currency), and only then can you change them to kyat (the local currency). In reality, some locals insist on being paid in US dollars, as will some government agents.

If you hunt down a money changer, you can bypass the FEC middle man, getting a much better deal on kyat in the process.

When you do exchange your dollars, make sure to get a sufficient amount of small notes. This is because (in the nicer hotels at least), the standard tip is 500-1000 kyat (luggage handlers, room service, etc) and your stash of small bills will run down quite quickly.

Also, not having the exact change will cost you. If you are haggling and do not have change, your haggle is wasted as they often won’t have change either. But they will quite happily take the larger note, and they may even throw in something extra.

At the airport I came away with a pack of gum instead of the expected change.

It’s a good thing I like gum.

Medicinal: Some pharmacies in Myanmar require a doctor’s prescription, some do not. Avoid the hassle by bringing any legal drugs you might require (painkillers, anti-inflammatories, anti-acids, etc).

This should not need to be said but I will anyway: Make doubly sure that you have a doctor’s prescription to go along with any prescription drugs that you bring into the country.

Ah, btw, at the top of your list should be antibiotics. My stomach started going south during the night, and by the time I received a treatment of antibiotics (mid-morning), the rest of my day was doomed.

Flights: Nothing new for the Asian traveller, some local flights are late (an hour or more), some flights get cancelled, some leave early. My flight to Yangon was an hour late. But, after being left in Kuching by Royal Brunei Airlines for three days, a mere hour was no big deal to me.

Plastic bags: Trash made up from discarded plastic bags is everywhere, but there is a push to ban plastic bags in Myanmar. If you want to help the cause (it is not in place yet), when making a purchase ask for biodegradable bags instead.

Beggars and trinket sellers: Just like in Cambodia, kids posing as trinket sellers will first start hitting you up to sell products, then some will switch to a zombie litany of wants and needs.

I am no more hard-hearted than the next person. But, from past experience, I don’t usually give over money. I either purchase food, or, if given a chance, I get creative.

And a word of warning: If you do give, you could soon be surrounded by a group clambering for the same. And they don’t give up easily, which means that if they are encouraged, they have the potential to drive tourists away. Have you ever been to Morocco? Point made…

Instead, why not give generously to their schools?

On my next trip I intend on bringing as many English books for school children as I can. In Myanmar copying books is a normal practice, so basically I’ll save luggage space by bringing in one of each (and most everyone wins).

Psst… There are many interesting items of advice in the Lonely Planet guide; pick the one that suits you best. And if I had read the Lonely Planet guide for Myanmar before my recent trip, I would have done just that.

Visiting Myanmar’s curiosities…

Driving: In the ’70s (I heard ’74, but online information states ’70), the Myanmar government changed from driving on the left side of the road to the right. But if you look around Myanmar, vehicles with the steering wheel in the correct side of a car or bus are rare. A worry, bus passengers are forced to get off on the side of oncoming traffic, and cars cut quite close to each other at times.

Mobile phones: After living in Bangkok, the lack of people talking on mobile phones in Myanmar is spooky. And (apparently), if you bring your phone into the country, not only will it not work but you are supposed to leave it with customs (apparently). Oops.

Internet: I read that the Myanmar government slowed down the Internet to slow down communication with the outside world, but I did not find this consistently so.

The hotel I stayed at in Yangon had Internet connection in the rooms for free, but it did not work on a Mac so I couldn’t tell how fast it was. On my return trip to the same hotel the Internet connection in the rooms had been scrapped, so if you wanted the pleasure you had to pay US$5 per hour to connect in the business centre. The connection was slow. I declined.

The hotel I stayed at in Mandalay had free wifi in the lobby. And while it was not slow (about Thai speed), it died on day two and revived on day three.

The Internet connection in Rangoon’s business class lounge at the international airport was via two PCs, and was excruciatingly slow.

English speakers: The Burmese I met spoke beautiful English. One of the busboys even sounded California hip! I tend to believe that SE Asian countries without a strong tonal language have it easier taking on English than the Thais do. But I could be wrong…

Photography: I found that the local Burmese women, more than the men, are painfully camera shy. So to avoid embarrassing the both of you, get that camera waggle down.

Besides, if a local wants their photo taken (especially the kids) they will often be quite verbal about it.

And compared to the sometimes moody Thai monks, the Myanmar monks are camera wonderful. Some monks placed themselves in my way, while others grinned when I waggled, then posed beautifully for my camera.

And when the Myanmar photos start rolling through at Catherine Wentworth Photography, you can see just how beautiful they are.

Learning the lingo…

Ah. And did I learn any Burmese while there? I sure did.

Easily memorised, Jay Sue Bay means ‘thank you’. Jay (for my programming buddy). Sue (for my Seattle Meet mate). And Bay (well, we all meet in the bay). Jay Sue Bay.

Share Button

A Year’s Worth of Women Learning Thai… and Some Men Too ;-)

Happy First Birthday

Blogging birthdays come but once a year…

A year and a month ago, on June 4th, WLT launched.

Sigh. I know, I know. It is already July 4th and I’m running late (it has been that kind of a month).

Aaron this manyAnd while a blogging birthday is not the same as your firstborn turning one, it is a cause for celebration.

When I came up with the idea for Women Learning Thai, I had set aims in mind. A given, I wanted to improve my Thai and increase my understanding of Thailand and Thai culture. But along the way (just to be difficult), I also hoped to upgrade both my writing and photography skills.

Confession time: In the past year I have not improved my abilities equally, but I have improved overall. And while I am quite chuffed at my progress for some, it may take yet another year before I’m out of one stage and into another. For all.

A bonus that I did not take into account is the online Thai community. Bloggers or otherwise. Expats and locals included. A nice surprise, the friendships gained since launching WLT are as equally important to me as my intended aims.

To celebrate, I decided to share the bloggers in my small Thai community, as well as those responsible for helping me succeed. And a given, I’ll include WLT’s highlights for the past year.

Apologies. But you first need to wade though the highlights…

Top posts on WLT…

In the sidebar are WLT’s most popular posts. Truthfully, they should be called resource-intensive content but as the title popular posts is shorter, there you go.

Learn Thai Online for FREE
Thai Language Phrase Books: A Mega Review
Google Books: Thai Learning Resources
Top Thai Language Learning Resources
The Easy Way for Beginners to Read and Write
Thai Language Cheat Sheets
The Thai Alphabet Poem
Thai-English Readers with Mp3s
Byki Thai Language Course
Thai Typing Tutors: aTypeTrainer4Mac
Recording the Thai National Anthem
Google Translation & Thai Dictionaries

Thai phrase books…

After purchasing 99.9% of the Thai phrase books on the market, I tried to make sense of them all. I’m not sure that I succeeded, but it was fun trying. The island trip I took during the process was trying too.

Travelling with Thai Phrase Books
Using Thai Phrase Books
Thai Language Phrase Books: A Mega Review
The Monty Python Phrase Book
Thai Phrase Books with a Twist
Pictures: When They Can’t Speak Thai…

Quick and Dirty…

My very first book review was Myke Hawke’s Quick and Dirty Guide to Learning Languages Fast. After tracking Myke down, I went further. Much further. And I’m not done yet.

The Quick and Dirty Guide to Learning Languages Fast
Quick & Dirty Thai Language Learning with Myke Hawke
Interviewing Myke Hawke: Quick and Dirty Guide to Learning Languages Fast
FREE: Quick & Dirty Thai Vocabulary Download

Thai alphabet cartoon…

The Thai Alphabet Cartoon was cleverly created for adults. And not all adults, as I soon found out. And boy, was this series ever an experience into Thai language and culture!

Thai Alphabet Cartoon: Part One
Thai Alphabet Cartoon: Part Two
Thai Alphabet Cartoon: Part Three
Thai Alphabet Cartoon: Part Four
Thai Alphabet Cartoon: Part Five
Thai Alphabet Cartoon: Part Six

Thai bumper stickers…

You can’t drive around Thailand without noticing bumper stickers everywhere. And as stickers are filled with real Thai, an ongoing series is a must.

Thai Bumper Stickers 1
Thai Bumper Stickers 2
Thai Bumper Stickers 3
Thai Bumper Stickers 4
Thai Bumper Stickers on Taxis

There are many more posts in my growing archives so please have a look around.

WLT guest posts…

Opening the conversation to include subjects that I am not able to write about in detail is important, so I am especially grateful to those generously sharing their knowledge and experiences.

Tina Gibbons: The Most Effective Way to Learn Thai and Why Learning the Thai Language Needs to be More Than a Study of Words and Grammar

Tony Wright: Let’s Talk Thai: How the Brain Learns

And stay tuned for a Thai learners series from Rikker of Thai 101!

A big blogging community thanks goes to…

In the past year I’ve met many bloggers in the Thai community. The six below not only throw comments my way, but they share time behind the scenes as well. In alphabetical order…

Expat Women in ThailandAmy: Expat Women in Thailand (no longer online)
Amy is married to Golf, a Thai translator. She blogs about the day to day expat living in Thailand. The information Amy gathers is not just for women, but for men too. For those heading to the land of smiles, she has put together an ebook – The Expat Woman’s Guide to Living in Thailand.

The Thai PirateBen: The Thai Pirate (no longer online).
Ben married into Suphanburi, where he now lives, works, and plays. And sometimes blogs. And except for when he’s playing around in the UK, his subjects cover all things Thai living.

To peruse: Driving in Thailand (no longer online), How far will 1000 Baht get you? and The Best Thai Blogs.

Beyond the Mango JuiceMartyn: Beyond the Mango Juice
Martyn works in the UK for most of the year, but as soon as he can, he hightails it to the wonderful Wi. Wi keeps their beautiful home running smoothy in Ban Norn Chad (thanks Wi!) With a humorous twist, Martyn posts about all things Thailand. His monthly reviews are a godsend for our busy community.

To peruse: Thailand Country Life – A Survival Guide, Always On My Mind and Giving a Little Bit Back.

FrogBlogPete: FrogBlog – Thaidings
A wonderful photographer and writer, Pete lives part of his time in the sunny south of France and the rest of the time in Changmai. He writes thought-provoking posts about the cultural and political aspects of living in Thailand. Btw – do you twitter? Pete does too.

To peruse: Thaivisa: Founder of Thailand’s largest online community answers the critics, Thailand’s tarnished image abroad: Thai tourism in decline and Brash Bangkok, culture-hound Chiang Mai, pornographic Pattaya, innocent Isaan – which one is your Thailand?

Thai 101Rikker: Thai 101
Rikker lives full-time in Bangkok. He is one of the few expats with in-depth knowledge of the Thai language. And while Rikker does not comment often, he does share his know-how on Thai 101, as well as via emails, forum posts and twitter. Starting next week, Rikker’s learning Thai series will launch on WLT.

To peruse: Thai jokes category, Farang Stuff and A look at the Ramkhamhaeng script.

Thailand Land of SmilesTalen: Thailand Land of Smiles (no longer live) Talen lives and works part-time in the US, but as his heart and the lovely Pookie are in Issan, he spends as much of his time there as possible. Talen has a good eye for a story, so we are often regaled by real life experiences from northern Thailand and elsewhere.

Note: While I am in contact with other fantastic bloggers, to keep this post a reasonable length I stopped at just six. I promise that the rest will be discussed at another time, so please do not send any bad mojo my way.

Photography, writing, book collecting and more… I owe… I owe…

Writing: I’d like to send a special thanks to two writing coaches: Joanna from Confident Writing (no longer online), and Paul from Bangkok BC Writing Services. Joanna released my writing fears, while Paul gives monthly tips on grammar, sentence structure, and more.

Photography: Gavin and Jackie from the newly formed Bangkok Photography School took my photography out of the 90’s and ran it straight into 2009. I’m still playing catchup, but I’m not having to run quite as fast as before.

Book collecting: When it comes to tracking down obscure books dealing with Thai culture and language, Danny at DCO Books is a lifesaver. Danny’s varied knowledge about Thailand has brought even more subjects to my attention. So much so, that I’ve ordered a new bookcase. Where it will fit, I don’t quite know.

Thai learning: As for my long suffering Thai teacher, she deserves an award for her patience. At times she calls me her best student, but I believe she means that in a special sort of way. I flit here and there, dragging her into technology and subjects far away from her regular curriculum. And she holds steady on for the wild ride. Bless her.

Programming: Oh, and I can’t forget my amazing programming buddy Jay, who puts up with a zillion frustrating emails about cacca code. Yeah, I owe, I owe. Hey Jay, even more chocolates are on the way!

Share Button

Habits of Highly Effective Expats

Ineffective Expats

Expat Guide on twitter, tweets…

Today, Sharon Gilor (expatsguide), tweeted the post, Seven Habits of Highly Ineffective Expats.

I have noticed in strangers, friends, and yes, even myself, seven habits that I think make you a very ineffective expat. My rookie year in China is nearing a close, so I plan on making a New Year’s resolution of sorts to break these bad habits that I know I have, and I sure to not be alone in them.

Habits of Highly Ineffective Expats: 6) Decadence…

“Don’t worry about spilling anything, the ayi will clean it”
“I don’t cook anymore, eating out is so cheap”

Number six is why I’m responding with a post and not in Glen’s comments.

While this is part of the attraction for a lot of people, I hope that you ask yourself what you think of the people who have that sort of a lifestyle back home.

What would I think? Well, I think kudos to them for attaining such a high standard of living.

Life is too short to waste doing what you don’t want to do, while avoiding what you do what to do. So go! Do! Live your life to the fullest! After all, it is your life.

When I left home as a teen, it was not long before I was fed up with having to do all of the washing, ironing, and cleaning. I even disliked the process of paying bills. And while I loved to cook intricate, fiddly meals (I still do), I found the daily grind of having to cook tedious.

Fast forward several years… after being married for a few months I knew exactly what I wanted.

I really really wanted wife…

That’s right. I wanted a wife.

I wanted someone else to pick up MY socks, iron MY clothes, and cook MY dinners too!

And when I moved to Borneo, I did just that. I got myself a ‘wife’. And it was grand.

I had nine years in Borneo with a live in who washed, ironed, cooked, cleaned, and even handled the weedwacker chap and occasional workmen.

But when I moved to Thailand I decided to forgo a full-time ‘wife’.

Why? Because during those nine years I discovered what men already knew.

Wives are a lot of work.

With a full-time wife you sometimes have to deal with a rolling litany of personal issues. Issues you might prefer to do without.

So now I don’t have a full-time wife. I have a Wednesday wife.

While she does not cook, she does wash, iron, clean my house, water the plants, and take my clothes for mending. She bosses the workmen and delivery men around. She even runs to 7 to pay my bills.

The habits of highly effective expats…

Face it. One of the big pluses of being an expat is the fantastic lifestyle! And a given, it is all up to you. Your choice.

I don’t choose to have all of the sinful pleasures that are available to expats living in Thailand. But there is a simple reason for that. Not everything suits me personally.

Just like I don’t choose to have a full-time maid, I don’t choose to have a car and driver either. I made this choice after waiting in too many lobbies, at too many store fronts, and on too many street corners for the driver to show. And yeah, paeng mâak!

So instead of the extra expense of a car and driver, I keep a few Bangkok taxis on speed dial for the long-hauls, and stick my arm out for the rest.

Oh, and I’m really really big on getting everything delivered. Everything I possibly can anyway.

Sometimes I order in on a Friday night because I don’t want to fight Bangkok traffic.

But wait! I’m not finished with the delivery angle. Because if Bangkok does something really well, it’s delivery.

Bangkok does indeed deliver. My vet does house calls. My Thai teacher does too. When I find the books I want, I contact Danny at DCO, who sends them over by motorcycle taxi (saves me money on taxis). And if I lose my head at Villa (which does not happen often), they send my groceries around after me.

I haven’t figured out Paragon. Yet.

And I travel. Extensively. But not ott. Flights are cheaper from SE Asia than from the West so I can. But a given, I also travel inside Thailand.

I know you didn’t ask for it, but… in my opinion, when given the opportunity, skipping the chance to see the world we live in would be the biggest sin of all. Italy, here I come…

Does all of this make me an ineffective Expat?

Heck no! It makes me a highly effective expat. For sure.

Ok, but does it make me a decadent expat? Hmmm…

Bottoms up…

Share Button

Baby Bird Watching in Bangkok

bird eggs

Birds come and birds go…

The Wednesday before last, my housekeeper came running into the living room all excited (I know it was a Wednesday because it is the only day I have someone in to clean).

นกมา! นกมา!
nók maa! nók maa!
Translation: Bird come! Bird come!

Waving her arms for me to follow, we went to the back of the house to see. And yes indeed, a bird had come, depositing two spotted eggs as well.

With the excitement over, I settled back to work. Soon after, I was notified again about the status of the bird.

นกไปแล้ว! นกไปแล้ว!
nók bpai láew! nók bpai láew!
Translation: Bird go already! Bird go already!

The whole day was rather fun actually, with us going back and forth looking at either the eggs or the bird on the eggs.

A Thai bird day in Bangkok…

When my Thai teacher showed up the following day, she also became excited about having bird eggs around, so the bird became the focus of our lesson.

Note: To see the English transliteration, scroll your mouse over the Thai script (pretty nifty, yes?)

มีไข่นกสองฟองอยู่ในรังนกบนต้นปาล์ม
mee kài nók sŏng fong yòo nai rang nók bon dtôn bpaam
Translation: There are two eggs in the birds nest on the palm.

เเต่ตอนนี้เหลือแค่หนึ่งฟอง
dtàe dton-née lĕua kâe nèung fong
Translation: But now there is only one egg left.

เเละมีลูกนกถุกฟักออกมาหนึ่งตัว
láe mee lôok nók tòok fák òk maa nèung dtua
Translation: And then the egg hatched and we have one baby chick.

ลูกนกเกือบหล่นเพราะว่าร้งนกเอียง
lôok nók gèuap lòn prór wâa róng nók iang
Translation: The nest tilted and the baby bird almost fell out…

เเต่แมวก็ได้ทำรังให้ตรง
dtàe maew gôr dâai tam rang hâi dtrong
Translation: … but I fixed it.

Stay tuned for more as the chick grows wings and takes flight (hopefully)…

And please feel free to suggest corrections to my Thai, ok?

Share Button

Hunting For Accommodation in Bangkok

Bangkok

Looking for someplace safe in Bangkok…

I like to think that I’m an experienced expat. Sometimes it rings true. Sometimes not. Looking for a new home is a case in point.

Before relocating, I tend to do a lot of research to source new accommodation. There is no real replacement for actual experience, so for the final decision, I lean on personal preference.

Preference: House with garden over the condo/apt option. And as I’m more country than town or city, I go for the outskirts rather than deep in the middle of things. In the UK, the US, France and Borneo, living in houses on the fringes worked. Bangkok, not so much.

House-hunting in France it was part luck but mostly potluck. After struggling with French newspapers and world of mouth for weeks, I managed to locate a house on a hill overlooking the Pyrenees (complete with grumbling French gardener and guards dogs). The good part? I was out of an expensive Hotel and ensconced in my new abode before the cold set in. The bad part? My shipment got lost somewhere north of Paris and didn’t make it to Pau for over three months.

But since the advent of the Internet, my life has been made relatively easier as a new home is just a google away. Research an area, decide on a budget and amenities, type in the key words, and there you have it. Home.

Arriving in Scotland from Borneo, I already had a short-list of houses. Luckily, my favourite online turned out to be close to perfect. I made a bid, dealt with the paperwork, passed over the check, the shipment arrived, and I was in. Home.

Moving to Bangkok was the same. Choosing the house I preferred via an online house-hunter, I dealt with the paperwork, the shipment arrived shortly after, and I was in. Home.

But not for long. Although I did the research, I did not take the online advice given to newly arriving expats.

While getting the lay of the land and the locals, rent a condo, not a house.

Why? Two reasons. One, expat homes are known to be targeted by burglars (note: not a personal experience). Two, Thai culture is complicated. If you make a wrong move in Thailand there’s a real chance you’ll muff up and get in an uncomfortable position.

Yes, being culturally aware really is up to us. And it does takes time to suss it out.

In my case it was due to my not understanding the message I was sending, coupled with an overly amorous neighbour. A neighbour with a ladder.

Since then (with the help of a local expat forum) I’ve twiddled a shortlist:

  • When alone, do not invite a Thai male into your home (gives the wrong impression)
  • Do not go out drinking with that lovely Thai male you’ve just met (gives the wrong signals)
  • When in a taxi or with a driver, always sit in the back (don’t put your boobs within arms reach)
  • If taking a late flight, order a taxi beforehand (avoid flagging one down in the dark)
  • Never ever take a tuk tuk alone late at night (even under the protection of chattering on your mobile)
  • Do not respond sarcastically to a tuk tuk driver’s outrageous prices (especially if he knows where you live)
  • With emergency numbers at the ready, keep your mobile phone recharged and full (speed dial 1155 for the Bangkok tourist police)
  • Avoid the loss of your temper and that includes excessive frowning
  • When in doubt, smile, smile, smile
  • Cover up, cover up, cover up

DragonsComing from nine years in a Muslim country, covering up while around strangers or in situations not appropriate (Mosques, Muslims and Mullahs) was already a habit. I merely added this point to underline that women coming to Thailand should take the advice seriously.

Yes, in a complex, double-decker of a society such as Thailand, the small attention to details can and do matter.

The trick is to avoid giving the wrong impression, the wrong signals. And remember, although Thailand is the land of smiles, there be dragons.

When dealing with overly interested males in the west it’s (usually) just a matter of saying ‘thanks but no thanks!’. In Thailand there’s the fear of their losing face. And sadly, it’s safer to move than escalating a sticky situation. And move I did.

But with all the sadness, there was an upside. Formerly, I lived in North Bangkok where, when trying to get back home late at night from inner Bangkok, taxi drivers would shake their heads and drive off.

Now I live further in where there’s a wide range of transportation easily available: Taxis, tuk tuks and the Skytrain. There’s even the odd elephant wandering around. And although I don’t partake (well, except for that one mad ride down Sukhumvit Soi 1), motorcycle taxis are everywhere.

Share Button

Expat Living: The Introduction

Chinese Lantern

A bit of history…

I was raised in the expat life. With foreign travel in my blood, I naturally took to the lifestyle.

So far I’ve lived on the Island of Borneo (9 years), France (2 years), Japan (2+ years), New Zealand (3+ years), Scotland (1 year), Thailand (followed the tsunami in), as well as eight states across the United States (from 3 months to 7 years). Oh, and there’s the flat in Devon, England. My home away from home.

As what often happens with children raised on the move, I engaged in a lifelong search for a place to hang a permanent hat. I believe my wandering gives proof.

Alaska, Japan and New Zealand had two inside moves each. France just the one. But living in Texas found me in Quitman, Tyler and Houston. In Houston I moved boxes around at nine addresses. Tyler four. Quitman two. California? I lost count. And in one year alone, I lived in Virginia, New Mexico and Colorado. With a year jaunt to Scotland and back, Borneo held to three intra-country moves in nine years. Combined, that’s a lot of packing tape.

I’m more of a country than city gal, so when Bangkok waggled an interest, it took awhile to answer. Since my arrival from the quiet Island of Borneo, there have been three tries at settling in. Lad Prao, and a double dose of Ari. And truthfully, I believe I have it sussed.

I now consider Thailand home. And if all goes well, it’ll be my last home.

So basically what you can expect from this section will be insights into expat living. From an expat who should know better about most things (hah!).

And as I love the Thais and Thailand, what you won’t get is a lot of whinging and whining and quibbling.

But I do intend on querying. A lot.

Share Button
Newer posts