I listen and watch expats, fellow friends describe how they feel – the phases they are going through and I think, “I wonder if I’ll ever feel that way.” Sometimes I think, “How sad, I’ll never go through that.” And then I go through it and realize I’m not that special and I was wrong.

Today, for instance, I am hiding. I never thought I’d go through a hiding phase. I don’t feel like meeting new people. And when a friend described feeling this way a couple of months ago, I thought he must be feeling really down or something. But I don’t feel depressed. I just don’t want to deal. And I never imagined feeling this way. How could I tire of meeting new people? Especially those leering white men with bad teeth. You sir, have the breath of a dirty ashtray!

My other friend described in strong detail his disdain for Thai ways and again I thought, No – I won’t diss the good people of Siam, but lately I hear myself saying, “I’m so over Thailand.” What does this mean? I’ve reached middle earth – where more antipathy has been leeched into the soil and I see myself in Thailand in a constantly evolving way. That’s just it, isn’t it? There are more phases in an expat community. Back home the phases usually last longer – you’re not constantly adjusting.

Then there is the I’m-looking-forward-to-the-next-thing phase. A friend just went here and another just passed through this piece of land, and by that I mean his plans are in place. I’m not far behind having found myself here unexpectedly and I am starting to research where to next. The leaving-Thailand phase when you still have months to go is tricky because you want to enjoy the place you are pleasantly in.

Phase 1: On my God, I’m in Thailand (insert expat country here).
Phase 2: Adjusting, forging for grub and seeking shelter. Will you be my friend?
Phase 3: More adjusting (this phase can be either delightful or disastrous or like the playground seesaw).
Phase 4: Acceptance or Rejection (choose your own adventure).

*Then there are the third culture kids who feel no culture shock or homesickness because they grew up bouncing from one to the other. Interestingly, they are most comfortable being alone and often prefer it.

I’ve heard it said that if you find romance in Thailand you’ll stay and if you don’t, you’ll leave. I say this theory is as charming as a Chiang Mai sausage. If I met a guy here I’d expect he’d want the same things as I want, at least in the big life scheme of things. He’d want to leave, too. I think if you want to stay you’ll figure it out and if you know your time is limited – finding love is something that will happen regardless. I used to think that time played a significant factor in building a romance, but a couple of non-time based relationships later, I feel differently. I think you’ll (once again) figure it out or it will be just a little fling.

Of course, as I get older I don’t want little flings, but what am I doing with my life but enjoying little flings with towns and cities? I move with the frequency that would make a grown man blush and a mama’s heart weep. I delight in the idea of settling down, but I delight more in beating my drum out of time. I can settle down in old age. Settle down. Sounds like laying down into a grave. My friend Clint once told me that he believed travelling – going, seeing and doing should be done now. That when he was old he might not be able to get off the tour bus and who wants to see the pyramids from the seat of a bus? But believe me I am exhausted at times by constantly packing and pitching the tent. I tell myself, this is the last time, but then I laugh when I say a month later, where to next?

When we were studying nomadic tribes in anthropology class I thought they were living a crazy lifestyle. But now I know how ‘the settlers’ see me. All I want now is to find that greener pasture, a fellow shepherd and little sheep. The pasture will be the perfect place for me to teach. The shepherd tall, dark, handsome and with a nice hairy chest. Ah, but that is another phase for another time perhaps…

2 replies on “Phases of an expat

  1. Interesting post. How long have you been in the big T? I've cycled through all these phases several times. Currently, I'm in the “I can't believe I'm in Thailand” phase. Probably due to this awesome weather we've been having lately…


  2. I've been here for about 6 months. I know you are a veteran though 😀 Yes, it has been cool in CM but it alternates between warm and cool quite a bit. Thanks for reading. I've never heard it called the Big T, might have to use that!


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