Expat · Thailand

What I wished I knew before coming to Thailand

Gin Salat, Lamphun, 2012

My mom was born here before Thai food became as edgy and hip-hop as Pad Thai noodles, before the Vietnam War put Thailand on the US map. Before Thailand became the Hail Mary pass for dirty Jesus wannabes and lonely horny old men. But that didn’t make me any more educated about what to expect when I moved here in 2009…

Here are some things I wished I knew before I arrived. You’re welcome.

1. Don’t take things so personally. Really. Don’t. I think it’s bad for the skin and your digestive system. It’s something I have to remind myself daily, “It’s not always about you.” This is after, of course, I point to the mirror and shake my hair and say, “Yes, yes, yes!”

2. Be patient, grasshopper. Be patient with yourself, your friends, the staff, the cultural differences, the language forcefield barrier, EVERYTHING. I suppose you could imagine going, what we Americans like to call “postal”, taking out a gun and yelling, “I want my goddamn pad Thai MotherFucker!” or maybe you take deep breaths…

Just don’t tell your friend/partner, “jai yen yen” (the Thai equivalent to calm down) because that just seems to have the opposite effect. Trust me (said in high pitched female voice).

3. Your visa situation will be sorted out. Or not. In which case, you have to decide to stay or go but decisions will be made and stuff will work out! Besides it’s really rare to see a homeless foreigner here. Okay, not helpful. Go to my visa run post.

4. It’s okay to stay at home. And hide. My mom told my brother and I when we were here in 1989, “We didn’t come here to sleep” when all we wanted to do was go back to sleep until the jet lag went away. I think most travelers and expats think we have to be OUT THERE doing stuff, having amazing experiences so we can Facebrag about it.

But, this is very important, you better lean in. (Did you do it? 555) You need to rest. You need to rest, relax, and rejuvenate, otherwise you will want to go postal. At least that is what I’ve learned about me. I say never underestimate the ability to hide for a full day. Sometimes you just don’t want to deal, and so why not do society a favor and read, watch TV, talk on the phone, write, I don’t know – relax.

All of which brings me to this ice cream sandwich. I was at a restaurant called the West with my new friends, which in Expat Land means soon to be good friends. Two of them have lived in the same area as I have, the great SW in the United States. Sandra was sharing, “There’s a saying in Taos, either the mountain accepts you or rejects you.” Catherine laughed and said, “We have a similar saying in Santa Fe.”

We were discussing this because Catherine was feeling “rejected” from Chiang Mai while the other new comer on my right was feeling “accepted”. She wanted to find work so she could stay but she was okay with returning home if things didn’t work out, too.

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5 thoughts on “What I wished I knew before coming to Thailand

  1. Great blog, as usual. I've been thinking a lot lately how living here has definitely taught me the art of patience. It doesn't always come naturally, so it's a continual effort…often in my role as a teacher of a foreign language.

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  2. Agreed. Funny thing is my electricity was literally taken away from my apartment yesterday so I'm going through another “jai yen yen” phase! Just when you think you're getting the hang of it…:P

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  3. Let your friends know that a lonely old expat from Albuquerque is living in CM and would love to talk with them about their experiences here. I am already thinking of going home so this is a cry for help (crap, does this comment sound as desperate as I think it does?!?!). Anyway, hasta la vista bebe.

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