Staff at Banteay Kdei

Has living overseas + travel made you more patient?

“Time, time, time, see what’s become of me.” – Hazy Shade of Winter, Simon & Garfunkel

Since moving abroad, I’ve taken on a different perception of time. I’m convinced time moves slower. Concepts like a “long time” and “being on time” are completely relative to the landscape, the people and the mode of transportation. Living overseas, specifically SE Asia has rubbed off some of my time-sensitive Americanism. My sanity, frankly, can’t afford it to be any other way.

Childhood was an endless ocean of waiting: waiting for my mom, waiting for appointments, waiting for adults to get their shit together. We’d regularly arrive at the dentist at what felt like an hour before our appointment and then we’d wait some more because, you know, doctors are always running behind schedule.

Sitting, I’d swing my lanky legs out in frustration and start pacing, “Ugh. Why are we here so early?”

“Because they might be able to see us early,” was always her explanation and I think that happened once or twice under a Smurf-blue moon.

After living in Thailand for a while I started to notice how many Thais cued up early at government offices, clinics and hospitals. You are almost better off going later in the day when the lines have thinned out, when the grandmas and families have already been seen. I began to wonder if “getting there early” was part of a cultural kickback that my mom did not fully understand, but did out of habit.

Looking back, I marvel at her ability to remain seated, calm and patient during the longest of journeys or waits. In fact, I’ve never seen her impatient, unless it was with us kids. She’s a country girl raised on a diet of “take it easy” and “all the time in the world”. She’s walked along the road with her water buffalo and sewn homemade mattresses for sale. She knows how to be patient.

She’s so un-American.

Angkor wat monk waiting to give blessings.
Angkor Wat monk waiting to give blessings.

I, on the other hand, am very American, so I’ve had to unwrap the tightly wound time bandages that keep most Americans loosely held together. I’ve learned to “kill time” during insanely long layovers just in order to save a few bucks. (Never again.) I’ve learned to sit still because the crowded bus afforded me no other choice. And I’ve learned to people watch, read a book, listen to music and not-so-simply w  a  i  t during immigration check-ins and hospital visits which felt like colossal wastes of time. Although, when I was back in Hawaii after 5 years in Asia, I did surprisingly well sitting in exasperating traffic…

But I still get upset when I’ve been waiting too long, when my patience has reached its arbitrary limit. It’s not like living in Asia has turned me into a meditating monk or something. I’d like to say getting older has made me more patient, but I’ve seen plenty of folks older than me throw big tantrums like little children. So I have to attribute this “new found” patience to living overseas – waiting because waiting needs to happen and waiting needs to be done.

Which is ironic when I think about cue-cutters: Ecuadorians, Laotians and Thais alike slipping in front of me and other foreigners (and me) sneakily sliding between people because we’ve seen the locals do it. There’s a scarcity belief, a hunger for me-first, and a lack of patience despite living in societies that require you to wait.

Looking down and around at Preah Khan.
Looking down and around at Preah Khan.

What about you? Has living overseas and/or travel made you more patient?

31 thoughts on “Has living overseas + travel made you more patient?

  1. I can say without a doubt that living overseas has changed my patience level (along with so many other things). Well, after the initial culture shock wore off and I wasn’t impatient about everything. More than ever I believe that Thai time is real and I just have to sit back and relax. Mai Pen Rai. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. 555+ Thailand is really easy on one level, but on another it’s a real brain-teaser. I figured parenthood would have made you a more patient person, but then again, living abroad is a different beast 😛

      Liked by 1 person

  2. First, you need to work this quote in your next book it is brilliant! “unwrap the tightly wound time bandages that keep most Americans loosely held together.”
    It is very graphic and I felt it with a remembering gasp! So, I guess my answer to your question is yes, I am more patient. Especially waiting at airports. I have to confess that a few days before I travel I start to pout because I know I will have to change my attitude and my little bitty leg stride or get run over! As long as I prepare myself for merging into the faster dimension I am ok. I like to remember the scene from Finding Nemo when the little turtles were jumping in and out of the Gulf Stream Current and having a blast doing so.

    I people watch more than I ever did and I try to find children to watch because they are usually always playing right where they are and loving life. It makes me smile and say to myself, “I want more of THAT!”

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks! You created quite a few images yourself with the Finding Nemo scene and pout (555)!

      Yes, with travel you have to pack your patience, too. Or your sense of alertness. A bit of both, which makes us feel bipolar and is the reason why travel is so stressful – can I relax or do I have to pay attention?

      Well, the kids next to us do a lot of screaming or shreking to be more accurate and even if they are playing, I don’t want more of that 😛

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  3. The picture of Preah Khan looks like you are standing on dinosaur tracks! It reminded me of a joke. We are not descended from the big fat cave men that got eaten by the dinosaurs, we are descended from the little bitty quick sucker that made it back to the cave!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Such an interesting topic. “– waiting because waiting needs to happen and waiting needs to be done.” Love that line. In general, I’m a very patient person, having lowered my expectations when getting official things done like seeing the doctor or getting my passport done. To be honest, I find Australia much slower than Malaysia and Singapore for these two things at least…lots of red tape and consulting to get through until I can get what I want.

    Not to say I don’t get frustrated with waiting. I do sometimes and it’s usually when I haven’t had a good night’s sleep.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good point. If I’m over-worked or hungry (esp if I’m hungry), I can’t be patient. Every little thing becomes some sort of major hurdle to climb over and your body is just screaming for food and rest.

      It sounds like Australia is WAY more laid back than America. America in general is not a patient country and I think that attitude becomes a problem with Americans travel and go overseas. I did a little research on this and it’s quite interesting really.

      You strike me as a patient person! I’m a patient teacher, but not a patient driver (and that’s why I don’t drive anymore!).

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Somehow this reminds me on my university days. THe university is full of foreign students (roughly 50% are Finnish people, the rest from around the world) and especially at the beginning of classes you could see differences when it comes to be on time…depending on the countries or areas (most of the )people were either on time, very early, a bit late or coming around in after half the class was finished. Of course there were exceptions but the majority of them were always like that…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I understand. It seems very acceptable in Thailand and Cambodia for students to arrive late (and there is no penality for it). Whereas in the US it would be in very poor standing to do it and it would be rare.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Some professors were annoyed that so many students were never on time but others who had taught for longer time and were more used to the international environment didn’t care any longer

        Liked by 1 person

  6. If it would make me more patient to live oversees, I should go abroad. Like, for 10 years. I hate waiting. I hate traffic.

    But, if I take a book, I don’t mind so much.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I haven’t created the privilege of living overseas yet. Most likely I would be impatient for overtardiness, etc. Do you see yourself living overseas indefinitely?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. How interesting. If I could afford to live back at home, I would, but living overseas in SE Asia allows me to work part time and work on writing.

      Do I see myself living overseas indefinitely? Yes. Unless I magicallly come into a whopping amount of money, I’ll probably try to make the best out of my chosen path.

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  8. Over the years, I have seen the world with a fresh pair of eyes. As a blogger said, our feet travels where our mind leads.

    p/s We have some public holidays next week. I have to put my house in order including replying your email.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. You have the two opposites together, the ability to patiently wait hours, such as the people do in the street outside the train stations in China, having plunked themselves down hours before their departure time, with all their luggage piled around them, and then you have the line-cutting, and the self-important people who go directly to the front of the line because they were chose by God to be a different kind of special person with perma-entitlement.

    I never forget one of my most used Chinese sentences, “Bie cha dui” = don’t cut in line. Often the “lao wai” was the perfect person to cut in front of, because, presumably, he wouldn’t know how to say BIE CHA DUI!.

    I suspect though, that even the queue-cutters have had to do their fair share of insane waiting in their lives, and while they may feel they are above it, are more accustomed to than their Western counterparts, who spend less time waiting in a year than one might in a given week in SE Asia.

    I suppose it’s kinda’ like the dogs. Americans haven ‘t had any tolerance for stray dogs running around in the street attacking people or causing deadly accidents since before I was born. But in Thailand or Cambodia, it’s just a simple fact of life that dogs roam around like wild animals, and you just navigate around them and sometimes peddle for dear life.

    Also, I think impatience is a sign of weakness in Buddhist countries, just like flailing about having tantrums is, though this can be used against the unsuspecting tourist when the tuk-tuk driver calmly charges 10X the normal rate, and knows everyone will think the Farang is spiritually underdeveloped when he or she takes visible exception. So, cheating other people, calmly, with a smile is fine and dandy, but getting visibly annoyed if someone tries to scam you makes you into a flaming loon.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, Asia is the land of extremes, but perhaps that can be said about anywhere. I mean, the cliche, Iceland is the land of fire and ice is a cliche for some reason, right?

      It is interesting how many foreigners pick up on the irony “care” of dogs and other animals for Buddhist countries, but there is heavy irony in our “Christian” nation, America, as well.

      Impatience can be a sign of weakness because it shows you are not in control. It’s all very complicated and you started to really get into it!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Great article, I really enjoyed it. I also loved the NPR piece, very witty and well done!

    I totally agree with you: living abroad has made me a patient and understanding person. Especially China, since there’s over 1 billion people there and you have to wait for–basically–everything. If I have to wait for something, especially things I cannot change, I take it in stride.

    Still, despite my improved patience, I loathe driving in Los Angeles. Time wasted on the road–on a daily basis–is awful. Long commutes may require patience, but I think the toll it takes on your quality of life is NOT worth it. Can’t wait to move somewhere I can actually bike/walk/train/bus to work in a decent amount of time.

    Great post again Lani!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Mary. Yes, commutes, absolutely horrendous. I’ve only had a commute one time in my life and that’s because I planned it that way. I always tried to live close to work. But graduate school, could not be helped and I almost went out of my mind.

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  11. I don’t think I’ve been living abroad long enough for the patience/queue mentality of England to have worn off on me. You’ll still find my passive aggressively manoeuvring myself in queues when I see potential queue jumpers and me impatiently sighing when things are just taking too long.

    Saying that, in Bahrain you kind of come to expect some things to take a long time. The phrase “Inshallah” (God willing) is used when you’re asking when something will get done and how long it’ll take. So maybe in that sense I’ve grown a little bit more patient. Just a little.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I consciously try to slow down when I’m travelling, to not just rush between destinations but to enjoy even the in-between moments. But as soon as I’m home and playing catch-up, that’s no longer an option.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I remember our Filipino houseboy leaving early in the morning to catch a ship leaving for his home province. When I asked him when the ship was scheduled to leave, he shrugged. Whatever time it left, if he got there early, he’d be sure to catch it.

    Living in Manila, where traffic jams and clerks who would rather flirt with a pretty girl than wait on customers, could try my patience. I’m basically a patient person, but I wouldn’t say that living abroad made me more patient.

    Liked by 1 person

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