Moving To Thailand | Status Update
Moving To Thailand | Seven Months Already
There has been a wall of silence from my end, and I am so sorry for those who have been desperately waiting for my next blog post. It’s not that we haven’t had a lot going on here. Quite the contrary, in fact. The main reason for not writing is simply that life has gotten so busy here in the sleepy beach town of Hua Hin. We came to Thailand in search of a slower pace, yet somehow ended up accelerating our lifestyle more than intended. But another reason for not writing is a little more complicated.
I started so many drafts of this post and abandoned them halfway through. I didn’t have the energy, the words didn’t feel right, and frankly, I didn’t know where to begin. The thing was, Paul and I encountered a serious case of culture shock right around the three month mark of our life in Thailand. It came out of nowhere, and hit us like a ton of bricks. We were feeling negative about nearly every aspect of Thailand, and my motivation was extremely low–I couldn’t write anything positive. However, after riding out that wave of depression and coming out the other side, I feel that it’s important to write about that period. It’s realistic and completely normal, and I want anyone who’s planning a big life change like this to expect those emotions to surface once the newness and excitement wears off.
Moving To Thailand | Culture Shock
It’s an interesting and frustrating experience to feel like an outsider in someone else’s country. I got tired of constantly being referred to as farang. I’d go to the gas station to fill up the car and it was, “the farang customer wants to pay”. Or I’d order a coffee, and they’d say, “the farang wants an iced latte”. I felt like telling these Thai people that I was more than just a pale face, that I really was trying to learn their language and their culture and that I wasn’t just a tourist passing through this town, I was living here. But of course I couldn’t communicate any of that to them. In fact, I couldn’t say much in Thai at all (still can’t, really), and that’s another frustrating aspect of our life here–the foreign language and the inability to communicate basic needs.
I needed help going to the car dealership to explain that our back up camera kept cutting out in the middle of reverse (I need all the assistance I can get with parking here!) Frantic arm waving and gesticulations can only get you so far, and my literal translation, using what little Thai I have went something like this: “Picture color black, no see”. I couldn’t communicate with our cell phone provider, and neither Paul nor I really understood the terms of our phone package and consequently went waaaaaay over on our minutes, thinking that we had purchased the unlimited plan (we hadn’t). Cell phone companies and car mechanics are a pain to deal with anyway, even when you both speak the same language. Throw Thai into the mix, and things that should only take 15 minutes to resolve, end up taking ten excruciating times longer.
I started to feel homesick right around the holiday season. I desperately missed my parents, sister and friends by the time Christmas rolled around, and I craved a good dose of cold weather to authenticate the holidays. Santa just doesn’t belong in the tropics. To compensate for being in Thailand over Christmas, we flew up to Chiang Mai where we could at least have some cooler weather. I found a lot more than just respite from the heat. I found a familiarity that had been lacking in Hua Hin. There are so many more Americans in Chiang Mai. I can count on one hand all the Americans I’ve met so far in Hua Hin (and one has already died since we’ve moved here, further reducing the American population). But the funny thing was, I realized that while I loved Chiang Mai and was happy to see all the Americans again, I appreciated Hua Hin for the fact that it’s more foreign. It pushes our family outside of our comfort zone. I don’t have the luxury of an expat community that I can relate to here. If I were surrounded by Americans, I wouldn’t associate with as many Thai people, and wouldn’t feel so motivated to learn Thai (most Thais in Chiang Mai speak much better English than the Scottish).
Moving To Thailand | This Is Home Now
By the end of our trip to Chiang Mai, I felt like Paul and I had both turned a corner with regard to our culture shock. I had enjoyed the vacation immensely, but I was surprised to find that I was ready to return home to Hua Hin. I missed the beach, our new friends, our routine. It felt good to realize that Hua Hin had suddenly become home. Now that Easter is just around the corner (how did that happen?!), I feel a little twinge of homesickness coming on. I was talking to a Norwegian guy yesterday who’d been in Thailand for the past three months and was on his way back to Europe. He was looking forward to his traditional Easter dinner and started describing the rack of lamb and other goodies they always made. I suddenly wondered with a pang what my family back in the states was going to prepare. And then I realized that I’d take a spicy som tum salad and a deep fried fish with prik naam plaa any day over lamb, and that’s when I knew that I was already at home.