Story of an Expat living in Thailand - Robert Mitchell from the UK.
We spoke to Robert about his experience as an Expat in Thailand. Read more to know why he took that decision to move to the "Land of Smiles".
What first made you want to move country?
The adventure of living in another culture and making the best of life, instead of just living a safe and non-eventful mediocre existence. Thailand is a beautiful country and the people are generally very kind, laid-back and fun-loving.
What made you choose Thailand over other countries?
Thailand has never been colonized by western nations in the past, so it is very different from western culture. Although there is a strong Chinese influence in Thailand, Thai culture still remains very unique.
What advice would you give to people thinking about starting a new life in another country?
Rent somewhere for the first year before buying a property if you are thinking about buying a property. This way you can be sure that you like it there and you will be more streetwise. In Thailand you can buy a condominium by the beach for around 1 million baht upwards in your name. Also, approach a new culture with a beginner's mind and realize that it takes time to become 'streewise' and learn the language so that you know the good people and situations from the risky and bad situations. Forgive yourself if you make a few mistakes early on when you move to a different country, as it's all part of the learning game. Don't waste time judging a different culture too, just let people be who they are and accept that you can't change anything. For example, in China they spit on the floor a lot, but there's no point getting stressed over it, it won't change anything and it's just who they are. Just accept it and let it go.
What was your first big “aha” of Thai culture?
My first big 'Aha!' living in Thailand was when I realized that I'd never be able to fully understand the culture or the way of thinking of Thai people. They have had a very different upbringing and have been brought up with an entirely different outlook compared to the west for example. This is liberating for me as I now don't have to think too much about trying to understand anything that may seem illogical to me. After all, logic is just a set of rules benchmarked against what a culture or religion deems logical. I'm a guest in another country, so I must respect differences in culture.
Did you face any problems regarding “language barriers”?
Yes, at first I only knew how to order 'Kao Pat Moo' in a restaurant with no English translation on the menu, until I was able to order different food. Also, it was harder to tell who was good or who is dodgy as I didn't understand the language and the subtle intonations and got ripped off a few times in tourist areas. I now have great friends here in Thailand and have more finely tuned intuition. If you are thinking about learning Thai the best advice I can give is to start learning to read early on, it will help your pronunciation improve by leaps and bounds.
Can you connect with people once you arrive, to help smooth the expat transition?
In my thinking, I always consider myself a guest in Thailand. I am from a different country and will always be a foreigner and that simple fact helps me fit in, by not having any expectations of becoming Thai or anything else delusional. You will always be treated differently if you are from another country unless you look like a native of that country and become 100% fluent. That's a reality and if you can become comfortable with that you'll be a lot more chilled out about standing out like a sore thumb in non-tourist areas. Sometimes it's fun to be a foreigner and it's not necessarily a bad thing to be seen as 'different'.
What advice would you like to give to other expats who like or planning to move to Thailand?
The people you meet in the tourist areas are very different from the real Thai people living outside the tourist areas. When possible, get away from the tourist areas and move to somewhere on the map that you've never heard of. Phuket is perhaps the worst place you can go to for getting ripped off, so avoid this place unless you book into a luxury hotel and spend your time around the pool. As soon as you can, get yourself a copy of a book explaining the 'dos' and 'don'ts' in Thailand. Avoid 90 percent of expats in Thailand as they generally make up their past, as quite a few of them take 5-10 years off their age, have been in the SAS and have come from top notch careers or have multi-national businesses back home. If you are lucky enough to find a normal expat that is in touch with reality in Thailand, look after that friend because they are hard to find.
Decisions Decisions Decisions!! Is that what is stopping you? Take a stride, be bold and make your like better by choosing the way you want to live it. Robert's life changed when he came to Thailand and yours could change as well. Good Luck!