Claire: Bangkok I Love You (Most of the Time)
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Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Bangkok, etc.
My name is Claire and I am originally from the South West of England. I moved to Bangkok in October 2011 with my boyfriend. I got a transfer with work (I am a specialist recruitment consultant) and my partner came with me to teach English. I had never been to Asia before so it was pretty scary.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I started blogging the day I arrived in Thailand. At first it was to keep in touch with my friends and family but I soon realized that other people were also reading it. These days I try to write for a slightly wider audience. It’s great getting feedback and comments and I am always happy to answer any questions other ex-pats have about life here.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
My favorite blog entry was written in January this year. Towards the end of 2011 everything suddenly clicked into the place, and I was suddenly really content and happy with life here. Being a first time ex-pat is never easy, so I was glad that things had finally settled down.
Tell us about the ways your new life in Bangkok differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
It was a huge challenge to get used to a different culture and a new set of rules. I certainly didn’t expect it to be so hard, but for the first few months I felt like I was just pretending. Reading up on the dos and don’ts and having some great Thai colleagues to coach you made life a lot easier. I am also the kind of girl who used to order a Korma when went out for curry so getting used to the spiciness of the food was another challenge. It was totally worth the all sweating and runny noses because I can now enjoy more of the amazing food here.
The great thing about Bangkok is that it's modern. The inter city transport system is really nice and so are the taxis. We even have an Ikea! The western clothes are super expensive but it's nice to be able to get things from home. We don't have many problems with electricity and the Internet connection is really fast. There are also some good western restaurants for when you are longing for a taste of home. I know a great Mexican restaurant, as well as a Lebanese and some great cafes.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Bangkok? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
I wouldn’t have waited so long before signing up for Thai lessons. It makes everything easier if you can direct a taxi and order food. I would also have made some contacts with people already living here via the expat websites. It’s always reassuring to hear that other people have experienced the same frustrations as you, and that they are on hand to answer those important questions about living in Bangkok. Finally I would have avoided living in the same area as all the other ex-pats. It seemed like the safest option at the time but part of the reason I wanted to move here was to experience something different and outside my comfort zone. You don’t get that by surrounding yourself with westerners and Starbucks.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
During our first week I came home to find my boyfriend had lovingly prepared a roast chicken. It had been a tough week of starting new jobs and flat hunting and cockroaches in the hotel. The meal was intended to give us a small taste of home. As he started carving the chicken’s feet and head popped out of its body. I was horrified but I had to laugh. It certainly wasn’t the last time Bangkok threw us a curve ball!
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Bangkok?
- Don’t worry if people laugh at you. This happens a lot but it doesn’t mean they are mocking you. It is just the Thai way of being friendly and respectful. It’s a tricky thing to get your head around, but it certainly makes life more cheery if you take it the way it was intended.
- Life isn’t as cheap as people expect it to be. When I first moved here people told me stories of how you could live on 5 dollars a day in Thailand, including accommodation. It’s true that you can get lunch for around a dollar but it costs more to live here comfortably and long-term.
- When it rains, it rains. The rainy season lasts for far longer than I expected, but it's bearable. You just need to carry an umbrella around for six months. I used to try walking in the rain but it really doesn't seem worth it, you are soaked in about three minutes! Bangkok has a terrible drainage system so the roads turn into rivers almost instantly and the taxis won’t pick you up. I now own rubber shoes, a brilliant invention.
How is the expat community in Bangkok? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
I haven't made hundreds of friends here, but through expat websites and work I have a handful of good friends here, some that I would even like to keep in touch with when I leave! I go to yoga classes and Thai lessons but there are so many groups: reading groups, expat meet ups, ultimate Frisbee, and even an open mic night. I even did Netball for about three months but that was a disaster because I am terrible at it. It's a lot about taking a risk and trying new things.
How would you summarize your expat life in Bangkok in a single, catchy sentence?
Bangkok is a city of temples and taxis, Sois and shopping, massages and mangoes.