Eddie: Stranger In Bangkok
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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 Eddie Yii and I am an East Malaysian who was born and bred in Singapore. My first job in Singapore was tough to say the least, but it gave me the opportunity to set foot on every continent on the globe and sort of made me a global citizen.
Therefore, when I started to look for my next job in 2009, I specifically looked for opportunities outside Singapore, then this chance to work with a good friend to set up his company’s branch in Bangkok popped up and I jumped on it without too much consideration.
How many 28 year olds will be given this trust to do such an important job? Luckily it all sort of worked out and my family is now nicely settled in Bangkok at least for the near future.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
The initial stage of the company set-up process was tough. I was a stranger in a new country, all alone, and did not speak a word of the language. The shop-house I rented was infested with cockroaches and my area flooded to knee-level whenever there was a storm. I quickly realized that I was going through something extremely interesting (strange) to most of my friends/relatives, so started Stranger in Bangkok sort of like a report of my experiences to those who knew me and still wanted to stay in touch. It has gone a long way since, but the initial spirit remains.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
Songkran aside, the most interesting days in Thailand must be the Loy Krathong and Father’s Day (also the King’s Birthday). I have been fortunate to be able to do what locals usually do during these occasions and shared them on my blog.
Becoming a father in Bangkok was a life-changing experience for me, also marking the evolution of my blog to become more family oriented, sharing the pain and joy of raising a family in a foreign land. All my family-related posts mean a lot to me, and I especially like the one that started it all off.
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?
Having been a Malaysian living in Singapore all my life, I have never really lived in my hometown before, so it was pretty easy for me to adapt, especially when locals are generally receptive to foreigners, and Thailand is basically pretty close to home for me, so I wouldn’t consider myself to have any culture shock, especially when it comes to everyday life. Working and setting up a company is a different animal though, but that’s too complicated to explain here.
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 did not expect anything and was willing to adapt, so though I did not make any specific preparations, I felt that I was mentally prepared for any changes that occurred. One thing I don’t think I can ever get over is the lack of professionalism of the general employee in Thailand, but I guess it is part of the many challenges that await a business owner here. If I could go back in time, I would probably have spent more time learning the language during the initial part of my stay here as it would have facilitated many things and saved a lot of inconveniences.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
I do quite enjoy my life here, so to pick one incident out would be tough. One incident that remains in my mind is when I first tried to tell a customer of my office address, I pronounced it as Soi 3 Yet Ped instead of Yaek Paet. I was then told that what I said meant “F***ing Duck” when it should actually be “Section 8”. It reminded me that Thai is not as simple as it seems and I will need to be more careful in the future!
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Bangkok?
- Always expect the unexpected, and don’t get upset over the inefficiencies. Get over them and there will be ways to work them to your advantage.
- Be flexible. Being too rigid and single-minded might not get you far in Thailand.
- Enjoy life to the fullest, try to learn the language and do what locals do/go where locals go. By immersing yourself in the ‘expat mode and culture’ will not enable you to enjoy this country to the fullest.
How is the expat community in Bangkok? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
I cannot truly consider myself an expat as I am basically here as an entrepreneur, to start something from scratch.
I don’t socialize that much, especially after my wife moved here and Noah came, but it is not difficult to find foreigners as most condominiums have many foreign tenants and it is pretty easy to get connected to the various chambers and organizations like InterNations. You just have to make the first step.
How would you summarize your expat life in Bangkok in a single, catchy sentence?
Things are always stranger in Bangkok!