Ruth: The Facetious Farang
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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.
I’m a 27-year-old Canadian from Calgary, Alberta. My husband and I moved to Bangkok in July 2012. We promised each other that once I *finally* finished grad school and he got a few years of experience in the Canadian education system, we’d move internationally. When the opportunity to live in Bangkok came up, we grabbed it. I’ll be substitute teaching at his school, and doing some freelance writing on the side. It’s all about putting that advanced education to work!
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I’ve secretly wanted to blog for quite some time - I just needed the excuse to start. When we moved to Thailand in July, it was as if the stars aligned. When I was younger and the Internet was still a mystery to me (who am I kidding? It still is), I would send out mass emails of my travel experiences to friends and family. I would carefully craft each email, then read it multiple times and laugh at my own jokes - bad, I know. Blogging is a way to do this more often without flooding everyone’s in-boxes, and has the additional bonus of allowing me to meet new people. I also enjoy the on-line medium – I tend to be a better writer than I am a talker.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours? Please add the URL as well.
My favourite blog entries thus far include “Happy Mother’s Day!” a light-hearted entry about our trip to Ayutthaya, and “The Dark Side of Authentic Travel,” a more serious post about current travelling trends.
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’s probably too early for me to really comment on the overall culture shock that I’ve experienced, but I definitely felt a wave of it soon after we moved. We had been taking part in group orientation activities for almost two weeks, and I was hitting the upper limit of my mall excursion tolerance. As I stood in the food court, totally overwhelmed by options, I wanted to scream “I’m sick of malls! And my apartment smells like sewage! And I don’t have a job!” It took me a few days to gain some perspective. I’m sure that I’ll be feeling (and blogging about) more culture shock in the future.
There are many differences between life in Thailand and life back home in the Great Frozen North. One of the most obvious is that there is food EVERYWHERE in Bangkok. I never have to have a hangry (hungry + angry) moment again, much to my husband’s relief. It is also really easy and cheap to travel here – weekend beach getaways are simple. On a less positive note, Canada smelled way better than Bangkok – the only time my life in Calgary literally stunk was when the east winds were blowing and we caught the ripe scent of the feed lots located an hour away. In Bangkok, life rarely smells good, although I’ve (mostly) gotten over it.
On a more serious note, it is challenging to be so far from my family and friends. Skype and email make it bearable, but at the ripe old age of 27, I’m realizing that my parents are getting older, and that I am missing important events in my friends’ and siblings’ lives. I don’t regret moving here, but there are trade-offs.
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’ve previously travelled in Thailand, so I had an idea of what to expect culturally. However, while I’ve spent extended time abroad, I’ve never actually moved internationally. It’s a very different experience from travelling. In this sense, no, I didn’t really know what I was getting into. My husband and I gathered all the information we could, and then basically stepped off the cliff.
There are not that many things that I would have done differently – I made sure to spend quality time with people that I cared about, did as many trips in the Rockies as I could squish in, packed on several pounds from my MIL’s cooking, and wheedled my way into defending my thesis before I left. My only real regret is that I bought clothes and other items before we left – pretty much everything is cheaper and chic-er here.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
(This was taken from a blog entry about our first experience buying street food in Bangkok)
“It had been a looong day of setting up our apartment – the sort of thing that takes a lot of time no matter where you are, but somehow takes even longer in a new country. T and I were pretty pleased with ourselves – for the first time, we had ventured to the night market on our street, and bought different parts of our supper from 3 or 4 vendors. The chicken satay, in particular, was looking succulent, the way that only meat that is covered in fat, cooked over charcoal, and displayed in dim lighting can look. We dug in.
And soon discovered that the fat did more than glisten – it enveloped everything. In fact, every single piece of meat was pure fat, unless you count the bone and cartilage running through the centre of each piece. We had purchased five skewers, and in the true spirit of idiocy, tore through every piece, hoping for a different result, but finding only fat. Then we noticed some odd, feather-like bits on the end of each piece: we had purchased five skewers of chicken tails. We declared ourselves vegan-curious and left it at that.”
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Bangkok?
- Laugh at yourself. Lots of people will be laughing at you anyways (or at least flashing you the famous Thai smile), so you might as well join in the fun.
- Learn the language! I was surprised at the lack of English here - maybe it’s just the area (out in the sticks) that I’m living in. It’s helpful to know a bit of Thai, especially when interacting with taxi drivers, restaurant staff, security guards, etc. People really seem to appreciate it when you make the effort to speak Thai, even if your pronunciation is “limited.”
- Eat widely. You may never live in another place with these kinds of culinary options. Don’t plan any crazy weight-loss schemes for your time here.
How is the expat community in Bangkok? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
We’ve been really fortunate - my husband teaches at an international school, so in a sense we have a ready-made community of expat friends. When we need a break from all that educating though, we’ve found that there are lots of clubs and churches within the city. There are tons of expats in this city, and as far as I can tell, some to suit every taste.
How would you summarize your expat life in Bangkok in a single, catchy sentence?
“Gastronomy, Garbage, and Gallivants – livin’ the dream in the Big B.”