Sharon: The Serial Expat Diaries
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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 am a 40 year old mother from Australia (WA, SA & Melbourne) I have been married for 10 years and we have spent most of that time moving around to different states/countries. We moved abroad for the first time in 2008 when we moved to Spain for 17 months. We loved it so much that after less than two years after moving back home to Australia we were yet again packing our cases ready to move to Thailand. We have been here for 6 months now and are currently on a 2 year contract with the possibility of an extension likely. As long as our children (10 and 2 years) are happy and adjusting well we would like to continue on the expat trail and keep moving
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I started blogging on the day we found out we were moving. It was May 2008. I knew I had to blog about our experiences because I had never been overseas before and wanted to remember everything but I also turned to blogging so I could avoid the need to send out duplicate emails to family and friends who were also interested in our journey.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
I have lots of favorite blog entries as we spent our time in Spain cramming in as much travel as we could. Everything was an adventure and I am glad I tagged each new city so I can easily find it to read back. Due to work commitments we have not had the same opportunities to travel throughout Asia yet.
I think my first post is my favorite though, it’s very short but I still remember how excited I was when I wrote it. It was the start of our new life.
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?
Culture Shock was something I experienced during our first move to Europe but not so much the second time. I was however shocked by the poverty in Asia. Life in Bangkok is very different to the life we had in Melbourne before leaving last December. The cost of living is so much cheaper – with our Australian dollar currently giving us 31.7 Thai Baht. Many of the items we purchase (other than Electricity Usage) are cheaper than home. Wages are much cheaper here and because our house is twice the size of a home we would ordinarily have in Australia (there are 6 bathrooms!) we have employed a full time housekeeper- something we would never be able to do at home.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Bangkok? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
Because we do not live in the heart of the city sometimes it’s hard to remember that we live in Asia. Our area is very westernized. One thing I do occasionally regret is that we did not have a lot of time to look into living in more authentic Thai areas. I love our community, it's wonderful to run and walk around the local lake and quiet streets but it is a more isolated area to live in compared to the hustle and bustle of city life.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
We have been stranded a few times by Taxi Drivers as they do not understand the address we are giving them. One driver was very nice, he stopped his cab on the side of a very busy road and smiled and waved us out. We tried to tell him that we did not know where we were but he kept smiling and saying “bye-bye”. We had no choice but to get out and watch him drive away.
When calling a taxi from our home two always arrive. A motorcycle and a car. If you don’t pay one to leave they will both go leaving you with no Taxi transport at all. I am not sure that it is hilarious (it wasn’t to me) but some of my family have a giggle remembering the time that I realized that the lovely cubes of "silken tofu" in my favorite pad Thai is actually jellied chickens blood.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Bangkok?
- To avoid disappointment; expect delays, in everything, from furniture delivery, appointments and traffic.
- Taxi travel is very cheap but there are no seatbelts
- Be prepared for a large upfront cost before renting a home. In Australia we pay 4 weeks rent as a bond and either 2 or 4 weeks in advance to secure our house. It cost us almost $16,000 AUD to secure our home in Bangkok due to the fees, rent in advance and bond.
How is the expat community in Bangkok? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
We live in Nichada Thani, which is a semi expat (there are many Thai families living here too) community in Bangkok. There are 1000 homes here and more being built so it’s very easy to find like-minded fellow expats. There is a local supermarket that also stocks items from our home countries so there is a lot of Australian, European and English products available.
How would you summarize your expat life in Bangkok in a single, catchy sentence?
Living a much more relaxed lifestyle in the “Land of Smiles”