Suzie: 1 Life 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.
Hi, my name is Suzie (it’s my blogger “alias” when I started blogging in China). We are a German/Italian family with one son. It’s our second time in Bangkok! The first time, 1998-2003, we liked our expat life here so much that we always dreamt of coming back. Our return to Thailand happened in July 2010.
We are now in our 8th year in Bangkok and our 11th in Asia!
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I started blogging in Beijing in 2006, when I came across so many interesting and often amusing things in daily life that I needed to pen it for myself, for fun, like a reporter. My blog became my first writing references, and helped me to get a freelance writing job in China.
Years later, when we were about to move back to Bangkok, I started a new blog. I wrote in German language first, my mother tongue, to try how that feels, but later changed back to English for a broader readership.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
Lately, I started to document on my blog the photo shoots that I did with a photo club I have joined. I like to describe the locations we went and post my best shots
If you are interested in funny stories, read my posts that I label as “odd”
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?
In our case, we came here for the second time. So, one would think that I was prepared. But after an absence of seven years, I saw that our “Amazing Thailand” is not as great as I used to think of it. Therefore, maybe I was not prepared. I expected everything to be as good as before, but it was not. Things and people change, and my life had changed too.
Our first stay here was our first assignment abroad. So it was very exciting and exotic. During our first stay I was working. My partner and I, we both had expat contracts of three years (that we extended for another two), we were not married, no kids.
Now, it’s our third time in Asia (it’s somehow less charming than the first). I am not in the daily routine of an office job (which I appreciate a lot), we have a kid with its own opinion (not liking Thailand initially) and our contract is unlimited (which makes me think …).
Also Thailand has changed. There are fewer smiles. Crime rate seems to increase slowly. It even seems to me that temperature and frequency of tropical rains have increased.
However, the biggest challenge was that our son did not like our move. He was seven at the time and it was his 3rd intercontinental move. The other moves before went all perfectly smooth. – I think having great friends and nice neighbors in the country you are leaving, always makes the move not easy.
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 would focus more on the happiness of my child during the transition. I would try to make the move as much fun and interesting as possible. We came here 2 weeks before school started, in late July. Wrong decisions, as there were no kids in town to socialize with. In the second week I found a Summer Sports Camp. That was great! However, the change from a German school (1. Klasse) to an international school (year 3) was also a big challenge!
A friend of mine promised her kids a pet when moving to Thailand. If possible, this is a nice idea to make the new life special. Lots of street dogs and cats are looking for a new home (checked by vets). Many condos, however, do not allow pets.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
One experience I have not yet written about was when I had to renew my old Thai driving license. It was not funny at all. It drove me that crazy that I am not even able to write about it in clear sentences. There was this room with a breaking pedal on the floor and a flash light in front … to test your reaction speed … And there was another machine, you had to put your chin on while orange, red and green lights flashing almost behind your head (you would need a wide angle lens to detect what is going on), and you will be asked to tell the colors pronto – and when you blink and don’t look straight, this Thai woman yells at you and threatens you to send you home to come and queue again another day… (No joking!)
After a hard, long and challenging morning in that office, when you finally leave this building with your new driving license that also serves as an ID in hand, on your way home through the streets of Bangkok, you will not be able to calm down seeing all these dilettante drivers that cause traffic jam everywhere every day, wondering where they learned driving (never saw any driving school where you can practice) … no, so not funny.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Bangkok?
- Find a home near a sky train station. Traffic in Bangkok is bad, most of the time. It will facilitate your daily life, shopping and socializing.
- If you want to learn Thai, try it. And don’t feel bad if you struggle. Most people give up early. But for taxi rides it is very useful and you get better prices in the markets if you know some basics.
- Grab all opportunities! Learn new hobbies. Explore the city. Do weekend trips outside town. Find a business idea to work with friends back home (I still have not found it!)
How is the expat community in Bangkok? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
It is really easy to connect with people in Bangkok. I even think it is easier for Europeans to find friends here than in our home country. Here, you recognize expats – and most of them are open minded and look forward to meet new people. No friendship circle is too full, since friends are moving also. There are many groups to join, interest clubs, sport or charity organizations; every country has its women group. And if you have kids, you meet parents at school.
During my first expat experience in Thailand, I was so looking forward to the international life; I was not interested in meeting fellow countrymen at all. – Now, I am much more interested in finding friends who speak my language. Maybe it’s the age?
As a serial expat, I have learned the following: if you don’t want to be home alone too often, don’t be selective (in the beginning) or shy. Jump into social life, introduce yourself, and start networking today!
How would you summarize your expat life in Bangkok in a single, catchy sentence?
1 Life in Bangkok … and the world’s your oyster (I like the song “One night in Bangkok” that led to my blog title).