I am not going to beat around the bush, living in Thailand can be a right pain in the arse at times. There I said it. If you disagree then you have not lived here long enough.
It can made you angry and you find yourself beating your head against the wall. Thai people do not understand that there are consequences to their actions. If you have a business then you will know too well how difficult it can be managing your Thai employees. If you need some working doing on your house then its a lottery whether firstly anyone will turn up on time or even turn up at all, and then – to add to the misery – whether the work will be done acceptably. The biggest myth in the world is that Thailand has a service culture; I have just gotten back from a holiday in Australia and I was confused by the experience of good service in the restaurants. I had forgotten that I was a customer and that I get treated well, in Thailand it is hit or miss. My gripes could continue in this vein for many, many more paragraphs.
Living in Thailand has highs and lows like a roller coaster
I have lived in Thailand for over 10 years and I view the experience of living here like a roller coaster. The moment you get complacent by accepting you are living a great life, something bad will happen. Just the other day a young Thai boy with no crash helmet was riding on a motorcycle at night time with no lights on and he crashed into the side of my parked car that I was sitting in, waiting to pull away. He had no insurance and hurt himself, I actually felt sorry for him. Anyway we both had to go to the police station and the police apportioned equal blame to both parties and my insurance were instructed to pay for his hospital bills. I was told I had a bigger car – something I have heard before – and need therefore to take more responsibility. I was not even driving the car, I just sat it in! I cannot help but wonder that if you reversed the scenario and I drove my motorbike into the side of a car with a Thai sitting in that the same rules would have applied?
Now at this point I am sure many of you are saying one of two things. (1) I am an old grump and just like moaning. I don’t know how I lucky I have it living in Thailand or (2) Why do I still live in Thailand then? Well, both are valid points. I often have considered leaving the country, conceding defeat and wanting a return to a normal life.
I have had a few trips in the last year to the UK, Dubai and Australia. Each one I enjoyed very much. Great service, quality food, clean air and a sense of order and harmony. Seemingly everything I disliked in Thailand was not the case in any of these countries.
So I pondered the question, was it just me that felt the urge to leave Thailand? I put it to the test and run a poll on my Dan about Thailand Facebook page. 78% of the 600 or so votes said in any circumstance they would chose Thailand as the place they would most like to live. Now sure my page is biased by virtue of being a Thailand based page, but the point was I saw no discontent in such huge figures in support of living in Thailand. Maybe I was missing something – Why was I the odd one out?
And then it hit me…
Last week I visited my local sauna and steam after work in Pattaya, something I enjoy to relax after a long day in the office. A simple luxury perhaps not so easy elsewhere (and at 200 baht per session you are never going to match that in a UK or Dubai!). On my way back I stopped at a local night market to buy a cooked fish for dinner. And at the moment – just like that – it hit me. Thailand is a very unique and special experience that you need to embrace and understand correctly to enjoy it properly. As with so many things, it is all about interpretation and perception.
At the market were rows of tightly packed plastic tables and chairs. Crammed in to this were both Thais and foreigners enjoying simple Thai food, beer and soft drinks. There was a wonderful, calm, warm ambience. It made me feel happy. I could not really pin point why, it just did.
It was a happiness that did not require a fast car, expensive jewellery or piece of clothing. Here I could feel happy without the need to chase the dollar. Everyone looked content, whatever their income. In fact seeing people in vests, shorts and flip flops was both charming and endearing.
The next day I went into my office still holding this warm, positive feeling towards Thailand. When my Thai staff came to the office, with me in this positive state of mind, my conversations with them were much warmer. We laughed, shared good stories and the staff seemed to work far harder than I can remember.
Can it be that my frustrations were borne from expectations of a Western world and that in fact did not need to be that way? Was it better instead that I changed my perceptions and own belief systems so that they aligned better to Thailand? The fault therefore lay with me, being the alien in Thailand, and not Thailand itself.
Armed with this new perception I then considered the idea of moving back to the UK, and it was instantly less appealing. Now I saw too much self governance and regulation. I visualised living in a small house versus my luxury condominium I live in now. I could see that I would not be able to eat out every night, like I do in Thailand. My complete perceptions had changed, primarily just by that simple experience in a night market in Pattaya.
Oh Thailand, how could I ever have considered leaving you!