Thursday, April 3, 2014

One year living in Thailand: Land of food

Time is running fast. It's already a year since we moved from Laos to Thailand. This time, it wasn't much of a change, since Lao and Thai culture are quite similar and we travelled to Thailand quite often. Even the language is not so different. So, no real culture shock this time. But maybe a bit.

Coming from undeveloped Laos, where we had no cinema, no supermarket, no reliable hospital, Thailand was kind of a paradise. That's why we often travelled from Vientiane to Udon Thani or Khon Kaen. So we had high expectations living in paradise. But of course, it's not. Bangkok is a big city, we learned fast, and it takes a lot of time to get around - in particular when you live down south like us. The expat community is also different: Less NGO people, but more expats doing "something" here and living here since centuries. And a huge business community of course.

One rule for us since we left Germany is to stay a a bit away from the expat community, at least most of the time. We left Germany for a reason, so not need to have sauerkraut or pork leg or listen to complains. And here comes the major difference to Laos: It is more difficult for me to get closer to Thai people than to Lao people. I still have very close friends in Laos, but most of the people I know in Thailand I knew already when we moved here. We live in a Moo Ban, a compound with 90 percent Thais, so there is no lack of local people. But only our neighbours opposite are open and talk with us (maybe because they are Christians, not Buddhists, and look for likewise people). It is not a language barrier, since many here speak English and my Thai is good enough for a chat.

I heard it a lot, that Thais actually don't like foreigners. I don't think that's true in general. There are some they like foreigners, and some they don't like them. As it is the fact in every country. Same goes with the Land of Smiles: It is a myth. some smile, some not. Some are friendly, some are not. Only stereotype that fits in my experience is the shyness, mainly when it comes to practise English.

Beside this, life here isn't bad. We have a swimming pool that we rarely use, but I am in the gym every day. We have awesome medical services, even the private local hospital near us is reasonable enough for smaller injuries like my dog bite.

Food is a big plus, it's cheap and delicious. Land of great food might fit better actually. Compared to Laos, it is more delicious and there is more variety, but the Thai beer sucks. Really sucks.

Driving here isn't as bad as expected, both with car and motorbike. It is dangerous, of course, but once you are aware of it, it's not much more different from Vietnam. Just never drink and drive, don't text and drive and always think and care about the other drivers.

So we are looking forward to our second year in Thailand.