Sally Flint

Expat Life in Bangkok

It's good to be back living an expat life for a while in Bangkok!

What a week it has been! Another long haul flight, another set of tough goodbyes and another lovely re-union with my Saint Mick of Thana. For the next ten days I will be back to living life as an expat!
 
Dad and mum constantly make me proud to be their daughter. They manage what seems to be one thing after another, digging deep and always encouraging me to focus on my life and not to worry about them. “Your place is in Bangkok with your husband” is a phrase I’ve heard more than a few times in recent months! As such, I’m having a quick visit (longer than the two days I managed in January before dad’s accident!) to my Bangkok home.
 
I’ve mentioned before how living with one foot in the ‘expat world’ and one foot in (Miranda alert), what I call the ‘real world’ has alerted my senses to reflecting on the pros and cons of both lifestyles. Luckily for me I feel immense gratitude, that in both worlds, are family I love being with. That’s not to say that I don’t wish the flying time between Bangkok and Broughton was a little bit shorter!

Benefits of Expat Life

  • Expats ‘farangs’ are welcomed and always treated with respect and politeness. This is despite them often not speaking Thai and perhaps being inadvertently disrespectful to local culture and customs. This is very different to how immigrants seem to be treated back in my UK home.
  • Expats are able to live a more luxurious lifestyle to what they might afford in their home country. This may include having full time housekeeping and cooking staff, (in our case Khun Nong spoils us rotten) nannies, drivers and all the other extras, that if like me, you are vaguely embarrassed about admitting to when back home.
  • There are A LOT of terrific restaurants, which suit all budgets. The cuisine in Bangkok is EXCELLENT.
  • It is fun swimming outdoors in the sun.
  • Good weather can be pretty much guaranteed.
  • It is easy to be anonymous when out and about.
  • Transport is cheap, efficient and plentiful. Taxis can be hailed night or day for about a sixth of the price that they would be in the UK.
  • Colleagues are quite likely, in some respects at least, to have a similar mindset to your own. Even if you are not particularly fond of someone you can understand them and their motivations.
  • Learning about a whole new culture is a constant process and even after many years continues to be fun, frustrating and fulfilling.
  • Expat friends often move to new exciting countries you haven’t yet visited yourself. Great for future holidays!
  • Living alone in a foreign country can be very isolating, but expats are good at organising ‘get-togethers’ and there are lots of things to join.
  • Nowadays, most things can be imported so little treats from home are available, even if the cost is a little higher.
  • There are lots of options for watching UK TV channels overseas so favourite shows can still be enjoyed. (I know that is shallow, but I do look forward to GoggleBox!)
  • Travel opportunities to interesting ‘typically tourist places’ or to more ‘off the beaten track’ destinations are plentiful and reasonably priced.
  • International Schools afford a great education for kids.
  • Absence from loved ones  is tough, but there is an argument (I’m not sure it is a view I share) that it can make the heart grow fonder.
  • The cost of living is still probably much lower overall in Bangkok than in the UK.

Disadvantages of being an Expat

  • It is easy to become spoiled and ‘entitled’ as an expat and lose sense of ‘reality’.
  • Home is likely to be a long haul flight away which can be rubbish.
  • Frequent flying is bad for the planet.
  • As it is so easy to emulate a UK lifestyle in Bangkok, the sense of adventure is not what it used to be.
  • Time zone differences can make keeping in touch by phone problematic.
  • Being constantly spoiled by the luxury of a housekeeper and cook can turn you into a lazy, good for nothing, sloth. #Just saying
  • Living the life-of-riley can lead to a sense of dissatisfaction kicking in when circumstances change.
  • There is not a good fish and chip shop in every suburb of Bangkok.
  • Having an overseas career is not as easy an option as many people at home tend to think. Standards are high and work pressures are immense (though as a trailing spouse that isn’t something I need to worry about right now!)
  • Long term plans can be difficult to make so there is a need to maintain an open-minded, fairly chilled and flexible approach to life.
  • The joys of the UK weather seasons can actually seem appealing when the weather is constantly good.
  • Traffic  jams continue to make driving a nuisance.
  • Pollution levels can be very high for some of the year which is a serious problem.
  • Long haul flights are, as a rule, quite expensive.
An exciting city to live in as an expat!

Summing Up Advantages and Disadvantages of Expat Life

 
Overall, I think the advantages of expat living outweigh the disadvantages. This particularly applies in professions such as teaching where, during the holidays, there is time to explore exciting travel opportunities and seek adventure, or alternatively spend time with family back in home number one.
 
I continue to be torn between ‘expat life’ and  ‘real life’. I do miss my Saint Mick a lot and not having my strong female friends close by is pretty hard when I’m back in the UK, but on the other hand, being away from my parents is hard when I’m back here! I love the lifestyle expat living affords and coming back to Bangkok feels like coming home. However, I also love being back in my other home – the same village I grew up in where I have a shared history with family, friends and neighbours, that an expat can never really have. (I’ve even heard myself being gossiped about in the post office!) Weirdly, although I enjoy all the perks and benefits of expat life, which I’ve highlighted above when I’m here, I don’t really miss these perks when I’m not. A large portion of fish and chips from the local fish and chip shop makes up for a lot!
Delicious!
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