It’s 11pm on the night before we leave for our home hunt and orientation trip to Bangkok and I wanted to document, for any other expat wives going through the same thing, that I’m suffering an apprehension which I did not feel when we went to Japan. I imagine it’s something like getting cold feet before a wedding – I’ve even spent some of this week working out how it might be possible for me not to go, and a bit of it just crying, frankly. I didn’t memorize the steps of culture shock perfectly in our cultural training, but I’m pretty sure the “down” was a few months in to the posting, not a month before!
One thing I have realized is that I can’t compare it with our experience in Japan, and that I still haven’t really stopped wishing we hadn’t had to leave Nagoya. Few countries would be able to compete with Japan – living there was something I’d dreamed of since childhood – dampening my excitement before we left was going to be pretty much impossible. The thing is, though, that for every piece of advice I received on how not to offend the Japanese, or how to fit in to the culture, there was a recommendation of some festival or market or something wonderful to do that went along with it. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been the same for Bangkok. Not that everyone we’ve spoken to hasn’t told us we’ll love it and that it’s great, but any specific advice has, essentially, been a warning about how not to get ripped off, or offend someone, or get rabies… Any recommendations we’ve received have been very sweet offers to hook us up with a local who will show us around to ensure that we avoid the aforementioned potential hazards. Don’t get me wrong, I’m genuinely grateful for this generous advice, but there is a common denominator to all of it which I only really began to see this week. It had been quietly niggling at the back of my brain until it triggered my anxiety hormones and I realized that I’d built an impression that Thailand is a place where Westerners, particularly Australians, are neither welcome, nor safe.
The thing is, if that were in fact the case, I could understand why. Plenty of Australian men have travelled to Thailand as sex tourists and haven’t exactly set an example of Australians as respectful or honourable. Nevertheless, I’m sure that the apprehension that has replaced the blank-slate-enthusiasm I had when I wrote this post, is far too negative an impression. I’m determined to find that there are expat wives who have found a life for themselves beyond sitting by the pool or waiting for the next holiday to explore beyond the city.
In an attempt to assuage my fears, I’ve spent a lot of the last week hunting for blogs by expat wives who live in Bangkok and had little joy. There are plenty of blogs by men living in Thailand (most of which I click away from fast), and a few by women who have gone over on their own and started businesses (and who usually say things like “the climate is paradise” which, for me, renders them insane!) but very few blogs from the non-working, Western partners of men assigned there (it’s not that I’m not interested in the views of Asian partners, it’s just a very different experience being someone who can’t help but appear to be, and therefore usually treated as, a tourist.) The lack of expat wife blogs was, of course, the case when we were moving to Japan, so I will once again try to do my part to fill a bit of that gap, as I attempted to do there and which taught me a lot about the kind of information people are after – there are a few how-to Japan posts which still get traffic every month, to my surprise.
So, assuming we can get the wi-fi going, expect some posts while we’re in Bangkok on what home hunting with a relocation agent is like – no promises not to moan about the heat, though!