When I moved to Thailand nine years ago, from Sydney, it wasn’t the food, the weather or the language that threw me off balance.
I had travelled through Thailand several times before, stopping off on flights between Sydney and the UK, to see my younger brother who had lived in Thailand since 1990.
The 30 degree heat wasn’t too different to a Sydney summer; I used to eat rice most of the time instead of potatoes when living in Sydney, so the food was an easy adjustment; and the language I had a very basic understanding of and was committed to learning, so I knew I would meet that head on.
Though these are the main things that new arrivals may have problems adjusting to, this was all quite natural for me. Perhaps I was half south-east Asian in a previous life?
Instead it was the things that take a while to notice that struck me as strange – some of the character traits of Thais that were foreign to me and which can delight or exasperate us expats!
I have lived in Thailand for just over nine years and I made it an early goal to at least have a working knowledge of the Thai language.
A large part of my time here has been working with the English language in some form or other; for several years as an English teacher in a local secondary school and as a private tutor; and in the past couple of years as a professional writer.
But I, like many English people, do not have a natural gift for learning new languages. I have in the past studied French (at school) and Spanish (at University) and I took quite well to the latter, but if there was such a thing as an Olympic Language Race I would come in somewhere near the back, just behind an average 7-year-old European student.