When you travel through a country, whether by backpack or suitcase, you often have travel goggles on. They’re similar to the familiar “beer goggles”, wherein when worn, they can make a country seem like a heaven on earth, where nothing can possibly be a frustration and annoyance.
However, when you move abroad and live in a place that seems like paradise, your travelling goggles eventually come off (I’d say anywhere from a few weeks to a few months). You can then see a place for what it truly is – different. Irritations become real, comforts from home are missed, and “normal” ways of doing things quickly show your cultural differences.
- Traveller’s point of view (TPOV): YES HUMIDITY! It’s so hot, I LOVE the sunshine and 35C degree heat every day. I could totally live here!
- Expat’s point of view (EPOV): There is no place in my house that is adequately cool enough that makes me want to keep my clothes on. I’m going to be sticky for as long as I’m in Thailand.
- TPOV: Renting a big house is so cheap in developing countries. Since it’s so hot outside, I’ll have the A/C running throughout the house to keep it cool.
- EPOV: Our electric bill for the first month was over one third of our rent. Looks like we’ll be using fans from now on…
- TPOV: Dirty roads and sandy beaches are fantastic. (I don’t even notice all the garbage and dirt lining the streets and the dust in the house.)
- EPOV: Western cleanliness vs Eastern cleanliness are completely different (thank the humidity). Our house cannot stay clean for more than a few hours, partly due to the sweat that is constantly dripping off our bodies, and partly because a layer of dust somehow accumulates onto every square inch of our house within minutes.
- TPOV: Owning a motorbike (and no car) will be awesome!
- EPOV: And it is… except when you have to haul your groceries in a single backpack. These days, buying a flat of beer takes two people. Also, riding in the rain isn’t very fun.
- TPOV: The language barrier isn’t a big deal, I could get used to smiling and pointing at my food.
- EPOV: You can get by not knowing the language for a few things (like ordering food, or getting massages), but there are bigger issues where the local language comes in useful: calling your ISP (weekly, it seems) when your internet goes down, ordering water delivery to your house, talking to the mechanic when your motorbike needs to be serviced, calling your landlord to complain about termites, getting to know your neighbours, etc. The list goes on.
- TPOV: Buying drinking water is so cool!
- EPOV: Drinking water out of the tap is a luxury we will never take for granted again.
- TPOV: The local food is amazing!
- EPOV: A lot of Thai food also happens to be greasy, full of MSG and sugar, and lacking in vegetables. It’s very different from North American “Thai” food. We attempted cooking familiar meals at home for the first couple months, and quickly realized it’s FAR more expensive than eating out. (It’s also really, really, really sweaty because our kitchen has no A/C.) We’re still working on our diet here but, to my surprise, I’m actually losing weight. Probably from sweating so much.
- TPOV: How precious, the Thai’s don’t like to be embarrassed.
- EPOV: “Saving face” is equivalent to a North American’s social media reputation – you protect it with all your might. The Thai will go out of their way to slyly manipulate, lie or say nothing at all, just to protect themselves from embarrassment (especially their family’s). They must have the upper hand, or they risk losing. It’s especially felt when you’re a foreigner. It can be a tough game to play. Graham and I haven’t encountered this yet, personally, but we have friends who feel these effects often. Here are a few posts to read on that.
We’ve only lived in Thailand for four months, but we’ve certainly felt many frustrations. I know this is a normal part of the cross-cultural adjustment:
At this point, I’d say we’re currently approaching the “surface adjustment” stage. We’ll probably remain there until we become more fluent in Thai, which is when we’ll begin the deeper issue confrontation stage.
After *very* briefly living in Ecuador and Uganda, I fully expected frustrations to arise. It’s been very interesting seeing Graham’s reactions, as this is his first time experiencing them. I’m really excited for our emotional stance in one year, after we’ve had time to really settle in and feel more comfortable.