Total Immersion. A few thoughts after living here for 10 years
I thought I would write some thoughts about what I have learnt in the last ten years (continuously) living in Pattaya, Thailand. Sorry about my grammar or spellings but I enjoy writing and I don’t enjoy correcting stuff.
I moved here when I was 25, so it was probably easier for me to adapt and survive than a guy much older, but it really depends on the person also. Plenty of older guys that don’t resist change and thrive here. What I am saying in my opinion, is the faster you change and adapt to live like a Thai, the more chance you will settle in, stay and thrive here. If you look at the unhappy guys, they are living in a bubble, hanging out with fellow country men, eating farang food, moaning about Thais and life in general. Whereas the happier guys seem to be the ones you see eating Thai food on the floor with other Thais, they have adapted and are going with the flow.
One of my goals moving here was to make money and be happy, something I couldn’t do in the UK, I was unhappy there. Mostly due to not being able to find attractive skinny women that wanted me. I didn’t want to settle for anything. After hearing and reading many stories, I decided if I want to live here long term, I need to have a girlfriend, I’ve had them since I was 14 and I am lost without one, I just need that one person behind me and to keep us away from bad vices.
Everyday I woke up from a bad dream, that I had to go back to the UK, it got me up and working, it drove me to work, I also had no money and no other choice, if I came here with a nest egg, I probably would have blown it eventually like most other guys seem to,
In my quest for happiness and peace I figured a few things out quickly, I will use driving as an example, I am a very polite English driver, who queues and give way fairly and I often let people cross the road or pull out. But I was getting very angry at getting cut up and people driving arrogantly. If you change your behavior and drive very aggressively, you will get angry much less. In fact it depends where I am or how heavy the traffic is but often I end up driving aggressively, but I still try and have manners when not many cars around. Most guys bitch about driving here and avoid it, but if you learn, experience and adapt its another thing ticked off.
Another issue is face, farangs take a while to understand it and it still catches me out, often I am left surprised at face issue… we recently had a bar owner next door that lost face cuz one of our girls insulted her, so in return she embarrassed herself and did things to make us all angry, so I guess sometimes they think revenge gets them face, but in fact it looses it, some of the better Thais would keep quiet and talk privately to the boss. Lots of westerners complain when farang start getting concerned about loss of face, but when you live here you need to adapt, “face” makes society behave, it underpins everything, it often makes westerners very angry when they don’t understand it, many buildings are empty in Pattaya because the landlord doesn’t want to lose face and reduce their rent. I think the farang that start thinking about there own “face” are guys that will thrive here, because they are going with the flow instead of against it.
Language is one of the biggest causes of arguments, conflicts in relationships, business and daily life. Not only that you become less efficient as a human and not reaching your potential here, you miss out of the ways Thai think, to really know what they are like, you need to learn their language, it does really teach you about their culture. Once your language skills take off, you have more understanding, therefore less things to get mad about. For instance Thais often say “wait 5 minutes” they translate this to our language and we take it as accurate approximation, otherwise they would have said 10 or 20 minutes right? Well they say 5 minutes to anything, so it could be 30 minutes lol But now I understand that I can deal with it by doing some work on my phone or going away and coming back. There are too many benefits to list from learning the language of the country you stay in and you often underestimate it until you start learning but if you want a better chance of happiness and satisfaction here, it’s better to talk to the locals and you will find a lot better prices around and maybe people that can help you. Plenty of Thais are more capable of helping us than most farang here, so its good to befriend them. I am currently learning Thai 28 hours per week again, reading and writing in part of my quest for total immersion. There is a whole new world opening up for me right now and you sure get Thais being a lot friendlier with you and nicer.
Lateness, it was explained to me why Thais are always late. When there is a 9 am meeting at city call, no one turns up til 9.45 or 10 am, this system works very well if everyone is late, but when us punctual farang turn up on time, we are creating the problem, if only we just came late also, then we wouldn’t be sitting there seething lol.
Thai food – This was the biggest thing for me to battle, I ate some Thai food in the last 10 years but not much, then I eat mostly farang food and I waste 1000 baht per day easily, when I should be eating like a local. (lots of money wasted) I don’t give my kid farang food as it will be an expensive burden for the rest of his life. Its only the last two months, where I have been seeking total immersion, I’ve been in the markets eating the ready cooked cold meals, (its tough getting used to eat meals that have been sitting around for hours at room temp, we are used to getting them served hot) But it makes sense not to eat hot food in a hot climate. I even started eating see food and spicy stuff. I am slowly getting used to it, but suddenly I have many more places to eat and everything is so more convenient and I am not a burden when I’m out and about and I need to eat. I was at the high courts a few weeks ago and I was happy to eat cold spicy chicken slops, whereas other times I would go without food. I have promised my wife I will try som tam and durian in my quest for total immersion.
Corruption, this is a world where most of us don’t understand, I have a deep knowledge of how things work compare to others and I still don’t know much. I see some people moaning about corruption, then are happy to pay a bribe when they do something bad. Its better to accept it than complain. Sometimes it works in our favour, sometimes it doesn’t. I have seen many cases where police are paid off and it angers me slightly, but I don’t say anything cuz one day I might get into a fight and I will need the same services,
I keep talking about total immersion throughout my text, but I feel that is the best way to learn Thai language and to be Happy here. Now I am eating Thai food, I have more opportunities to practice Thai language. Before anyone says it, I think there are guys here Happy and stay in there bubble and heavily relies on there wife’s, but its not a good long term solution, I will have another 30-40 years living here, so the faster I adapt and sink in, the better I will thrive financially and with happiness, it feels good not needing my wife to translate everything and help me. It makes me feel like a man again going out and doing difficult tasks alone. I also feel that Thais miss out of our personalities and the only real way to let it shine is by communication fluently.
Air-con – if you can sleep with no air-con at night your life will become a lot easier, I don’t care that people say we cant acclimatise, I strongly believe we can, we just need to avoid cold for long periods, no air con at night is a big help, it will also save money that is wasted across the years. Right now I have started the no air con thing at home, its not easy but I am doing it cuz I go to school soon and I need to wear trousers and shirt and I don’t want to sweat like a rapist on trial. A lot of smokers blame there respiratory problems on air con (couldn’t possibly be the smoking lol) but either way air-con is probably not a good thing for you, especially if no one cleans the filters. Next step I will try is no air-con in the car sometimes and I do saunas and keep fit. (helps a lot)
Budgeting – recently I gave myself a silly challenge of budgeting 750 baht per day which is impossible with someone in my position, that drives around all day and has meetings and many bills and stuff to pay for, but at least I get free food in my restaurant and free drinks in my bars. One of the good things about budgeting is that it rocks your world and suddenly you are finding new things, I didn’t walk anywhere before and I hadn’t used a baht bus for 4 years. It also forces us to do things like Thai people do (we went to children s discovery museum in Bangkok) its free and never would have gone, my kid had a great time. It also makes me eat Thai food and do other Thai things.
Buddhism, as Thais are Buddhist its great to understand the way it works and you get a better idea about Thai people and culture. I have often thought about being a monk for a month, just for the experience and to practice Thai, but at the same time I don’t want to be fake, I believe in their concepts but I don’t believe in a god, especially as more and more technical advances come around. I do want to learn and experience more, so I will leave that idea on a back burner.
Muay Thai – I do muay Thai 5 times per week and boxing. Muay thai is a great chance for me to learn about Thai things and practice my Thai daily. Its the ultimate immersion, after you have sparred with some Thai guys, they treat you like brothers and other Thais love us learning Muay Thai, they are very proud of it and so they should be.
School and Education. I am starting school at a temple soon, its basically bor 1 – bor 6 then mor 1 – mor 6. (That seems to be what you need to join university here) I have done bor 1 – bor 2 before, but its still going to be a very tough challenge, there is only one farang in the school and I am having to get a yellow tabian baan book to join. (I need an ID number) The course is free and its for drop outs or poor people that never got to finish their school or never went at all. Its all for free also, so I can drop out without feeling too guilty. I will have to do science, maths, business, geography/history over again. Andrew Biggs inspired me here, he did a degree in media (all in written and spoken Thai) but I wont be doing a degree, I have no goals except to become the best ever at reading and writing Thai. I don’t care for certificates, but If I get up to bor 6, I will be very happy! This will really teach me more about Thailand and the people and add to my experiences.
Doing things that seem shite or a waste of time, sometimes I agree to attend or help someone and many would think why the fuck are you doing that, well if you don’t go you will never know. If you stay in the house you get less opportunities. If you are in the right place and right time, you can get lucky. There are plenty of guys around like me that are constantly looking for staff or opportunities and the best way is to get to know people. (but I am going off topic now, this is simply wisdom I have learnt)
Thai nationality – I am starting the lengthy process of becoming a Thai national, there are a few threads on Thai visa if guys are interested, its a big subject to delve into it, so I wont talk about it here. But I already been to police head quarters and spoke to them, I’ve got a friend going through the process at the moment and hes helping me. Right now I need 3 years paying personal tax under my belt (with a work permit) I also need to be in a yellow book for a while, which I am doing in 3 weeks. But I am hoping it will only take 6 years maximum, but once I do that I can speak out and stand up for myself a lot more and police/immigration cannot threaten to send me away. This will give me a lot of power and I could even hold things for people to keep them safe or even go on licenses. (no I wouldn’t haha) It will also be nice to have one of our houses or plots of land in my name, I trust my wife 1000% but it would be nice to have something in my name lol read more here http://www.thaivisa….ip-application/
Thai TV – I only watch TV now, I try and do this to learn Thai and practise and then I also know current topics to talk to Thais about. I must admit they go way too fast for me to understand, but I am slowly picking out more words one by one. I can see slow progress, I also search for Thai movies on youtube with English subs to help me translate. I also get inspired by this farang blogger “My mate nate” https://www.youtube….TaC8xDf5v_7O1qQ I really wish a few creative guys got together and organised something like this, I would dedicate some time into it.
Ladies – Learning Thai, understanding Thais more means you are going to be better equipped to choose a good partner and you are less likely to have the wool pulled over your eyes. At home we judge people on jeremy kyle that talk like chavs and act like them, but for some guys its hard for them to spot with a language barrier. I personally steer clear of girls that are inpolite and use bad language, I don’t care about class, (my wife’s family are farmers) but I want politeness and a good partner. Most the guys bitching about Thai women, simply met a prostitute on holiday and had a whirl wind romance, except the guy doesn’t realise the bargirls have whirl wind romances with guys on every trip.
Patience – Most things here are done slowly and in old ways such as the courts still write to each other and it takes a long process. (but I stop myself complaining when I remind myself, stop being so serious or westernised and enjoy the moment instead of boiling over, after all we came here to escape the rat race and fast lane. I have very little patience, I have tried to battle this by meditating but I am too impatient, but I am slowly fixing it. I do not care if someone is late anymore (unless I have a meeting after) and if I am stuck in traffic, I can use learn Thai apps, read, catch up on emails or message people back.
One of my pet hates is when guys come to Pattaya, they don’t experience real Thai people or the real Thailand but then they think all Thais are the same and judge it by the greedy types that every city in the world attracts. A Lot of guys can’t seem to distinguish between a bar girl, a regular girl, a girl in between and middle/high class girls. They will often joke all Thai girls cheat, but if you meet a girl in a brothel and then she continue working because your just a customer, then you have to lie in the bed you created. My experience with regular girls is that they are difficult to get into, which I think is a good thing, but that’s like real society everywhere. I’m not trying to side with the girls, but they get lied to also, plenty of guys with a hardon offering to send them money to stop work, but then it stops when the guy gets home hits reality and wakes up from his dream.
Having said all that, we should keep some of our culture/ways. I am never going to pretend to be Thai, I never wore Thai clothes during my wedding etc, because I said I am a farang and I’m proud of where I am from. I was brought up in England and I still want to teach my wife and kids about that. Having 2 cultures is best because you can take the best from each culture, some people slam Thais but they are no worst or better than us, they are just different and people use poor examples of a silly incident. Every time there is a beating of 4 Thais on 1 farang, all the farang are up in arms about Thais fighting like a pack of dogs… well their is scumbags/thugs in every society, it does not reflect the mainstream public.
I would also like to point out, trying to change the ways Thai’s think and apply western standards doesn’t work here because they have there own way of doing things and its going to take generations for them to be westernized as much as us, but its already happening fast thanks to youtube and facebook creating a global community and giving people a voice! Saying that most of us came here to get away from the west so I dont think its a particularly bad thing, I like the way things work here often. I remember seeing young Thais commenting on youtube videos showing corruption and they said, dont worry, our generation will sort it out and look after you. I have seen those changes happening already!
Conflict resolution – one last thing I often like about the Thais, when farang argue or conflict they can get very confrontational, your never gonna approach a situation fairly if you feel you are the one thats right. I’ve even see farang business owners resolve conflicts by bringing in there high ranking police/army or some other person of importance. We have used this method before, because two elders can discuss the problem fairly and save face for each other at the same time, and most Thais will listen to their elders or more senior friends, I love that respect here. Its very very rare it actually boils down to violence or nastiness.
Hospitals and health cover – I will go against the grain here and I totally understand guys criticizing me for it, but I will write it anyway, I am not telling guys to do what I did, but just saying it works for me, because people are scared about huge medical bills and that’s how insurance makes so much money. When I arrived here when i was 25 with 30,000 baht, I didn’t have money for health cover, 8 years on I still didn’t get it sorted. Then i was hit with myocarditis and my future looked bleak, it took around 200-300 k over a years worth of hospital visits to the best hosp[ital in Thailand, Bumrungrad. Then the last year with cirrhosis caused by tb or my heart problems, has cost around 200k but that’s including all other problems associated with cirrhosis. Lets say for argument sake, if I had been to government hospitals it would have cost me 100-200k maximum, I did use government hospitals also sometimes, but its the diagnosis stuff that separates the best hospitals from the rest, so i paid more for that. (I have been to over 10 hospitals in Thailand and the fastest way to see their price when you walk through their doors, is the cuter and younger the staff are, the more expensive it is. And there is always excessive amounts of staff. If you see a fatty or uglies, you can relax about your bill,
In the ten years of no insurance, lets say 35,000 per year would be the average cost. That’s 350,000 baht, I have spent 500,000 and because i am so healthy now, i don’t think i will be going to hospitals much for a long time, i just need checks of my liver to make sure no cancer. So i am down 150k but if i went to Thai government hospitals, i would be up a few hundred thousand. Ok, we can end up in icu at any point and have a problem, but providing you tell friends and family to take you to government hospitals only, you will be ok. It really bothers me when you see families begging for money to pay for kids hospital bills and bring them home… those volunteer ambulances get a percent of your bill, so they take you to the top hospital they can, i know its not always practical, but you must tell them government hospital only.
Financially I am better off with no insurance, but its a risk, just like everything else in life. But having no insurance has brought me a lot of worry, so i regret not having it. All I am trying to say, if you can mentally cope with government hospitals and have the ability to shop around and be your own doctor, then you can do it with no insurance. But you can get accident insurance cheaply! I can’t really get insurance now, it would cost too much, I am better off putting money aside, millions of Thais use those hospitals, so can we. I am getting a work permit soon, I will use gov hospitals for free. I wlll see how much I can stomach it.