6 Months In
Well, a couple of months ago I wrote to Stick with my story of living in Thailand and Stick said I should write at the end of my 6 month contract.
Firstly a bit of background. I actually came out here to run a recruitment company. The old MD had to go back to the UK and I was drafted in, originally as an ad hoc replacement for 6 months, but with the proviso that if I liked it and it worked out, a further extension would be offered. So leaving behind a comfortable lifestyle in Australia (I moved there 5 years ago from the UK) off I went with one thought in my mind “I am not on holiday.”
Years ago, an old boss had said to me “Small wins, whenever you are new, don’t look for the world changing ideas, just find small wins, works wonders” it was this in mind when I stepped into the office for the first day. My first executive decision was to get the administrator to buy a picture of the King and Queen. Funnily enough we didn’t have one, then a spot of cash on some real plants, 2 small wins.
The staff have embraced my management style which is pretty laid back, I don’t think that I or the office would be able to get away with the freedom that we have, however it works here as the results show. I don’t believe they would work well in the western world, I think the staff would just look at you as a weak leader and take the piss, over here there is enough respect that it works.
One of the staff was lucky enough to do a week trip to our office in Australia, he does a brilliant story of getting a cab from the airport to the Sydney CBD, he thought he was being ripped off, his way of thinking is, how can a cab journey cost over 1200 baht when it takes 20 minutes??
His biggest surprise was the Australian office, if you can imagine a story being told that is so incredible but believable as well (due to the nature of the storyteller) you can picture the faces and hear the gasps of awe and surprise when he starts telling the office how the whole of the Australian office is in at 8.30 and they're all working by 9 AM, big culture shock. His story of his visit to the casino at Star City is quite funny as well!
We have just had our Christmas Dinner, decided to go to the British Chamber of Commerce function at the Conrad Hotel. Full on Christmas Dinner, turkey and all the trimmings, interesting…..some of the staff using the cranberry sauce to make jam sandwiches, the picture of their faces when presented with the full on Christmas dinner was priceless, one of the staff mentioned that no wonder farangs were fat, the plate was full of carbs. Two of the staff won prizes in the raffle, one prize was an assortment of goodies from Harrow School, (when I told her of the price of education at Harrow (London) she nearly died), I also mentioned that the Royals usually go to Harrow School, much impressed. The other prize we won was a full medical check up at a fancy hospital worth 13,800, needless to say, the staff agreed there is no way they would pay 13,800 for a doctor's check up (can't say that I would either) and therefore its for sale, so anybody needing a full medical for something like key man Insurance, 8,000 and it's yours!
Have I changed, yes I have, well firstly, I’ve learnt to control my temper, and I don’t mean just grit your teeth and smile but generally accept that sometimes you are not going to get your way. In the first few weeks (later informed by a member of staff) I was sometimes “Jai Ron”, however was now “Jai Yen” and “Mai pen rai” is just a relief valve where the steam can be let out s-l-o-w-l-y. I also believe I’ve become more tolerant and I think my communication skills have improved.
I’ve gone out of my way to learn Thai and have surprised myself my holding conversations with my staff, I probably sound like a small child but the staff love it, the first time I called my (very petite) Administrator “Macam Kor Diao” (loosely translated as the seed of a tamarind, i.e. small) the office was in fits of laughter and wanting to know where I learn it all from. (I think I read somewhere on your site, not to speak Thai from bargirls as when you spoke to respectable people you were just labeling yourself a Whore Mongerer) so I’ve been careful not to repeat any of the Thai expressions I have learnt on previous visits until I hear it being used in the office. The staff are great in helping me learn and correcting my bad tones, however sometimes they have a laugh with me and teach me “naughty” Thai, then giggle like mad. I’ve just enrolled with Berlitz for the new year (so I might be able to update Stick and the site on Language Schools) as I now want to learn Thai to an acceptable level.
One of the staff isn’t confident speaking English so whenever a westerner is on the phone and she picks it up, she holds the phone aloft and screams at the top of her lungs “Farang, farang”, (you can see and get the same reaction when the staff at an information booth see you approach, desperately searching for the one member of staff who is confident in their English), now the translation of farang is either the one we all know and love but also the guava fruit, so the next time she did it, I picked up my phone and shouted out “Saparot saparot” (pineapple pineapple) well that brought the house down (like I said, small wins!!). I learnt the words to the Loy Kratong song and sang that (really badly) but again it went down really well.
I’ve also learnt that sometimes things just work differently, they shouldn’t work at all (by my western interpretation) but they do, a excellent example is the traffic here, it all criss crosses, people barging in and cutting you up, in England or Australia there would be arms raised, 2 finger salutes and general discussion about your birth heritage, out here it works, it shouldn’t but it does, if “Road Rage” does exist, I haven’t witnessed it, I should have but I haven’t. I’ve no doubt if it does happen it could get pretty hard core, but then again, it’s already hard core in England and Australia (IMHO)
Sanuk, wow if an expression ever covered working in Thailand, this is the one, and at the back of my mind, I remind myself, if we want to learn and work well, it must be sanuk and it has served me well.
The four girls in my office are all from the Isaan region so I’ve learnt a little Isaan, and tasted lots of the food and they all want to take me to their home region, they all say its beautiful and I must go, full of beautiful single ladies. I haven’t been yet; it’s on the to-do list.
I’ve had only 1 brush with the law, the “old farang dropped the butt, fine him loads of dosh scam”, it happened on the way to Chong Nonsi BTS, looking for an ashtray to dump my ciggie butt, none were around, so when 4 Thais in front of me dropped their butts, I dropped mine, sure enough 10 seconds later, up pop’s PC Plod, “Excuse me sir, but you dropped your cigarette on the street, that’s a fine of 2000 baht” now six months ago, I would have screamed at him, fine the bloody locals as well, but I smiled and said, “OK lets go”.
“To the police station of course, to pay the fine”.
“Ah sir it’s a long way”.
“That’s ok, I love walking in Thailand, you come with me to ensure I pay the fine and you can teach me more about Thailand”.
“OK sir, please don’t do it again” and off he walked, gotta love Thailand.
I love living where I do (Soi 23). I go for a drink at the bar on the corner of Soi Cowboy (run by Tiger and Lek) great place, all night I just watch the crowd go past, ex-pats, tourists and lovely ladies wearing nothing but a few scraps of material, and in the daytime, the only way you can recognize the aforementioned lovely ladies is by their tattoos!! They look very different in the daytime!
I haven’t got involved with a BG, I still have a beer and a chat with a few, practice my Thai and generally have a good laugh without indulging, but there are plenty of offers from “Good” Thai girls, I don’t think they see me as a way out of Thailand, as none of them so far has wanted to leave, maybe I', being naïve, but I don’t think I'm a walking ATM to them and a lot of the ladies I’ve been out with are earning really good salaries. 70-100k baht plus a month.
So the big question, would I sign on for another 12 months, lets see, all year round weather (OK sticky sometimes, but picture yourself standing on Waterloo Station hearing the 6.15 to Wimbledon has been cancelled, it's pissing it down and despite the fact you're wearing a coat, gloves and a scarf, you're cold, pissed off and just downright annoyed), I live in a nice 1 bedroom apartment, have a maid, have all my chores done, work with a good bunch of people and generally live a bloody good life, will I want to do it for the rest of my life, probably not, but looking forward to the next 12 months.
To the people who want to work in Thailand, be warned, in 6 months of being here, we haven’t been asked to source for one single job for an expat with an expat salary package, I’ve had 2 jobs for expats, these are for expats that are already here, speak a bit of Thai and understand Thailand has its differences, that don’t need the 5 mill a year plus accommodation, flights home and education for the kids.
The expat packages are readily becoming a thing of the past, there are jobs out here for specialized people, but you are not going to earn the fantastic salaries and think carefully, you are likely to still work out more expensive than a local, so try to look at it from an employers eyes, i.e. what are you bringing to the party, but if you do get a chance to work here, my advice grab it with two hands it’s a wonderful experience, but it isn’t a holiday!
Great stuff, and especially interesting but at the end about the expat job situation.