Putting Down Roots
Of late I’ve noticed a few submissions on being disillusioned with the Land of Smiles, and giving advice on how to beat a hasty retreat back to your Land of Origin before its too late. What I found a little unusual about this lot of submissions
was the fact that many of the contributors have been here quite a few years, were quite aware of how things worked, and had their own little ways of getting around things.
This left me wondering… if they were happy here before, why the sudden change of heart? Or was their heart really in it in the first place? A common question – and it is not the first time that I have been asked this question… ‘If you’re not running from a problem (usually a divorce or alimony) from your home country, you’re not here for the girls or for the low cost of living, then why are you here?’
I came here of my own choice. I had no skeletons in the closet. It was not a rash decision, but one that spanned many years and a fair amount of travel to different countries. I did not burn any bridges, nor did I intend to. I just don’t intend going back.
Home is where your family is, and my family is here.
One the categories is the assigned expatriate. He’s typically a fairly knowledgeable type in his parent company, and is usually on a couple of years’ contract to set up a local (read cheaper) operation in a different country. His package will usually include accommodation / car / allowances over and above what he already gets. He does his time, another feather in his cap, enjoys the benefits, and makes friends. All too soon, it’s time to go, and he’s usually of the mindset that anything outside of his Country of Origin would have been temporary at best anyway, and who knows, maybe the next appointment in another country may be equally rewarding. Besides, it’s what’s paid for the Ferrari and the Harley back home. If he likes this place enough, maybe he’ll just buy a beachfront condominium as a holiday retreat. It’s affordable, after all…
Another category would be the (usually economic) refugee. He’s usually running from some form of debt, be it a divorce settlement, alimony, failed businesses… or something else. You hear many different stories and versions.
I met an English engineer, really nice bloke. He was here after going through a divorce to recuperate. He had spent several years in China, and had met and married a Chinese girl before bringing her back to the UK. Things didn’t work out, so here he was trying to do exactly the same thing he had done before, only this time with a Thai lass…
Incompetent (this guy stuck in my mind, there are many others..)
I remember one US guy, newly appointed as a manager, hired sight unseen but because of the impressive list of the companies he had worked for. He had the gift of the gab, and it helped him for a while until people found out that most of it was just hot air. His attitude, when assigned work, was one of ‘I’ll just delegate it to one of the more junior staff under me. I don’t have to know how to do it. After all, I’m a manager, and that’s what managers do…’ He didn’t last too long, and now had another company name to add to his long list..
Then you have the backpacker type who have spent time around the country, liked it, have had their heads turned by a lovely maiden, and so have turned pseudo-English teachers in survivalist mode to prolong the illusion..
I leave out of this article the people who come for their two weeks of bliss. To each their own, let the punter beware.
Like me.. Been here too long, know too mutt..
Too many people come here without a plan, don’t want to cope with language barriers, and wanting to live life here with a western mindset. Despite rumblings that the locals are fairly inflexible in attitude, these people, too, have very little ability to adapt to change.
If you’re not going to come to terms with this, it doesn’t take too long to get disillusioned, no matter how good the sex or how cheap the living.
So, what does it feel like, putting down roots?
Well, it feels quite a lot like how it was when I was a kid, too.
A typical weekday starts like this. ‘Beep-beep-beep-beep…’ ‘Turn it off , will you?’ ‘Hrrmph.’ ‘Beep-beep-beep..’ Shuffle. On snooze. ‘Beep-beep-beep..’
Oh, well.. Ladies first…
Wife finishes shower, drags younger son out of bed. ‘Shower time.’ ‘Ngaak.’ Goes to sleep on sofa. ‘Shower time, now!’ Younger son goes in and now hogs the bathroom. Bang! Bang! Bang! ‘Hey, your brother needs a shower too!. Hurry up!’ Then she bangs on the brother’s room door, ‘Time to wake up!’ Delayed muffled reply comes, ‘Five minutes more..’
You get the picture.
Another set of routines, and they get their pocket money, are off to school, and I’m off to work.
Dinner is usually bought from the food vendors at the nearby market. The Thais like to eat early; at least my wife does. When she does, the kids usually do. Or have to. I prefer a beer or two before I eat, so the microwave comes in handy. My wife has learnt not to wait for me, she knows my habits. However, there are still the rumblings of dissent that are on occasion heard in the background…
There are occasions, though, where I prefer to cook what I feel like eating. A decent steak with mashed potatoes. A meat (or salmon) pie. Irish stew. My wife knows when I get these urges, and prepares accordingly.
‘You’re cooking tonight?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘I’ll buy something for my son and myself.’
Now if you find this conversation a little strange, I’ll elaborate a little. My wife’s taste in food does not encompass a lot of what I like, and this includes a lot of western style dishes. Couple that with the fact that they do take time to prepare, and she’ll take the easy way out. My younger son prefers the Thai style food, so both of them will eat the usual food vendor fare.
I like to take my time (since I’m not under any pressure) and go about things with a sip (or three) of beer while I’m at it. The ‘Galloping Gourmet’ and Floyd come to mind. The elder son will wait, no matter how hungry he is, for me to finish, as he actually likes my cooking. He’ll usually ask first, though, as there are things he would prefer not to eat.
My wife will ask, too, and will take exception if I decide on spaghetti or chicken macaroni soup. As for the rest of my cooking, she’ll usually say, ‘Make some extra, so I can bring it to the office with me tomorrow.’ I guess she doesn’t totally dislike what I do. Heh.
More complicated dishes like chicken in wine, or a decent Indian-style curry, are left to the weekends.
The small restaurant at the end of the street also does special home delivery for one of his more regular customers. Me.
Weekends can be a mixed bag. Sometimes we’ll go somewhere like Pattaya or Hua Hin, especially if there is a long weekend. I like to potter around the plant nurseries looking for something to spruce up the garden. My sons also like this, and I’ll probably end up with one or two more miniature stone sculptures than I really need. The wife likes pretty, hanging plants. The problem with these is that if they are not watered three times a day, they don’t last too long.
I mow my own lawn.
Things also do need fixing around the house, fortunately there are a lot of minor things that can be done without having the local handyman trying to rip you off (even after all these years, he still tries, albeit with a smile). I think it’s a game with him, and I think he knows that I know. He still gets the occasional job.
The best part of the day…
After a nice shower, sitting at the stone table in the middle of the garden, beer in hand, the smell of freshly mown grass…
A few dishes now sit on the table, freshly delivered from the restaurant at the end of the road (charcoal brazier and all), the kids running around but not really eating, screaming at each other.. Why can’t they play less noisy games? My wife peeling a barbecued prawn for me, even after all these years.. Oh. It’s for my younger son.
Ah, well, you can’t have it all. But it’s as close as you can get. Despite the mumbling and grumbling, the ups and downs and the bumps along the way that married life can be, I still can’t think of another place that I’d rather be.
And tomorrow is Monday. Yup, you can’t have it all.
I think what a lot of people fail to realise is that after a while, living in Thailand is not that much different to living in your own (or another) country. You still have a lot of things that you have to do, bills have to be paid, dishes need to be washed etc. But that said, there are many aspects of living in Thailand that are nicer than the West.