Stickman Readers' Submissions May 11th, 2009

Back Home and Happy

I was interested to read your column Reflecting from Afar. I moved back to NZ from Thailand in January of this year and haven’t regretted it for one minute. I had a bit of a messy time in Thailand after conceiving my daughter one month in (you can read about that here.) I was so unsure how I would feel about being back in my home country after being away for six years in total but being 32, felt that it was now or never for me to move back home, for at least a bit anyway. I told myself that I would be here for a minimum of six months and it has been four months so far without any thoughts of heading back to Thailand apart from to see my daughter who I miss greatly. The purpose of writing this, is I guess to add to the posts on this website that describe a positive experience with living back in the west after Thailand.

When I was in Thailand, I got into so many of those conversations with fellow ex-pat chums about how crap it would be to head back to the west. Actually, my position in the conversation was that I didn’t actually have too many negative feelings about my home country. I couldn’t believe the amount of Englishmen and Americans who were so negative about their home countries. I truly felt sorry for them. In reflection, I think that they were just very negative people in general.

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When I first arrived in Thailand, like most people, I was on the tourist circuit. People on holiday obviously are there to have a good time and this gave me a very lasting good first impression. Being in Thailand was such a buzz and I ended up teaching in Ubon for a year, then Ayuthaya, finally settling in Bangkok so I could be closer to where my daughter lived.

I guess at that point, my impression of farang in Thailand was a bit mixed. The farang up in Ubon were a mix of strange and negative types. I did my best to avoid them. I think there were a few good sorts up there but I wanted my ‘authentic’ Thai experience so I didn’t make much of an effort to seek them out. In Bangkok, I got a job at Wall Street Institute and ended up working there for quite a while. They have two types of schools – retail (for the general public) and corporate (mini Wall Street schools inside corporations such as SCB, SCG, TOT etc.) I made a lot of farang friends working there and learned a lot about Thailand through exposure to people working for Thailand governmental organisations as well as the better off or my least favourite Thai-Englishism, ‘hi-sos.’ Anyway, overall, my feelings about Thai people are positive, but my feelings towards the ex-pat farang isn’t quite so positive.

What got me in the end was a combination of inertia and boredom and I knew the time was right so I booked a ticket with the intent of enrolling in a post grad diploma in teaching, which I am now three months into. I ended up resenting teaching English to Thais where I felt like I was in some endless loop with no escape – I had to break free! I thought long and hard about what I was going to do back in New Zealand and ended up concluding that to be a New Zealand registered teacher would give me a lot more options than any other job I could think of and the world financial crisis having just kicked off sealed the decision.

Being back has been a very positive experience. I spent the first two days in Auckland where high ethnic diversity helped me ease into life back home. I felt a bit anxious about money. I wasn’t short by any means, but without a job I knew that what I did have would be eaten into rapidly especially since I had the prices of six years past in my head and was shocked to see how much things had gone up. I jumped on a bus and headed to my hometown to see my family and friends. I was and still am surprised how much Napier has changed for the better. For the six years before I left New Zealand, I had lived in Auckland and Wellington and being back in Napier does bum me out a bit from time to time but it’s a lot cheaper for me to live while I do this course which finishes in November so I am dealing with it but no major complaints so far.

I remember reading in one of the past weekly columns that you weren’t ever into Asians before being in Thailand and I was the same. I have noticed though, that since being back, my infatuation that I gained in Asia for Asian girls has waned and I have noticed a lot of cute white and Maori girls. It has been like a reawakening. The younger ones have really got it together and a lot have started dressing like Miley Cyrus and looking after their bodies. I have been rather impressed so far. I have also enjoyed being able to communicate on the same level and that day-to-day flirtation that I enjoyed in Thailand so many times has been replaced by something that feels more real. I have actually noticed a lot of white guys here with some very good-looking Asian girls and I do admit to feeling rather jealous on more than one occasion.

In the end, I feel so much more relaxed and at peace with myself being back in New Zealand. Why wouldn’t I?! But I wouldn’t have believed you if you had told me that I was going to feel like this. In fact, I thought that it was as good as it gets in Thailand. Being a humble New Zealander raised in a field of level poppies, I feel uncomfortable around people who brag, but I can’t help but think that there is a lot to appreciate here in New Zealand. In small countries, the people are generally open, down to earth and friendly by default and I feel that that is true here. I think that Thailand is similar in this respect, but I found it hard to really get close to Thai people. I want to think optimistically that it was the language barrier that got in the way even though my Thai is a bit above average. I never really did find any worthwhile long-term ex-pat farangs that I felt I had much in common with. Conversation always turned to women which got really tiresome. Back here, I am around such a wide range of people, I feel that I am rediscovering that there is a lot more to life than perving.

Stickman's thoughts:

I really can relate. It is interesting how expats in Thailand from certain countries feel a return to their homeland would be unbearable. I find Kiwis and Aussies generally more open-minded about the idea of going home than most other Westerners.

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