Return To / From Farangland – Part 7
Thavorn, Jaidan and I just arrived on September 3rd from our 6 months in Canada. It was a culture shock for me despite having spent the better part of the last 10 years in Thailand with just a month, every August, visiting in Canada.
Why a culture shock?
On arrival, the lengthy queue at Immigration is a bad welcome to one who is accustomed to it. It you are a new to Thailand and all excited, then it does not seem like a bother. However, when it is same same every year, it wears you down.
Once through immigration we headed off for a taxi and needed a van taxi but the queue machine was out of paper so we tried to walk to a van taxi, without a queue ticket. Needless to say confusion abounded, and we ended up riding to our apartment with much of our luggage on top of us. Things often don’t work the way they should in Thailand.
We arrived at our apartment to find no bed linen, towels, or toilet paper, etc., but thankfully, the 7 Eleven is always open. The next morning we found the office had all new staff who had very little English, but that was not a problem as my 5-year-old son and Thavorn both speak Thai. Thavorn explained that last year our apartment was fully stocked when we arrived for 6 months. That was then and this is now, is a rough translation.
The pollution! I lasted 3 days before a nagging cough returned from my last stay in Bangkok. In Canada, there is very little pollution whereas Bangkok it’s abysmal these days. My days in Bangkok may be limited in the future. One good expat friend has already relocated to Hua Hin.
The Weather! We spent the last 6 months in Canada (including the summer months) without once breaking a sweat, despite some 30ish temperatures. I don’t get 3 minutes down the soi without starting to sweat in Bangkok. However, it is September, the rainiest month, and hence high humidity.
The people! I really like Thai people and everyone recognized us from 6 months ago with big smiles and a ‘Where have you been?’
Seriously, the regular run of the mill, working class Thais are wonderful.
The traffic! The traffic is just terrible and I had forgotten about all the U-turns, speed bumps, congestion, and lack of common courtesy towards pedestrians. I had warned Thavorn about being hesitant crossing the road in Canada as cars will stop and wait, even honk for you to cross, as pedestrians have the right of way.
Bureaucracy! In Canada things just work the way you would expect them to work. Within 3 months we all had health care, Thavorn had her Permanent Resident Card and Social Security number and is well on her way to becoming a Canadian citizen. People queue up when necessary, hold doors open for you, and say please and thank you.
Thavorn was really surprised that leaving Canada we just got on the plane and left. No immigration to go through.
I have already been to the Canadian embassy to get an affidavit specifying my monthly income, in preparation for renewing my retirement visa. I have already had 2 x TM30s completed and I am really looking forward to my first 90-day reporting Canada still does the income letters, because they actually check your income sources.
Thavorn was really shocked by how multicultural Canada is. The lady who renewed Jaidan’s passport was born in Cambodia. When did you ever see a non Thai (by birth) working in immigration? Half of Vancouver is Asian and most signs are in Chinese and English. Thavorn was delighted to find chicken feet for sale in the local supermarket. Thavorn felt like she belonged, not a farang!
Does all of the above mean that I no longer like Thailand? No, but perhaps we will make our Thai home down and around Phang Na, where Thavorn has family. The pollution in Bangkok is simply not healthy.
I, along with many of my expat friends, also find we are enjoying the nightlife less and less. I think, perhaps, that is because we are in very satisfying Thai marriages, or perhaps we are just older and wiser.
We are here for the next 6 months and we will then return back to Canada on March 1st. I suspect that we will live mainly in Canada and visit Thailand for 3 months of the year. Three months is the magic number for my extended health care plan as I and my family are covered for 93 days out of the country. The talk about making health insurance mandatory for visitors coincided nicely with the governments decision to let Thai hospitals charge non Thais twice what they charge a Thai is rather scary and the Thai government loves a cash cow.
Three months also means no 90-day reporting, no retirement visa, and lengthy lineups at immigration.
Shades, it is getting scary, I am becoming like Stickman