I-nomad

The averse effects on expats after long exposure to the Siam sun

 When moving to Thailand, in the beginning everything looks exotic, interesting and fun, just like it was on your holidays when you got fascinated by the country.
You have fallen in love with a country you can call your new home; the land of smiles.
Like with real love the novelty and mystery wears off over time. Gradually you start to change.
Following is a inventory of various behavioural types of long term expats I came accross in Thailand. Of course people can develop different behaviours mentioned below simultaneously.

1. The Grumpy Expat
The grumpy expat, usually a man, gradually becomes acidified about everything which doesn’t make sense or in his/her words ‘is wrong’ with the Thai culture, people and government. They often had a bad previous experience with a cheating Thai partner or just have an unhappy relation with the current one.
These people are often entrepeneurs with their wife/girlfriend controlling personnel. Their situation is such that they cannot separate due to children and/or losing the bussines to their Thai partner.
The grumpy expat will stereotype Thai (usually women) as ‘lazy’, ‘careless’, ‘unreliable’ and ‘lacking initiative’.

2. The Orientalist
These people will feel Western superiority towards the Thai population and culture right from the start.
In the longer term they find it hard to live without this ego-boosting feeling they would lack back home.
Although they will not openly admit, their secret motto is: ‘In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.’

The groups below suffer from a cognitive dissonance syndrome:
For those unfamiliar, an example:
A person wants to buy a new car, he already made a choice but hesitates between two colors, red and blue. The blue can be supplied but not the red. He likes the red car, not blue. The car salesman advises him to take the one which is on stock. After long hesitation, he lets the blue finally prevail. After a few weeks driving in the new car he notices a red car from the same brand, he likes it less than he first thought. Unconsciously, he changed his mind. There is no longer a conflict between the desire for a red car and the fact that he chose blue.

Expats often like to justify their new habitat, while they tend to portray the situation at home in a more negative way. Probably I have to include myself suffering from this syndrome, although I’m technically not an expat nor am I able (after two years) to categorise myself :) .

3. The Conservative Cultural Defender
These are mostly older retired people who live in the countryside where they have a small farm or at least grow some own fruit and vegetables.
They will defend old Thai cultural values tooth and nail.
Most of them can get more upset about declining moral values of the Thai new generation than some of the most conservative natives.
The 2011 Silom Songkran bare breast incident and the increasing extravagant little to reveal fashion of some Thai girls and women irritates them to maximum levels.

4. The Spiritual One
These people are actively following Buddhism, either the incomprehensible every day Thai Buddhism, which includes Hindu and Chinese gods as backup, but more often the orthodox form of Buddhism. They practice yoga and will not turn down a joint for more intense experiences.
Most believe the West is wicked and evil prevails.
A number of these people live from social welfare back home which becomes increasingly more difficult due to spending cuts and increased Thai prices.
Some are wondering to move to Cambodia, Vietnam or Laos and as a new option the opened up Myanmar.

5. The Fanatic
These kind of people were also mentioned in a talk with Lani of Tell Thai Heart.
It seems that many people have an urge to re-establish their identity, since they often exprience an uncomforting vacuum in Thailand.
The fanatic gradually starts to exaggerate parts of his/her cultural identity as a means to compensate for all things alien abroad.
This can be in the form of the food one would take for granted back home, but is now almost willing to die for. Often these people are longing for McDonald’s, Burger King or softdrinks such as Mountain Dew, which are not easily available everywhere in Thailand.
A perfect day is started with a breakfast exactly like back home.
Exaggeration also can apply to the following: Practising or being over-fanatic about national sports from home, celebrating national holidays exactly like back home, extreme political views, religion and as Lani claims; accent.

6. The Racist
This group is a sub-group of the above fanatic group. Unfortunately I met a lot of these, so I name them seperately. Although not exclusively, similar to group 1, these are often entrepeneurs.
They complain mainly about the situation back home, where imigrants, usually Muslim, ‘fail’ to integrate and ‘spoil’ it for the rest.
The arguments that:
a) They themselves chose to opt out and do not experience these ‘problems’ anymore, so they shouldn’t have a reason to complain.
b) They do not differ from the immigrant back home they accuse, since they now have become the immigrant who has problems integrating.
will not help to change their mind. Believe me I tried.

7. The Overachiever
Often these are women, but there’s a considerable group of expat men too.
Right from the start this person jumps in the deep. They will eat any food including spicy som tam which would burn the untrained. Rarely uses cutlery. Will learn the language, including Isan, in no time, fluently.
If you meet them, they will spend much more time talking to your Thai partner than to you. They will make your partner laugh out loud by telling jokes and funny stories in Thai, which is irritating, because you don’t have a clue.

8. The Dude
These people are most commonly spotted in bars. They don’t say much.
Usually they will default to staring at the soundless sport channel.
When being enquired by tourists (especially female) what they like about Thailand, the answer will be something like:
“Well, the beer is cold and the women are pretty..”

Update:
9. The National Community Person
These people prefer to live in an area amongst compatriates. They like to hang out with their neighbours, talking in their mother tongue. They share national newspapers, magazines and if possible also share resources like workout equipment and if possible a common swimming pool. They will try to help eachother out in case of problems. They also organise social events like BBQ’s and festivities during national events back home.
Even though it seems they like to rearrange everything like in the country they came from, they feel more happy in their new coherent community than at home. Cost of living, climate, Thai marriage and conservatism plays an important role too.

10. The Conspiracy Theorist
These people are a kind of refugee and prisoner of their own mind.
They claim to see patterns in noise.  The noise comes from the world of information and misinformation.
Altough they could be catogorized under group 5. The Fanatic, these people can be found anywhere in Thailand, throughout the expat community.
They consider themselves lucky to live in Thailand and they will not or cannot return to their country of origin, since they strongly believe to become the victims of evil conspiracy plans back home, a thing which they cleverly managed to escape from in the first place. The Freemasons, the Rotchilds, the Illuminati, the Bilderberg Group are near to achieve a New World Order. 9/11 was an inside job.  USA will soon fall under Martial law. People will be monitored by radio tags. The Euro will become worthless.
Some already have found out everything. Others can be found behind their laptop, busy to find out more details. Some have written or are in the process of writing a book.
I’m not saying that some of the theories could not be partly true, but more often than not the preoccupation of these people seems to border paranoia.
Conspiracy theorists prefer not to socialize with other expats who are not fully into their ideas. Often they live rather isolated.

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8 Responses

  1. Vern
    Vern November 30, 2011 at 1:21 pm |

    I'm 2, 6, and 7 – in degrees. Great post.

    Reply
  2. I-nomad
    I-nomad November 30, 2011 at 5:48 pm |

    Thnx Vern, indeed the inventory wasn't intended to tie distinctive behaviour to a single person. In fact the list is far from complete, it's more a collection of various behaviour I came accross. As for me I can only blame myself suffering from cognitive dissonance, since I tend to glorify Thailand where at the same time I tend to mock about my own country.
    By the way I didn't imagine you would mention category 2 and it's the only group I haven't met. I just read their stories in blogs and comments. Not yours by the way :)

    Reply
  3. Lani Cox
    Lani Cox January 16, 2012 at 4:40 am |

    Thanks for including me and my blog ^ ^ I've been horrible keeping up with the Thai blogging community lately. Too busy interacting with the above mentioned expats ;)

    Reply
  4. I-nomad
    I-nomad January 17, 2012 at 10:07 am |

    Hi Lani, I'm always glad to mention sources when I can, however in the above case understandably I don't mention too many..
    And by the way, your type is as far as I can judge too special to be categorized I guess :)

    Reply
  5. Catherine
    Catherine May 6, 2012 at 3:00 pm |

    Sweet post. I imagine we bounce around a range of the types listed. Personally, whenever there’s a Thai crisis, I feel like a yo-yo in drag. I go from concern, distain, frustration, boredom, passion, hate… sometimes to an underlying refrain of a breaking heart.

    Reply

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