Being An Expat
To those of you who have read the first five parts to this series, I would like to say ‘thank you’. I don’t know what impression of being an expat I left you with except that it is a truthful one as I see it. This last article then is the summary of why I’m still living abroad.
There are challenges, as there are just from being alive; some are relished and others are a pain. The annual visa is not really a problem, if you have the money and if you don’t, move somewhere else. That is straightforward. Health care is a let-down for Brits, because we are used to not paying at the point of delivery, but to most other nationalities, it is normal. I had never faced corruption before I came to Thailand, but those who know say it is no worse than in Mediterranean countries and my wife shields me from most of it anyway.
Challenges that I enjoy include learning the language. I like to learn languages and Thai is different and so difficult. I have always liked nature and Thailand is full of flora and fauna that just doesn’t exist in good old Wales. Thailand is a fairly densely populated country, yet there are still wild elephants roaming about!
Snakes are a far more common problem, but not once you are aware that they are about and keep that awareness in the front of your mind. Having said that I have always liked snakes and actively seek them out, but even I don’t see as many as one a week in the countryside. This is partly because Thais kill all snakes on sight and eat many of them.
I have never sought the heat, but as I get older, I find that the warm temperature of Thailand suits me better than cold rain and cold wind. The elements here are always warm to hot despite the wind and rain.
People are happier in Thailand than they are in the UK. They are poorer and the gap between rich and poor is miles, but food, drink and sunshine are cheap and that counts for a lot. In summary, I would rather be poor here than in Europe – there is absolutely no doubt in my mind about that.
As an older man who was single for fifty years, I was often regarded with suspicion in the UK. I could see people wondering whether I was gay or a paedophile and it wasn’t nice. Once you get past about fifty, you become a ‘dirty old man’ if you look at a pretty girl or woman. That used to cheese me off. Men don’t cease to admire beautiful women on their fiftieth birthday and anyone who thinks that they should is an idiot. Unfortunately, most people who think that they should ‘act their age’ are women and the older ones are hypocrites.
European women and American women that is, not Asian women, who are quite happy to be looked and quite happy to admit that they are happy with what is naturally going to happen anyway. At the age of sixty now, just as many, if not more, unknown females of all ages start a conversation with me as they did when I was thirty years younger in Europe. It leads to a more natural society. Why should elderly men be ostracised after a lifetime of hard work?
And last but not least the cuisine. I have always liked ‘foreign food’. It started when I was very young. My mother adventurously used to add a spoonful of curry power to a gallon of stew on its second day and serve it with rice instead of bread. We all loved this early form of curry which would be laughed at these days, but was considered risqué in our community fifty-odd years ago. I also had a Greek friend who would invite me back for tea. I have clear memories of eating a salad hat included dandelion leaves from the garden, olives and stuffed olive leaves one summer’s afternoon.
Needless to say, I love Thai food and my wife is a particularly good cook and not only in my estimation, although I know that she tones the chillies down for my portion as she can eat them raw, straight from the bush. As a good cook, Neem, likes to grow a lot of her own raw ingredients, and I get a lot of pleasure from seeing coconut, banana, lemon, mango and many other fruit trees you would probably never have heard of growing in our garden.
In summary, this is why I stay here, struggle though it has been several times and will be again in the future no doubt.
All the best.
by +Owen Jones
Podcast: Being An Expat: Summary