Being An Expat (part five)
Etiquette, Loneliness and Coping
Often how you should behave, etiquette, as an expat depends not only on which country you live in but also where you live in that country as well. This is usually because city-dwellers tend to be more cosmopolitan, more used to foreigners, than rural people. Therefore, if you dress inappropriately in say, Pattaya, or stay out drinking all night, no-one is likely to say anything to your face or behind your back, but if I’m still sitting in the corner shop drinking after eight or nine, people I hardly know will tell me it’s long time that I should have been home already.
Needless to say that telling them to shut up and mind their own business is not the best thing to do, which is to play dumb, look at your watch surprised and just go home.
The daily routine for most people starts a lot earlier in the country than in a tourist spot. Many shops in Pattaya don’t bother to open before ten, whereas villagers have been up five hours by then, but they go to bed much earlier too. Nine o’clock is about normal.
On holidays, it is not unusual to see families start drinking well before midday, whereas for townspeople, three o’clock is early. You might find this shocking, but I find this breech of ‘Western etiquette’ refreshing and honest. Despite this, religion is far more obvious in the countryside than the cities despite this.
It’s as if in countries like Thailand, the population works in two shifts. I had never lived in a village before this one, but I like it and have been here ten years now.
One of the perennial questions is how do you cope with the loneliness? The thing is no matter what sort of a person you are, you will get lonely, and I suppose we all learn to cope with that in our own way. Etiquette says you should sit with family, but I just write a lot.
All the best.
Podcast: Being An Expat: Etiquette, Loneliness and Coping