Being An Expat (part one)
The Personal Aspect
Being an expat is a strange feeling.
I have lived here in northern Thailand for eleven years and I lived in The Netherlands for nine years until 1982, so I have been an expat in two countries on two continents in two radically different parts of the world. The first thing is that being an expat is not like being on a very long holiday.
Food is something I have always missed living abroad. When I live in Britain, there aren’t many British meals I’d pay a lot for except maybe a good full English breakfast, or Shepherd’s or Cottage Pie with all the trimmings and a traditional pudding like Spotted Dick, Steam Pudding, or Roly-poly Pudding and Custard. All the old school dinners I had as a pre-teen, as it happens.
All the expats I have ever talked to say the same. This may sound strange, but when I first went to live in the city of Den Bosch in Noord Brabant, The Netherlands, you couldn’t get bacon the way we like it in the UK. They sold it to the UK, but there was no call for it at home. The same is now true of Thailand, although they don’t export bacon to Britain.
I also miss pies, pasties, pizzas and most of all cheese – white cheese like Caerphilly or Cheshire, but my wife sometimes makes the 150km (90 mile) round trip to get me a 250g block of Australian Cheddar. It’s not the same though, but I wouldn’t tell her that
I also miss some drinks, like Guinness. You can get a lot of these items in touristic cities, but the nearest of those to me is Chiang Mai, 300km away.
After food and drink its communication. No matter how well you speak the local language (my Dutch was fluent, but my Thai is not), you will crave to speak to someone who is also a native English speaker. I know of no Thais where I live who speak English well, but even if there were any, they would not have the same mindset, so it is not just a question of speaking English. Perhaps a lot of expats phone home often because VOIP makes it cheap now, but I don’t have anyone ‘back home’ to call. (Thanks, but there’s no need to feel sorry for me. I knew what would happen; I’d already had a dose of it when I lived in Den Bosch).
While on the subject of communication, I am reminded that the Amazon Prime package I was talking about yesterday, of 1,000,000 songs; 500,000 books; 60,000 films and unlimited storage of and worldwide access to photos for $99 a year is a great way of overcoming the feeling of isolation that inevitably creeps into expats from time to time.
All the best,
Podcast: Being An Expat