Wai Khru Ceremony
One of the members of the Paknam Web Forums recently posed an interesting question to us expats in Thailand. He wanted to know why we had stayed so long in the Kingdom. In particular, he wanted to know why many of us continued to work in such a low wage occupation such as teaching. It is difficult to answer such a question without some deep thought. I have been here so long now that I have forgotten the original reasons that encouraged me to stay longer! However, after every trip abroad, I start to remember some of the attributes about Thailand that I like so much. But, to answer his second question of why I am still teaching at the same Thai school thirteen years later. For me, the pay has never been that important. Though over the years it has started to become a time-consuming hobby. The big difference between teaching in Thailand and say Europe or America is the respect that you receive. Not only from the students themselves, but people in the local community and beyond. As soon as they know that you are a teacher then everything changes. I have walked into shops and sales assistants will stop what they are doing just to serve me. They call me by the honorific title “ajarn” and will do anything to please. Of course, there is a downside to this attention as you really have to be on your best behaviour wherever you go! Even 50 kilometres away at a place I had never been to before, people know me.
This last year I had to go back to the UK a few times. I hadn’t been back for a while. I think the longer that you are away, then the more of a culture shock it becomes. It sounds strange to say that I get culture shock in my own home country. But it is true because I have become more Thai than I realized. Everything is so alien and strange to me. Just walking down the high street is a different experience. Everything is neat and tidy and everyone speaking English. It is just too easy. Where is the adventure? I suppose in the UK, it is at least easier for me to blend in and go un-noticed. A luxury I don’t have here in Thailand. But why do I feel like a foreigner in my own country? Is it the unfamiliar money which I have to carefully sort through? Is it because I have to pause before buying something in order to work out how much it is in Thai baht? Or is it just because these people around me are not acting like Thai people? I have found the Thai culture and their ethics to be so ingrained into their daily life, that it has become quite unique compared to other countries. The culture in the UK has become so diluted that it is no longer as rich as it used to be. I think I no longer understand my own country.
Coming back to Thailand after the last few trips was really like coming back home. I am comfortable here in Thailand now and don’t like to be away for too long. The weather is a big plus for me. I have never liked the cold and much prefer to be too hot rather than too cold. But I think it is the slow pace and easy going nature of the Thais that helps a lot. They don’t take everything so seriously and it rubs off onto you. Though maybe too much as each time I go back to the UK people say I am more “lethargic” now. The level of service is also quite a plus. On my first day back I went shopping at Foodland, which is my local supermarket. At the checkout they greet you with a Thai wai and then there are usually one or two assistants who pack your shopping. In England I stood there dumbly until I realized that I was supposed to do the packing myself. Then, if they are not too busy, they will offer to take your shopping cart to your car to unload it for you. If they cannot, there is often someone in the parking lot who will either help you or at least take back your shopping cart.
The same goes for the petrol stations. You usually get a couple of people attending you. Either asking if you have any trash to empty or to clean your windscreen. In the UK I would always wash my own car because of the costs. Here it is so cheap that I always get it cleaned once a week. Two guys first use a high pressure hose to rinse and then soap up the car. It then goes through the automatic car wash. At the other end there are two people waiting to wipe down the car inside and out. All for only $1.50. I think as long as you get a decent wage, meaning more than the average Thai, then it is possible to live quite comfortably. When I tell people in the UK that I can have a higher level of living in Thailand they are surprised. Partly, I guess, because they still see Thailand as a Third World Country, or at least a developing one. But really, we are getting the best of all the new innovations because we are skipping a stage. I can afford to eat out most nights. Entertainment venues offer lower prices for better standards. I have everything here that I need. For me there is no reason to go back. In fact I would find it too hard. Not only the problem of not being able to get a foot on the property ladder, but also because the occupation I did when leaving school no longer exists in the digital age. In Thailand I have my own house with no mortgage. I have a company. I have a work permit and a visa. Things can only go forward from here. This is why I am calling Thailand home.
What about you? Why have you stayed in Thailand so long?
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