What Expats Don’t Talk About

When you live in Thailand, you come face to face with your shortcomings in all its hot sticky rice glory. This is ironic if you think about the people who leave their passport country because they are escaping something.

So you escape only to find that whatever problem you had over there was hiding in your back pocket over here, or if you were just looking for adventure and to change it up a bit, you discover that the adventure you are getting is an education in your flaws. Welcome Abroad! Yeaaaahhh!
Misunderstandings happen in your native tongue, so what happens to you when you can’t communicate what you want in another language? Do you “go high and to the right,” laugh, or blame others? When your food order is wrong, do you sulk, bitch, complain, shrug your shoulders, or start flipping tables over? Have you ever cried?

Not over the food, per say, but over all the goodies that come from the frustrations of trying to figure out what you are supposed to do.

How do you react to taxi drivers, catching a songtaew, negotiating the price of a tuk tuk,  and so on. What happens to you when you can’t get internet, can’t get help at immigration, or when you’ve been had?

[heading style=”1″]Everyone has their suffocating point, when we forget to breathe, and I think this is something people just don’t talk about when living abroad. Usually, bad incidents become great stories later because we can laugh over these things, but sometimes, shitty experiences are just shit experiences.[/heading]

Never did I realize I had such a temper. When I was a teenager, yes, but I’m supposed to be an adult now. I got really short with TOT (Telephone Organization of Thailand) when the technician told me that he couldn’t find my house. He said he was just going to deal with my internet problem on Monday. This was after waiting four days and then spending all day waiting for them to show up.

I know, I know. Excuses, excuses. I hung up (can’t slam the phone these days) and called the call center to complain. I felt completely neuortic and stupid and shameful for acting like a big baby because the American can’t get inter-fucking-net. Like I had an alloted amount of jai yen yen (calm down) and twas spent and fresh out of patience.

When the big orange TOT truck showed up, I immediately wondered if my complaining/anger got results. Then I thought about the breakfast I had with a friend. He accidently asked for another cup of coffee a shade too loud, so it sounded rude. We had a giggle over that.  He joked, “I find that if you are a little rude, you get better service.

Oh dear.


I just hate the idea that I have to act like I’m important in order to get what I want, and I hate the idea that I haven’t obtained Buddha-like enlightenment yet either. Yesh. I want to be perfect. I want things to work correctly the first time, and I don’t want to have to wave my hands in the air or cry or have a fit. Sure, I had shortcomings before I got to Thailand, but the ones I thought I had conquered returned. That’s okay,though.  Just because expats don’t talk about it, it doesn’t mean I’m not getting somewhere. 

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  • Anonymous

    It is frustrating sometimes, and language issues in particular can make my BP rise. Here in Korea people talk a lot about keeping cool and ‘face’, but all around me I see Koreans shouting and getting mad. It works for them!

    • Lani Cox

      You definitely get the keeping cool or keeping face aspect in Thailand. What is interesting is to see behind the mask. You learn to rely on body language and your intuition a whole lot more in a foreign country.

  • Lani Cox

    There are rules for the locals and rules for us expats. Good point. Something to possibly write about. Hmmmm.

  • Anonymous

    We all have our ‘I hate living abroad’ moments when we hit a
    brick wall of frustration. My experience is that it’s usually (but not always)
    because of my misunderstanding rather than some devilish conspiracy to cheat/dupe/confuse
    the silly foreigner.

  • Sou Só So

    Last couple of years I have taken my losses and miscommunication silently, elegantly . But when people lie out of “politeness” it really gets me, it hurts physically. I’ll say ‘mai pen rai”, like Thais do, but I’ll also disconnect myself from them. Like Thais do. Talking about integrating… 🙂

    Love is enjoying the positive and accepting the less positive…

    Nice piece Lani-Lani.

    • Lani Cox

      Culture, culture, culture! It’s polite to them and not to us and isn’t it an interesting world we live in? And thanks So So!