In my first post I talked a little about how much ‘home’ means and can become especially important when living abroad. Now time to talk a little about our adopted ‘home’.
As much as New Zealand is home, and always will be. To be a successful expat it becomes all the more apparent to adopt your new ‘home’, however temporary it is. I am a baby when it comes to expat life, some of the others I have met and many I have come to call friends have been on this road for 5, 10 even 20 years. Some are even second generation expats, having grown up in an expat life and now living the same with their children. I can only comment on my experience, but see common themes through my friends.
What I have also learnt that home is definitely where your heart is, and for me, now, this is where my family is. My husband, two children and our cat (yes the cat travelled with us from New Zealand). Even when everything and everyone you come across through the day is different, new and possibly challenging. As long as there is something familiar and someone to share with it makes the journey much easier.
Bangkok honestly feels like home now, although we know it’s only likely to be for a short time. Our son is so tied to New Zealand and it being his home he still comments that this is a long ‘holiday’ rather than where we live. This tore at my heart a little the first few months, but as we settled in and we all made friends this became less of a concern. New Zealand is always where our family is and where we return. But to enjoy the adventure we’re on is the reason my husband and I chose to make this change.
Thailand is a very different culture to the ‘Western’ New Zealand culture, although Bangkok is definitely adopting a lot of this! The language is beautiful to listen to but almost impossible for my ear to decipher. Even though my husband and I had many hours of patient tuition I’m really not beyond ‘taxi’ Thai or numbers. The written language is impossible to follow and even the English translations can be interesting, especially place names as they are phonetic, meaning that they can be spelt many different ways! Takes some time, patience and practice to work out that where we live can be spelt so many ways.
The Thai people are mostly a gentle, accepting culture, and Bangkok so international and multi-national we are definitely not a novelty. I have to admit to becoming a little lazy in that most people speak some English, so my Thai doesn’t even get the work out it probably needs.
As a mum what I do appreciate is the attitude towards children. They are an accepted and celebrated aspect of society, we could definitely learn a thing or two in New Zealand. Even if the ‘farang’ children are a novelty, even here in Bangkok and often approached, photographed and touched (in a friendly way) because of their skin colour, eyes and hair being so different, but this contact goes much against our culture.
In those first few months it is exhausting, lonely and I could feel the ‘pull’ away from my circle of friends and family at home. The anxiety I had for my children to make friends. Was the school the right decision? Did we pick the right house? Was leaving the right decision?
It’s not until I have had the benefit of reflection that I’m comfortable with the decisions we made. The benefits for our lives, the opportunities we have and for myself having to push out of my comfort zone has meant I have learnt a lot along the way.
The expat life is a bubble, big or small, it is a bubble. We live in Thailand and do experience this everyday, but live in a small part of modern Bangkok. But the expat community is strong here. The first few months of any new environment are tough, finding your way, meeting people, figuring out how your new life will work. I was lucky to meet a number of good friends through school, a women’s group I joined as soon as I arrived and a mummy coffee group. Children are a great catalyst for friendships!
We have surrounded ourselves with an adopted community made up of a hugely varied group of nationalities. My dearest friends come from Russia, America, Brazil, Australia, Ireland, Thailand, Japan, Portugal, Philippines, Holland, Sweden and New Zealand. I love that I’m able to call these woman friends, and learn about their lives, their cultures, their differences. But what I love most is that we are so similar, we are all mums, we are all expats, we all have a sense of adventure and we all love a glass of wine!
I’ll enjoy my life here in Bangkok as long as it lasts, and am starting to experience the flip side when some of my closest friends are moving on or moving home. It is a sad process but part of the bargain. I guess it means that whilst ‘in the bubble’ you enjoy it as much as you can!