Monday, November 8, 2010

Expat Culture

          I left home one year ago and can really say that my feelings on living in Thailand have come full circle. I have loved and hated many of the same things here at one point or another.
Like I mentioned earlier, my senior year of college I wrote a thesis on the emotional experience of living abroad… now I am that paper! Sometimes I resent this place and sometimes I think I never want to leave. Sometimes I am overcome with anger over how people here drive so carelessly and fast and are constantly getting in motorbike and car accidents but then another part of me remembers that it is frustrating to get expensive traffic tickets for not wearing a seatbelt, speeding, rolling through stop signs, and blatantly going through a red light, all of which are a frequent part of driving for Thais; there aren’t traffic violation tickets here. Sometimes it’s as if the very things that drive me crazy are the same things that I enjoy; the reasons why this isn’t America are both good and bad.

         Expats often think they know what this place is missing and open businesses involving western food or ideas. The large expat community in Phuket keeps those businesses alive; those people enjoy bringing elements of home with them rather than fully adapting to life without. Expats who have been here too long (past the “honeymoon”) tend to get cranky and negative, often insulting Thai people, Thai language, Thai school curriculums, and Thai ways of life.

        I have basic interaction with many expats at my job because, being a private school, many students have fathers from all over the world. These family situations vary. Yes, it is typical to see very old fathers with young Thai wives for the kindergartners. Some are first time fathers, others have grandchildren older than these kids. The sad thing is that this is often assumed to coincide with the father being fat, lazy, rude, rich, and maybe a bad father. The truth is, all stereotypes are unfair, and no entire group of people is exactly the same.

        Some of the old fathers are all those things and then some, but in the entire category’s defense, some are very loving and often the more responsible parent. The state of the marriage varies also. Sometimes there are such strange couples who seem to have no relationship, not even a common language, but both are both decent parents. Sometimes mom is a party animal and dad takes care of school, sometimes dad is too busy resenting Thailand and disrespecting the mom that mom is left responsible for all school related things. Some expat marriages seem pretty odd, but I suppose they have both sought out one particular thing in the other and that’s enough. Of course, like in America, there are also parents who instate no discipline in behavior or diet, which makes teaching tough!

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