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Expat Life: Life Through a Different Cultural Lens

Some of the many reasons why Filipinos go and work out of the country are, foremost, due to that extreme desire to answer the never-ending increasing needs of their immediate family; secondly, the inviting call of high salary and other forms of compensations which 75% of the working class do not get from the jobs they have in the Philippines or they may after sweating off their butt for 24/7 time frame a week (excuse the faulty generalizations) and thirdly, the personal drive for independence, maturity and self – gratification.

Before I came to this point of being an expat, questions about the decision I’m soon to make and the life I will have sooner flooded my mind. Am I not scared of giving up my career in the university and my entire life in the Philippines? Do I really envision myself to live away from home? Do I have the courage to live in a place where I do not know much of the language and culture?

Most of the people around me asked how did I make the final decision on this big move in my life. They said that bigger opportunities await me because of the qualifications that I have. However, at some point in my life as I was working as an English Teacher in a university in the Philippines, I felt the strange void and an ineffable need for new air, new environment, new people and new everything. I just want something different! I want some new challenges. And I did just like that.

When I took this step, I told myself, I should be willing to start again from the beginning and I should be ready to face all the consequences of this decision ALL BY MYSELF.

So here I am now, writing this, to share some of my experiences as expat here in Bangkok, Thailand for a year now.

To those who are planning to relocate themselves somewhere in this big world, here are some of the things I went through that you might find helpful.

1) Language

I don’t know and I don’t speak the same language as the natives in my adopted country.
Thai (ภาษาไทย), Tai-Kadai language, is spoken by about 65 million people mainly in Thailand (ประเทศไทย), and also in the Midway Islands, Singapore, the UAE and the USA. Thai is closely related to Lao, and northern dialects of Thai are more or less mutually intelligible with Lao, particularly the Lao spoken in northern Thailand. Thai vocabulary includes many words from Pali, Sanskrit and Old Khmer. The Thai alphabet (ตัวอักษรไทย) was probably derived from, or at least influenced by, the Old Khmer alphabet. According to tradition, it was created in 1283 by King Ramkhamhaeng (พ่อขุนรามคำแหงมหาราช). The Thai alphabet is used to write Thai, Sanskrit, Pali, and a number of minority languages spoken in Thailand.

It’s a struggle in my first months here since I have to work in a government school where only few teachers in that school speak English. Some of them do but a kind of English in its very basic level. So, it was like starting life over from the beginning of adulthood by learning the basic of Thai language. What helped me most in my stay here is my knowledge about numbers (soon, neung, song, saam, sii, ha…0,1,2,3,4,5) and how people use it often.

Some of the expats I knew even enrolled themselves in a short language courses to completely adapt to the new land. Well, in my case, I enrolled in my boyfriend’s personal one-on-one tutoring. Lucky I am.

2) Visa & Finances

When I came to Thailand, the immigration provided me with a 1-month visa. And after that one month, there came the real thing about having a visa. It’s not so hard though when you have the money so you better come prepared. Be ready to face serious interviews to easily get job to support your visa. Some expats advised to come over to a country with about 5 months worth of savings just in case you do not land a job immediately.

3) Homesickness

Periods of Extreme Loneliness are inevitable. Being out of your comfort zone, your stable relationships with the people around you, is really hard. I experienced several nights of immeasurable longing for my family and even found myself crying in the middle of the night.

So, what I did was to get outside no matter how intimidating it is to walk into a world of perplexing mumbles and jumbles all around me.

4) Reason

If you’re planning to become an expat, you must know why you’re making the move. You must be certain why of all things you decided to put yourself in another sea of confusions. Because at the end, once the excitement and glee of starting a new life and being free from your old world have gone with the wind, you will still wake up with yourself every single day.

5) Relationships

Be cautious. Some of my friends found true love in their adopted country, lucky they are. But I’ve read so many hurtful stories about LDRs (Long Distance Relationships) of expats and their found love. Some of them got into a relationship where inexplicable complications led to another.

For those committed ones and trying to leave the one you love, distance is for the bold. It’s for those who are willing to spend a lot of time alone in exchange for a little time with the one they love.

Being an expat is much about a discovery and also a wonderful process. It’s discovering more of you than it is about seeking new adventures in a far off land. It’s also a process of letting go of your old self to an extent and allowing change to happen whilst holding on to the what essentially you.
Try flipping the grass on the other side; it’s not always greener.


IamJirah · March 11, 2018 at 10:44 am

Read more of my writing here:

Henry Lewis · March 12, 2018 at 1:34 am

I lived in Thailand and worked as an English teacher as well, so found your post interesting. What do you think about the way the terms ‘expat’ and ‘immigrant’ are often applied differently to people based on their country of origin, skin color etc? Join the discussion on my latest post. I look forward to reading to your thoughts!

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